[Written about the first Thai massage given after taking Module 1]
As I stand, I close my hands together, thumbs at the heart, I breathe in and out. My willing participant, seated on the floor in front of me, quietly does the same. I am filled with a desire to nurture this person and spread love. This feeling fills the room, and I gently place my hands on the shoulders in front of me to signal the massage will be beginning.
Only now my hands begin to sweat from a small case of the nerves. I become very aware of how my own body is feeling. I try to use my breath to calm myself. But then, I realize, I lost my breath. I worry that my nerves are transferring over to the person in my care. I worry that my perspiration and breathing is distracting and that my touch is shaky. Who wants a Thai massage from a smelly, panting, shaky practitioner with moist hands?…
I am moving into positions that I should be used to – a version of lunge, a version of hero pose, yet I am winded and warm. I go through the motions, doing my best to slow everything down to a comfortable pace, all the while thinking about my knee that hurts, my tight quads, my scoliosis, that twinge in my wrist, and oh… now I’m getting a head ache.
Wait! Am I making this all about myself now? How can I give, while working on myself and preventing injury? Isn’t this all supposed to be about the person who receives the massage? This is why they have come to you, after all, isn’t it?
Proper positioning. This becomes my mission. Stacking joints, proper alignment. There are countless stories of injury from repetitive motions through giving massage; tendonitis in the wrist and elbow, back pain from poor posture and over exertion. I want to cultivate safe habits to avoid this.
I’m dealing with all my issues in giving the massage and now I worry that the receiver is picking up on all that. Ego makes an appearance. “You shouldn’t be doing this. You are not physically strong enough. This person isn’t enjoying it. You don’t know enough about anatomy!” Go away, Ego! Somehow, eventually, I give myself a break.
That’s when I finally find my breath. With every time I add pressure to the body, I exhale slowly, letting go. I invite a sense of health and healing for both of us. All of a sudden, I see the chest of the person sitting in front of me expand and exhale along with my exhalation. I get a sense of connection and think that we are in this together. My confidence rises. I relax a bit and I feel a wave of happiness.
Thai Yoga Massage becomes a partnership. I understand that I have to listen to my own needs in order to give. My knee starts to ache and I see that I need to put a foam block under it. My lower back sends me signals, and I try to readjust my hips, pushing them slightly forward. This becomes the play between the various techniques. Slowly, we find a rhythm. It’s my first massage, and I feel as though I am in a yoga practice, picking up sensations and signals from my own body, and the from the body in front of me. I ask the person many times about pressure – more? Less? The same? I still haven’t got a feel for how people’s muscles feel, where the knots are, and how to adjust. But as I work through this first massage, using all the knowledge given to me by my teacher, I try to follow my instincts. I continuously set an intention of nurturing and healing to direct my attention to the receiver without forgetting about my needs. I make mental notes about what I am learning from this experience, what I want to practice and what I want more information about.
When I look down, I notice the person lying on the floor in front of me has fallen asleep.
I gently complete the massage and in a soft voice I cue the person to breathe deeply, roll to once side, pause, and then transition back into a seated position. We take another breath together. Palm touches palm and we place our thumbs at our hearts. A sleepy smile is my view. We have both received from this experience! The Thai yoga massage partnership was a success, despite the conversation in my own mind. Or, perhaps, it was partly because of it. I fill with a sense of gratitude.