Should Americans Study Thai Massage in Thailand?

Should Americans Study Thai Massage in Thailand?

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:

Language Barrier

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!

If you are ready to say yes to adventure and transformation, click here to learn more and register for the experience of a lifetime!

I Was Frazzled, Scared, but I Did It Anyway: My First Trip to Thailand

I Was Frazzled, Scared, but I Did It Anyway: My First Trip to Thailand

Starting Over

Few people know the real reason I went to Thailand when I did. I have been wanting to travel there since I first learned Thai massage 12 years ago. Yet, between starting a family and figuring out my path as a wellness professional, the timing was never right. In March 2012, my then-husband and I decided to divorce. It was easily the most challenging period of my life. I was confused, depressed, yet weirdly empowered to move on and recreate a different path for myself. Up until that point, the career decisions I made revolved around being a wife and a mom.

Don’t get me wrong, I considered my own happiness as well, but I factored in how my choices would impact my husband and son. At the time, I was practicing massage therapy, yoga, and Reiki. I was happy, but the money was inconsistent, and I didn’t have the acumen to build the kind of business that could support us. I loved teaching massage therapy, but the school was an hour away…plus I had to work shifts that made it impossible to spend time with my family.

This was also before Obamacare so we were reliant on my ex-husband’s health insurance. Unfortunately, his job was physically and mentally taxing and didn’t offer much in terms of compensation. Because of all of that, I decided to change careers and began looking at nursing schools. It wasn’t my passion to be a nurse, but it was a stable and sensible career choice that would allow me to be the kind of wife and mother that my family deserved.

After we decided to separate, everything fell apart. I stopped applying to nursing schools, I quit my teaching position, and my son and I moved back in with my mom. I didn’t know what was next for me because, for the past five years, everything revolved around a family that was now broken up. I now was tasked with creating a new life and future for myself and my son.

I had some money saved up and I considered going to Thailand for a week or so, since I needed to do continuing education hours anyway. Plus, since I put off the trip when I decided to start a family, it seemed fitting that I go now thatI’m starting over. I talked to my mom about it, and she told me to go for 3weeks…considering the flights are about 20ish hours!

So, I went.

Bum Guns and Comfort Zones

Two months after separating from my ex, I was on a flight to the other side of the world. I’ve never flown internationally…and I haven’t ever flown by myself. After traveling through Seattle and South Korea, I found my way to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I told the guesthouse manager the time that my flight landed, but I didn’t factor in the line for immigration and currency exchange.

By the time I arrived at the guesthouse, it was closed! Luckily, there were a few guests still awake at 12:30 am that knew the manager and had her phone number. She lived nearby and arrived within 10 minutes to show me to my room. I listened to the Alabama Shakes while I unpacked and attempted to get some rest.



One of the spots I enjoyed most was a lake outside Chiang Mai.

The next few days were spent getting used to navigating Chiang Mai, finding places to eat, and learning to use a bum gun. In my preparation for the trip, I somehow missed how to use the potty! So, in Thailand, you cannot flush toilet paper. It has to go in the wastebasket. Their septic system can’t handle it. Instead, there is a hose hooked up to the toilet that you squirt your…uhh… parts. Then you use the toilet paper to dry yourself. It took some getting used to, but now I actually prefer that way!

Once I started Thai massage school, I felt more settled. I made friends from around the world-many of which I am still friends with nearly 7 years later. English was people’s second or even third language, and yet we connected as if there were no barriers at all. Some of the people I met were also going through tough transitions in life. We comforted and supported one another… all while learning fun Thai massage techniques! After only being there for a few weeks, Chiang Mai felt like home. It still does to this day.



Pasi (Finland), Julie (France), Rhonnie (New Zealand), and Stelios (Greece) hanging out at
Wa Lai House! 

That life-altering experience taught me that you can’t recreate yourself inside your comfort zone. I needed to go where no one knew me,so no one could compare me to my former self. Now, several years later, I decided to remain a massage therapist, yoga instructor, and wellness educator. I earned my Bachelor of Applied Science in Massage Therapy and am currently earning my Masters in Adult and Continuing Education.

I’ve written books and articles on massage therapy, as well as produced instructional videos. I have taught hundreds of massage therapists and yoga instructors Thai massage and western-based bodywork. I look forward to sharing the healing arts with hundreds more!

Travel is a Gift of Transformation

As you can tell by my story, international travel can be daunting and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. 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.

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!

If you are ready to say yes to adventure and transformation, click here to learn more and register for the experience of a lifetime!

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Since 2005, I have been helping folks to reduce chronic and acute pain, decrease stress, improve athletic performance, restore range of motion, and simply relax while hiding from the kids and in-laws. In short, I help you be resilient to whatever life throws at you!
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Massaging My Mom After Surgery

