By now, for those of you that will have either seen this months newsletter, or happened to stop by the Inspire website, you will have seen that we have just launched the “Inspire Thai Study Trip 2012” and boy am I excited!
Today and tomorrow I’m blogging about what you can expect from this trip, today I will talk about the training, after all that is why we’re going! and tomorrow I will talk about the exciting excursions that we have arranged. In addition, if anyone wants to ask some questions, post them to me via facebook and I’ll also answer whatever I can! The discussion for you to post to is here: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=132464145280&topic=14617
Firstly I’d like to start by saying a huge Thank You to Annalisa for giving me the chance to organize this trip, the second she asked me, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do this. I went on the first Inspire trip to Chiang Mai led by Declan back in 2009 and, I think, on behalf of all the students that went, I would not be wrong in saying what an absolutely fantastic time we had – we all went with these visions of coming away having learnt Thai Massage – don’t get me wrong – we did, but we also came away with so much more. New friendships, new experiences, and ever lasting memories of an amazing time in Thailand. As I write this now I can see a photo of Lisa and I riding on the back of an Elephant at the Maesa Elephant Camp with huge grins across our faces, the memories are flooding back…I better move on before I break out into renditions of Show Tunes mixed with sketches from Monty Python that filled the mini-bus whenever we went on a long journey!
Anyone that has met me through the various workshops I teach, or attended the CThA talk I gave on “A Taste of Thai” will have heard my background and my passion to Thai bodywork, indeed my trip with Inspire back in 2009 was the beginning for me…the beginning of something very new that I had no idea would develop the way it has.
From the minute I started with Thai massage I knew I had found something I loved, yes I struggled with being on my knees all day and I struggled because I might not be the most flexible person I know, but I pushed through because I saw something in this treatment that just ignited a passion to learn more. So following that eventful (for all the right reasons) trip, I decided I needed to go back, and so I did, the second time I went back to Bangkok to study at Wat Po. I had heard so many things about Wat Po – this is considered the centre of Thai Massage, to some extent where it all began – by that I mean the learning and the education around Thai Massage…If I was to start talking about the roots of Traditional Thai Medicine then that is a whole new blog in itself, but Wat Po became the centre for educating. Monks travelled from all over Thailand to study the inscriptions around this stunning palace, they took the knowledge away and over the centuries Thai Massage developed, slight variations became apparent between the North and South, but every treatment will meander its way back to Wat Po….so what better place to learn…
The school at Wat Po offer many courses, sadly due to my work commitments in the UK I couldn’t take 3-6 months and do the residency courses, one day….although I’m not sure Annalisa would be too happy if I told her I was heading to Thailand for 6 months ;) Instead I opted for the 5-day General Thai course, immediately followed by the 10-day Advanced Medical Massage Course. I’m going to focus on the 5-day course, as this is the course that anyone joining the Study Trip next year will learn.
So, 5 days…30 hours….you may wonder how on earth you can take it all in, in by all accounts what feels like a short space of time. Believe me when I say on Day 1 I thought the same, but by Day 2 you just can’t wait to get back in the classroom. The teachers are amazing! Some you will find speak little English, others are fluent in what I call “pigeon-English” – They know the basics but don’t expect long intellectual conversations, others speak not only English, but many other languages. My tutor on the 5-day course was constantly switching between pigeon-English, Thai and Japanese to suit all the students in the group. On the 10-day course I was studying with students from the Czech Republic, France and Germany, the tutors spoke fluently to us all in our own tongue. These people are amazing, and not only will you learn a full body routine, but these tutors will share some personal experiences with you on what they have learnt and discovered themselves over the many years they have been practicing. Some stories bought me close to tears. I can guarantee you will leave the school on Day 5 itching for more.
Each day we will travel to Wat Po on the local Riverboat Taxis - Think London Underground at rush hour - but on a boat - This is the quickest and cheapest and most fun method of transport in Bangkok, The journey itself is about 10-15 minutes and takes us direct from the hotel to the pier at Wat Po - A real introduction in Thai Life as you jostle for a space to stand amongst school children, office workers, monks and tourists.
On Day 1 you all get your books, pens and a handy bag to carry everything around, and from that moment you are submerged into the Thai way. Shoes are off and the first part of the day is the prayer (Wai Khru). This is a very special time and taken seriously in every school, and indeed by some therapists prior to giving a treatment. The prayer is led by one of the tutors and everyone is expected to take part. It is paying respect to the founding father of Thai medicine, Doctor Shivaga, asking for his guidance, and thanking him for his teachings. Every school has a shrine dedicated to him and every morning the tutors and Thai Students pay their respects by leaving offerings ranging from cans of coke to beautiful flower garlands.
We will then head to our own dedicated classroom with up to 3 tutors. Over the course of the next 5-days, each section is demonstrated with precision, followed by constant practice, and constant correction. Traditional Thai Massage is done on the floor, through clothing, working on energy lines called SEN lines. You will get to learn all about the lines, their purpose and their route through the body. One of the more entertaining ways for the tutors to show you where the lines are is that they take great delight in drawing on you, it’s always fun waiting for the boat back to the hotel to look around and see who else is covered in dots and arrows!!
You will learn some amazing stretches that your clients will love, but at first glance you’ll be thinking “How on earth do I do that?” but by the end of the 5-days it will become second nature to have your foot firmly planted on an adductor whilst your hands are firmly grasping a foot, or to have your knees in the top of the hamstrings whilst pulling the client into a “Cobra” pose….yes…Thai massage is also sometimes quoted as being “Yoga for Lazy people” You will end up with a full body routine that will have the client supine, side lying, prone, supine again and seated, the whole routine will take you a minimum of 1hr 30 – and that would be rushing it. It’s intensive, but the routine is the most thorough routine you will ever learn, I loved the course I took in Chiang Mai, but I came away with so much more from Wat Po.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of breaks! Each day there is a morning and afternoon break to get tea, coffee etc, and lunch is always at 12pm for 1 hour. You have many choices here ranging from some amazingly cheap street food on the doorsteps of the school, or you can eat at the school “café” situated on the roof of the school with stunning views over the river and Wat Arun on the opposite bank. The food is prepared fresh every day and you have a choice of 4 different dishes for less than a £1, but you have to get there early as the food is excellent and very popular!
Day 5 is exam day, you pair up and carry out a full treatment on each other under the watchful eye of the tutors. There are formalities you have to go through for example the correct introductions to your client and instructing them what you will do and how you want them to lie. At the end of the treatment you will then recite the contraindications and cautions to the tutor. All done, and a sigh of relief as you then get handed your shiny certificate and of course a group photo… that will then be the start of what I hope will become a very special journey for you in further developing and practicing Thai Massage.
Many people have genuinely asked me why I went to Thailand to study and not take a course in the UK…well is there really anything I can say to that? To be honest, I never even thought about studying in the UK, but since been asked that question – I’ve researched, and yes, there are some good schools out there, but when I look at the costs and compare that to the experience I had in Thailand vs the course in the UK, for the same costs, there was no question about, Thailand would win every time, and what’s more, the whole trip is Tax deductable…now come on…isn’t that a great incentive if nothing else!?
Well, I’ve waffled, probably less about the course as I should have, but I hope this has given you a taste for what you can expect on the course if you come with us in May, and if this has left you with more questions, please contact me through the Inspire Facebook Page and I’ll answer questions in tomorrow’s blog which will cover the “social” aspect of the trip.