Using Thai herbs at home in foot soaks, baths, scrubs, steamed compress massage and steam inhalation fills your home, your body and your soul with fragrant, healing plant essences.
Every time I pull out my mortar and pestle and the rice cooker, the practice feels ancient, exotic and profoundly right.
Even if your home is nowhere near Thailand and not at all tropical, you can get your hands on excellent quality herbs, barks, nuts and essential oils to create a Thai home spa.
living expenses while she receives needed medical treatment. The modest goal of the campaign is $2,200, and it has nearly been reached. Please help! Know that even modest donations go very far to cover living costs in Thailand.
Here's how Anne M. Golla, a student of Mama Nit, describes the fundraiser;
Master Thai Massage teacher Mama Nit has shared her art with hundreds of foreign students, but now she needs your help! She's elderly and can't teach any more, she has no income, and she has urgent medical needs, including dialysis twice a week. The public health system is covering the cost of her dialysis and related treatments but she needs money for transport to the hospital, incidental medical supplies, someone to help her at home, and healthy food. Donating to help cover her cover these needs is a great way to give back. Your donations will be sent to Thailand and given to her on a weekly basis.
If you have eaten a little Thai food, you know that Thai herbs impart flavors to the cuisine that stimulate your palate, warm your gut and well, just make you happy. Thai people understand the culinary and medicinal uses of plants (and animals) in a way that my own people from the colder latitudes of North America do not.
When I lived in Thailand, I happily accepted daily advice from family, friends and the kindly strangers sitting next to me on plastic stools at the noodle cart. They all wanted to tell me what to eat. When to eat it. Why it would be so good for me.
Knowledge of Thai herbs and their uses, both culinary and medicinal, is deeply engrained in Thai culture.
Walk the sidewalks of any Thai town, and you can also follow your nose to the nearest Thai massage shop. The scent of steamed Thai herbs drifts into the street. Lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, ginger,
You have just received a rockin' amazing Thai massage, and you want that feeling to last, but how? What can you do to keep it going? To maintain your new-found flexibility and that vibrant energy flowing through your joints and sinews?
How can you Make Your Thai Massage Last?
12 simple stretches, the ones I have been teaching my own Thai massage clients in nearly 15 years of therapeutic practice, that's how.
All 12 stretches and Thai-inspired acupressure techniques are now available in a handy e-Book. View it on your devices, or print it out and hang the "cheat sheet" (thumbnails of all 12 stretches) on the fridge or above your desk at work.
Organized by area of focus (starting with your feet, just like your Thai massage), this 17-page e-book gives you options. Pick and choose the stretches that you need most.
"This e-book is so nicely put together. Instructions are clear and SIMPLE. I'm a school-based physical therapist full-time, I (also) work in a hospital and I make occasional 'house calls' to treat adults.... Some of the stretches and positions in your book are perfect to include in a home exercise program for my patients (and for me!)."
Renee Gerber, Physical Therapist
Noam Tyroler is one of our field's notable Thai massage teachers and the author of Thai Acupressure. He is hard at work creating a new on-line course based upon his book (the video trailers of which are enticing, crisp, clean and give us much to anticipate).
Grounding, quite simply, is rootedness. Rather than spinning in your head, when you are grounded you are in your body, and you feel connected. Feeling grounded, really grounded, is an aspect of mindfulness. Your mind connects with your body. Your body connects to the earth. You are in touch with your emotions, but not governed by them.
Perhaps you feel grounded in your yoga class, on your morning run or on the meditation cushion, but we cannot always be in yoga class, on a run or on our cushions. How do we stay grounded and connected as we live our over-filled lives?
Nephyr Jacobsen, founder of The Naga Center in Portland, Oregon, might not think of herself as an herbalist, but her passion for research as a life-long student of Traditional Thai Medicine qualifies her to teach us more than we have ever before known about Thai herbs.
She understands the magic in Thai plant medicine and has poured her knowledge and her love into the pages of her new book Thai Herbal Medicine, a collaboration with Pierce Salguero.
If you've stopped by this blog, you already know that I love this book. Nephyr and Pierce are not only collaborators, they are incredibly humble (and cute). Each immediately points to the other to give credit for this rich new edition.
Recently, Nephyr and I had a long chat via Skype from her home in Chiang Rai, Thailand, where she has spent two years studying Traditional Thai Medicine in, well, the traditional way, as an apprentice to a devoted teacher.
We talked about her use of Thai herbs in massage, her new on-line course Thai Medical Theory for Bodyworkers, and her next book project. This woman, more than any other person working in the English language at the present moment, is in a position to change your understanding of Thai bodywork and your place in Traditional Thai Medicine. The field is about to blow open. Finally.
The warmer nights of spring in upstate New York are finally here, and my two mondo-huge pots of lemongrass have left their winter roost in a sunny window for our big front garden.
"Why are you growing so much lemongrass?" you may wonder. Get this! I made a tiny Thai herbal steam bath tent-ish kind of thing, and I plan to sit in there often luxuriating in that calming herbal vapor. Thai people drink in lemongrass infused steam to relieve stress and calm the heart-mind, or citta.