Massaging My Mom After Surgery

A couple weeks ago, my mom had a partial gastrectomy. This surgery removed the lower part of her stomach. It is becoming a more widely used weight loss intervention. While the surgery went well, there was obviously a lot of discomfort. My mom had a hard time getting comfortable and having a full night’s rest. She was often woken up in the middle of the night from all of the pain she was experiencing.
I stopped by to see how she was feeling, and she told me about the discomfort and lack of sleep. She asked me to rub her back. Now, my mom, rarely asks for massages, and when she does, she only wants the lightest pressure ever. She’s the most sensitive client I’ve ever had…and I’ve had plenty over the years! The slightest bit of pressure, and she’s jumping off the table. So, I knew if she was asking me for a massage, she must’ve been in a lot of pain. Without hesitation, I gently rubbed her back in the area that was hurting. Because she can’t lay flat yet, I massaged her while she was sitting in a chair. The massage was less than 5 minutes but it made a world of difference.
The next day, on Facebook, she posted,
“Happiness is having a daughter that is the best massage therapist there for you when you need her most. Thank you Vanessa Hazzard.  I slept like a baby last night and no pain medication. Love you to the moon.”
While I love helping all of my clients become pain free, it’s nothing like helping out those closest to you. Not only is my mom the person that introduced me to anatomy and kinesiology when I was 10 years old, she is the backbone (pun intended) of our family. To be able to help the person that has helped countless others, both professionally and personally, is an honor. She’s since told me that she is counting down the days until the doctor gives her the okay to get deeper massage work on her back. Because of this, I’ve been doing my research!
I’d like to share some of it with you, in case you also end up working with post-surgical partial gastrectomy clients:

  • According to a study at Chungnam National University Hospital, the degree of pain [after the partial gastrectomy] was significantly reduced according to post operation day and quality of sleep was significantly increased (Asian Oncology Nursing 2012).
  • Complications such as postoperative bleeding, delayed gastric emptying, early satiety, and nutritional deficiencies may occur in some patients.
  • Abdominal massage can help with hypertrophic scarring (adhesions)
  • In most cases, after 6 weeks post-surgery, clients are able to receive massage. Any time before then, request a doctor’s note.
  • Once client is cleared for massage, depending on sensitivity to pressure, they may need to be worked on side-lying. (They may be able to sleep on their stomach, but sleeping and having pressure applied while laying prone, are two different sensations. Always check in with them, and adjust accordingly.)

I’d like to hear about any experiences you’ve had working with post -surgical clients. Tell me about it in the comments section!
Asian Oncol Nurs. 2012 Feb;12(1):69-76. Korean.

I Gave My 8-Year-Old a Deep Tissue Massage

I Gave My 8-Year-Old a Deep Tissue Massage

My son, Phoenix, and I were coming up the stairs after grocery shopping. When we get inside our apartment, he says, “Ah, I hurt my back mommy! I need a massage immediately!” Now, my son is a bit dramatic…and by a bit, I mean extremely. You would think the sky was falling…all day, every day! That being said, he’s never asked for a massage for pain relief before. In fact, I didn’t even think he knew that massage could do that!

 Phoenix falls asleep ANYWHERE!

Most parents massage their kids when they are little. Being that Phoenix has a massage therapist for a mom, he is no different, except maybe in the way I use massage. Phoenix was never the kid that needed a relaxing massage to go to sleep. This kid never had a problem sleeping! He’s been sleeping through the night ever since he was a few weeks old. I know, I was super lucky! In fact, if I tried to cuddle or massage him when he was falling asleep, he’d get agitated. When I do massage Phoenix, it’s after he showers. I use really thick oils and creams for his incredibly dry skin and eczema, so the massage is somewhat vigorous.  He’s also used to receiving Thai massage on occasion (which I’ll talk about in a later blog). Those are the only two contexts he knows massage…so I thought.
Given all this, I was kind of shocked when he ask for a massage because his back hurt. When he flung the bag of groceries on the floor, he did so in a way that hurt his right rhomboid. I sat him on my lap, and brought his arm across his body. I pressed his right pec backward while manipulating his scapula, then I massaged his right rhomboid and levator scapula from that position. He let me know when I found the spots that hurt, and then breathed a sigh of relief once the pain was gone.  While massaging Phoenix, I realized that I’ve never done deep work on a body his size before. I was surprised to feel how tense his little muscles were. The whole process was quite intuitive though…and kind of fun!

silly phoenix

Phoenix getting ready to take over the world!

There’s a lot of myths about deep tissue massage (again, the subject of a later blog), one of which I’ve heard is that you shouldn’t do that particular kind of massage on minors, or smaller people. I’m not sure how that myth got started. Working on my son, who is both small, and a minor, I can tell you that idea is erroneous. There was no way I could’ve given Phoenix a fluffy “spa massage” and still alleviated his pain. The dude needed the works!
Even though the massages Phoenix received in the past weren’t aimed at pain relief, the fact that he had decreased pain as
a side effect, prompted him to ask for a massage when he was in pain. I’m glad that he instinctively knew what to do to take care of himself.

Wellness Wednesdays: Self Care

Wellness Wednesdays: Self Care

Young woman stays and laugh. It hot summer day.“If compassion doesn’t include ourselves, it is incomplete.”-Jack Kornfield
It is not uncommon for healers to forget to heal themselves. When our energy is depleted, it is near impossible for us to give quality care to our clients. Eventually it takes a toll on us, can ultimately cut our career short.
There are certain barriers that LMTs have that prevent them from caring for themselves on a regular basis. Namely time and money! I came across this cool little article, 23 Ways to Treat Yo’ Self without Buying or Eating Anything. It’s pretty awesome! I definitely plan on doing some of these…especially numbers 1, 6, and 10. I hope you will too!
Have other self-care tips to share? Write in the comments section below!