My alarm clock breaks the serene silence in the old guest house. 6AM. I look around my room and for a second I envy my co-travelers – an early morning alarm clearly seems to belong to their past.
It is early April and I have just completed my Dynamic Mindfulness Yoga Teacher Training in Pai, Thailand. Four intense, fun and wonderful weeks have passed after which I planned to do ab-so-lute-ly nothing. Like many plans that are made during traveling, this of course never happened. In fact, I ran into a couple telling me about their amazing experience at a traditional Thai massage school just outside of Chiang Mai. And so my spiritual journey continued.
Origins of Thai massage
Thai massage is a combination of influences from Indian, Chinese, and South-East Asian cultural traditions of medicine. The recognized founder of Thai massage – Shivago Komarpaj – is said to have been the Buddha’s physician about 2,500 years ago.
Over the years, various healing traditions from all over the kingdom have synthesized resulting in the Thai massage as we know it today – Northern and Southern style Thai massage. The Southern style (Bangkok) is mostly focused on firm acupressure and vigorous energy line work. The Northern style (Chiang Mai) includes more yoga-like stretching techniques that are performed at a slow and relaxing rhythm. I decide for the Northern style which serves as a great complementary practice next to my yoga training.
The Fine Art of Thai Massage
The Fine Art of Thai Massage school is founded by the Chumphoopong family and is currently run by Therdchai Chumphoopong (Mac) and his girlfriend. During one of our training hours he shares the inspiring story of his mother who has taught him and his brother all the traditional techniques. At that time – unlike today – performing Thai massage was not considered to be appropriate for women.
For centuries, it had solely been practiced by Buddhist monks as a component of Thai medicine. Dedicated to perform massages herself, she spent months completing daily chores in the temple while keeping an eye on the monks giving massages to the villagers. Back home she would continue practicing what she had observed. With success – she became one of the first respected female traditional Thai massage practitioners in the Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai.
Studying With a Master
Mac his style of teaching is open, inclusive, and holistic. Every day we open and close the teaching session with a prayer in which we thank the founder doctor Shivago for his efforts and bless the recipient for good health. After the opening prayer – and some necessary organic coffee or green tea – it is time to join Mac for a few good hours of study. We learn the core principle of Thai massage – bringing the body and mind in balance – by applying a dynamic sequence of flowing movements, yoga-like stretches, and pressure points.
After 150 hours of practice, feedback, and study I truly feel like the most flexible, balanced, and energized person floating around town. Alarm clocks.. Schedules.. Deadlines.. huh?! It is one of those places where you wish you could stay forever – Thai food, homegrown fruits, inspiring co-students, great teaching sessions, yoga and Thai massages every day, yay!
The Journey Continues – Thai Massage in Berlin
But at the same time I feel the drive and motivation to bring back all of this ancient knowledge to the Western world in general and to Berlin in particular. A place where we can easily be caught up by busy schedules and can really benefit from a practice that simply reminds us to breath, connect, and deeply relax..