Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” for a reason. The people are as warm as the weather. The food is affordable and delicious. There are many beautiful Buddhist temples! Even if you are not Buddhist, the architecture alone is awe-inspiring!
In my previous blog, I talked about my first visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand. While it was the best decision I’ve ever made, there are still many differences between studying massage in the United States and studying in Thailand. I’m often asked if I prefer one experience more than the other. There are pros and cons to both. Massage therapy isn’t standardized worldwide. Therefore, before making the decision to study abroad, there are many factors to consider.
There are wonderful teachers in Thailand and if you find them, learn from them! And yet, not all teachers are for everyone. My goal is not to bash anyone. My goal is to give insight into what you may encounter based on my first-hand experience:
While many people in Thailand speak some conversational English, there still may be a language barrier that exists in the classroom setting. I have seen students encounter this specifically when referring to anatomical terms. Thai massage is largely energetic, so in the places I’ve learned, the sen lines and acupoints are referred to more often than the actual muscle group. When westerners with a background in anatomy and physiology have asked for clarification for the corresponding anatomical structure, there was some difficulty translating it to English.
Many of the schools in Thailand offer certificates as a part of their training. The downside is the certificates that you get after completing the course are not accepted in the United States as part of the required hours to earn your massage therapy license. Some schools are now offering NCBTMB continuing education hours. This is great if your state accepts CE hours from the NCBTMB.
Some states, like Louisiana, require a completely separate application form from its providers. If you live in New York, the CE provider has to submit an additional form, along with the initial approved provider application. This is something that many American LMTs are not aware of, and they end up having to take additional CE courses back home because the classes they took abroad do not count!
When learning Thai massage during a weekend or weeklong course, you are taught a routine. While this is a great way to learn, oftentimes there are not many adjustments offered for people with different body types, levels of flexibility, and injuries. As a person with a flexible and heavier body type, this was a bit of a challenge at times. Some moves my teacher had the other students skip on me because he didn’t know how to adjust on a body like mine.
Also, there are still misconceptions about certain conditions, like pregnancy and cancer, that have been debunked in the west, but still remain prevalent in the east. For example, I have been told by teachers in Thailand that touching a pregnant person’s ankles and/or thumb webbing will cause an abortion. Yet, we now know that you can perform this without causing harm to the fetus.
While learning Thai massage abroad is not quite like learning in the United States, don’t let that be a deterrent! I’m going back to Thailand for the third time June 22-30, 2019 and I’d love for you to join me! This time, I’ll be teaching at Samahita Retreat Center, located on the lovely island, Koh Samui. Spend 9-days learning Thai massage, partner yoga, and how to incorporate eastern knowledge in western settings.
The course I’ll be teaching is eligible for NCBTMB CE hours in most states, including New York. (Contact me for details and I can tell you if it is approved in your state). You will learn traditional Thai massage combined with innovative techniques that are evidence-based…and plenty of variations based on body types and injuries!
Not a massage therapist? Yoga and fitness professionals are welcome!
This is not only an opportunity to build your practice and earn continuing education hours, but it is also a chance to explore the other side of the world!