After spending so much time in
Thailand enjoying the art of Thai massage there, I was fortunate to
take private lessons to learn this ancient form of 'Lazy Man's
Yoga'. This style of massage has been handed down over 2000 years
from the time of the Buddha and focuses on the rebalancing of one's
internal energies. Stretching the muscles in various yogic postures,
it relieves built up tension and toxins that are then processed by
the body, bringing about a stronger immune system and generalized
Billy and I had the
fanciful idea of teaching a shorter version of this massage skill to
some of the local Mexicans on our recent trip to Chapala. It was our
hope that the Mexicans who learned this new skill could supplement
their household income. This goal has been reached with solid
To begin, we obtained
permission from the managers of the Chapala Tennis Courts so we
could utilize their pro shop for teaching classes. Signs were posted
and word was spread through the 'taco telegraph' that free massage
lessons were being offered 2 days a week in the Cristiania Park!
In the beginning
there were 17 students from all around Chapala, including some of
the mountain neighborhoods. Because there were so many, we all
pinned our names to our Tee shirts making it easier and more
friendly to communicate. Classes were two hours, two days a week.
Here, Martha is supervising the massage method of Gaby and Virginia.
I am helping
Carlos and Mary with an intricate finger move.
What I am
teaching are two abbreviated versions of Thai massage: 1.) half an hour of
head/shoulder/arm massage and 2.) half an hour of leg/foot massage.
For ease, both
can be done while the client is sitting in a chair. Notice all the
study notes on the table above.
Much tension is
held in the jaw area of our bodies. When the jaw is tense, it can
lead to headaches, or neck and upper back pain. Here I
demonstrate on Gaby one of the many massage techniques on relaxing the jaw.
We use our hands
continuously during the day, often taking them for granted.
Massaging the muscles in the palm of our hands releases tension and
stimulates many acupressure points. Here I present using
the thumbs in an alternating rhythm on the face of the palm.
This is a closer
look of that same move. There are 5 chi energy lines on the top of
the hand, and many acupressure points on both sides. Massaging the
hands releases built up tension and opens the channels for the Chi
to be 'snapped' out of the fingers a few massage moves later.
These are a
couple of reference pages made for the students to familiarize
themselves with the acupressure points of both the hand and on the
face. In general, learning Thai massage was
a huge mental leap for the local Mexicans. While in Thailand massage is an every
day occurrence, with shops and chairs for massage everywhere.
However, in Mexico, this is
still quite new.
directed to practice
on other students. In this way, technique is perfected and feedback is
encouraged. The massage move you see here in the photo is just the beginning of the massage sequence! There are
dozens of different
moves to learn for a 30 minute massage.
forearms between the neck and shoulders utilizes the strength of the
forearm bone on the tense muscles around the neck. The elbows of the
masseuse are used also to penetrate into tightened muscles.
Here you see
Virginia holding Carlos' head steady with her left hand while she
utilizes the thumb on her right hand to open the meridian lines in a
horseshoe pattern around the ear. This massage move is a good one to
After the arm and
hand is massaged, the released energy is 'snapped' out of the fingers as one
of the final moves. This leaves the arm and hand very relaxed and
encourages blood circulation.
practicing this method on Martha who is being sure it is done
Fun is mixed in
with the learning every chance we get.
Since the classes
were free, several times students would bring fresh fruit from their
gardens or other edible gifts for the teachers as payment. This was
always a delightful surprise and showed how grateful the students
were for this opportunity to learn something new.
town's carpenter to make some massage tools was a subplot in this
whole story. Before the beginning of the classes, I went to the
carpenter's shop to tell him what I needed - more than a dozen
simple massage tools made from wood.
It took several
visits just to find him in his shop. After I found him, I discovered
that he hadn't paid his electric bill, so the city shut down his
power! Back and forth again at least another five times to
finally find out that the bill had been paid, and 'manana' the city
would turn his power on.
Many times I
would arrive in the carpenter's workplace to find that he wasn't
there, or the city had yet to turn on his power. It was always the
promise of 'tomorrow, tomorrow' as that is a very common practice in
After about a
dozen visits, the power eventually was turned on, and by this time,
the carpenter was backlogged with work. My few massage tools took a
back seat for a few more weeks! !Que lastima!
patient and charming for the month that I had been waiting and
getting nowhere, I finally had to 'get stern' with my woodworking
friend. Teachers are well respected in Mexico, so I was forced to
use this well known fact and tell him with emphasis: !Soy una
maestra. Necesito estas cosas por mis estudiantes!
I had my tools the next day.
Here my carpenter friend allows me to
take his photo in his 'rustic' shop. He looks a bit
chastised, but he is really a delightful fellow.
All that waiting,
all those trips, all that hassle for a few pieces of carved wood.
Above on the left
are the tools used for foot massage. The star shaped tools on the
right are used
by the masseuse to relax their hands after giving massages. It is
constructed in such a way as to press into the acupressure points of
the hand when squeezed.
The number of
students eventually dwindled down to a loyal core group who showed up
without fail twice
each week for two hours.
Here you see Mary
giving Socorro a foot massage with oil. On the table you will see
notebooks, massage tools, talcum powder and a clock to time their
massages. The students are getting the hang of it now, and are
Because the foot
massage is done with oil, a towel is placed on the masseur's lap. To
prevent oil from getting on their clothes, I recommended wearing an
Gaby is opening
the 5 meridian lines on the top of Tere's foot. There are 5 more
meridians on the sole as well.
working the 3 chi lines on each side of the calf.
their own massage bag with their own utensils and the table is full!
Aaahhh yes! The
On the sole of
the foot are many pressure points and here Gaby is utilizing the
tool to press firmly into these points to stimulate inner organs of
the body. This slender tool is also drawn in between the toes, and
pressed into the top of each toe, all to encourage circulation and
to energize the pressure points.
Here I am
demonstrating the full 30 minute foot and leg massage, 15 minutes
per leg. Carlos and Gaby are taking notes.
enjoying the attention!
At the end of the
course, each student had to pass a test - giving a massage to 3
different people, each with a rating sheet to rank their
passed the test, but those who did received a 'Certificate of
Participation' for attending the 2 month long course. A few of the
certificates are above.
To illustrate the
individual successes in taking this massage course, several of the
students told me how they have exchanged massage in return for other
skills that their neighbors had, and they are charging for their
massages in their respective neighborhoods for extra cash.
At Christmas time, Virginia, to the
delight of her family, offered massages to them in lieu of a
purchased present. This saved her from spending money she didn't
have, her family is thrilled for the massages, and Virginia keeps
her massage skills fresh.
Here I am
standing with my good friend Martha McIntire, a previous massage
student of mine. Martha helped considerably with the translation in
the classes so that the ideas and philosophy of Thai massage were gotten across
clearly. This was a large undertaking and without her help, it would
have been far more difficult for me. I can't thank her enough.
Since she had
already taken the course herself, she was able to give individual
attention to other students, and she had a great eye for correct technique.
We are both
wearing shell necklaces, a final gift from the students to thank us
for our volunteer time. What a sweet, rewarding project this was!
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