The first time I went to Hong Kong to study Kung Fu I spent a few weeks out there with my martial arts instructor and a few fellow senior students. We would spend our days learning and practicing and occasionally, as a treat for all the hardwork we would be accompanied across the border at Shenzhen for an overnight stay at the local massage parlour.
I guess the place was the equivalent of one of our Spas and, although it looked a bit dodgy to me, it was in fact respectable. At least the part where female clients were being treated and accommodated for the night…
It was here that I had my first experience of Thai Yoga Massage. Although not strictly the traditional version and not carried out by Thai masseuses it was bloody good and completely different from the other styles of massage I had experienced up to that point. Despite our communication challenges being of monumental proportions through a lot of gesticulating (comes natural to me) we managed to ask for a 2 hour treatment.
Even now that I have been a qualified Thai Yoga Massage practitioner for some time I am still amazed at how skilled these girls were in the art of throwing clients around the room while taking them through amazing stretches. All this action was of course occasionally interrupted by gently, gently, softly, softly working of the soft tissues but it didn’t last long and I was soon being bashed all over the place… all over the place!
When I woke up the next day I felt like a completely different person and I was in love with the treatment. Because the girls took my body through a whole sequence of deep stretches, every single joint in my skeleton was duly lubricated and able to experience its full range of motion. Not only that, a lot of the emotional tension I was carrying with me everywhere at the time was gone. Suddenly I was a bit more ninja like in my kung fu moves too as I was generally more relaxed and therefore able to move quicker.
We went there again towards the end of our stay and after some sightseeing around Beijing and Foshan to retrace the steps of the forefathers and mothers of Wing Chun Kung Fu. This time I was determined to find out just how much I could put up with and booked a 3 hr treatment. My female travel companion at the time opted for a kinder Japanese style treatment which lasted just about an hour which meant that her masseuse was over and done with by the time I was getting warmed up and ready to go. It was at that point that I really should have kept my big mouth shut but no, I had to ask in really awful Chinese, why they had bars on the ceiling. I sealed my fate. After lots of gesticulating and giggling the two masseuses teamed up, giggled some more, flipped me over the bed as if I was a pancake, pushed my face through a hole, giggled even more and then grabbed a towel each.
What happened next will never be erased from my mind. Ever. They took turns in flipping the towels over the rails, levitated on top of the bed and after grabbing the towels they proceeded to jump up and down my back digging their big toes in between each vertebrae until they popped. Unfortunately not all of them wanted to pop straight away but I was too much in shock to do or say anything about it and I just remember hearing my travel companion laughing like crazy while I was mumbling something along to lines of “pop you mother*****r, just pop!”. I am not sure what happened during the rest of my treatment, I think I passed out… but I must have been flipped again on my back because I woke up in the morning face up. I was terrified that my spine was in no fit state to carry me around all day but, surprise, for the first time in some time I was able to bend and twist like a pretzel and again I felt very lighthearted and zen like. Magic!
It was at that point that I decided to learn more about Thai Yoga Massage and have since discovered that there are two broad styles of treatment: the Northern (what I do) and the Southern (which they did) with the former believed to be more dynamic but less brutal. It took me ages to find somewhere to learn in the UK but eventually I did and was privileged to be able to learn from one of the best teachers in the Country on an almost one-to-one basis (there were two of us in the course).
A lot of people who approached me in the past have asked me what the treatment consists of and how it relates to other similar styles of energy based treatments. I did some research as part of my diploma and have briefly compared Thai Massage with Reiki and Acupuncture. You can read my ramblings here.
I love doing the treatments and I love spending some extraordinarily quality time with my lovely clients, but sometimes I wonder if I got this whole thing backwards and whether I should have tricked my other half to learn it so I could have been the guinea pig!