If you have a Thai friend or two, you know that when they refer to their mind, they gesture at their heart. This gesture has always struck me as a central and defining difference between Thai people and my
Congratulations to Lauren Bear! She has won our giveaway, a copy of Nephyr Jacobsen and Pierce Salguero's Thai Herbal Medicine: Traditional Recipes for Health and Harmony. Her Thai massage clients are lucky indeed. Can't wait to see what she incorporates into her work with inspiration from Nephyr and Pierce.
Many thanks to everyone who entered, and keep your eyes open for the next gift from me to you. I will be giving away some of the best resources for Thai massage therapists as a regular feature of the blog.
Next time I hope it's you!
Coffee and a Cushion
Coffee and meditation before you head off to work? Yes. Because ritual is comforting, and meditation is grounding. When you are comforted and grounded, your own beautiful healing intuition will blossom in your work.
My morning begins with coffee making. It is a ritual that starts my day mindfully. Your rituals will be different, but look for the rituals that begin your day. Elevate them, and you will begin to see the mindfulness in them.
My coffee making ritual is highly ordered, sensory and well, contemplative.
I weigh the beans, and I grind them. That aroma makes me happy. I filter water and heat it not quite to
Win a Copy! (it's a treasure)
There are two copies of Thai Herbal Medicine by Nephyr Jacobsen and Pierce Salguero on my desk, and one of them could be yours.
From Nephyr's preface to Thai Herbal Medicine
If you practice Thai massage or herbal medicine of any kind, you will turn to this book again and again. In the new edition, Nephyr has significantly expanded Pierce's first edition to include detailed descriptions of Thai Element Theory and the five Taste Systems which are the theoretical underpinnings of Thailand's herbal medicine.
The new edition of Thai Herbal Medicine: Traditional Recipes for Health and Harmony by Nephyr Jacobsen and Pierce Salguero is just out, and it will change your thinking about Thai medicine.
Nephyr Jacobsen is founder and director of The Naga Center, a school for Traditional Thai Medicine in Portland, Oregon. In Thai Herbal Medicine, Nephyr has drawn from years of research and field work in Thailand to build Pierce's foundational book into the most comprehensive reference on Thai herbs in the English language. Pierce will be the first to tell you, "This is Nephyr's book." If you practice Thai massage or herbalism, this book will have you grinning from ear to ear.
Its publication gave me just the excuse I have been looking for to train down to Philadelphia for coffee and a conversation with Pierce about his academic research and the current field of Thai massage. Man, is he a delightful guy.
Our conversation fed my deep need to yammer away about Thai massage scholarship and practice, Buddhism and medicine, history and contemporary culture. We got so deep into these subjects that we
A Thai Herbal Bath Brewed with Love
The three most glorious weeks of my life (so far) were the three after my son was born in Thailand. Sure I was tired beyond imagining and a bit scared to think that they sent our teeny bundle home with us from the hospital, assuming we knew what to do. What I didn't realize at first was that my Thai family knew exactly what to do.
While I rested and found my footing in our new life, my ex-husband and sister-in-law took care of me and our new boy. I have already told you about the use of heat and herbal tea in earlier posts about those postpartum days, but my favorite traditional Thai medicine by far was the herbal bath my family prepared for me for three glorious weeks.
Using a recipe from our Thai grandmother Khun Yai (you will remember her as the massage therapist and midwife to her village), my family borrowed our landlady's biggest pot and brewed a tea with these medicinal herbs;
Teach Them Simple Thai Massage Techniques for Self-Care
Do you remember receiving your first Thai massage? Of course you do, and if you are a Thai massage therapist, it obviously rocked your world.
Your clients, in all their unique ways, are having that same experience when they arrive on your mat. Your work gives your clients a sense of possibility, which is thrilling all by itself.
Your clients see that Thai massage can make it possible to live without pain, to move with ease, to recover more fully from injury or most importantly to restore themselves to themselves. It allows them to relax, to let go, to feel light and open, and your clients will want this experience again. And again.
Now the real world begins to set in. Time and money. It does, in the end, all come down to time and money. But it doesn't have to.
Part of the treatment plan which you develop with your client must include self-care. By giving your client simple, effective tools to treat themselves, you give them power within the therapeutic process. Real therapy (that's your job) together with a little client education and a few well chosen tools will help your client get where they want to go faster (less time, less money).
(and are you ready to give it a try?)
When I began to study Thai massage more than a dozen years ago, I knew that it moved energy. I knew because that’s what my teachers told me. I did not know because I could feel it. I could not.
I (kind of) trusted that one day, if I kept at it and meditated a whole lot more than I do and stopped eating meat and did more yoga and thought only pure thoughts and stopped swearing (blah, blah, blah). You get the idea. I wasn’t sure I was “good enough” to feel energy.
Let me say that again. I wasn’t sure I was good enough to feel energy. Oh, man. We can be so hard on ourselves.
I remember one of my American Thai massage teachers sharing a story about traveling all the way to Japan to study Shiatsu with a renowned teacher. She carried along in her little bag a list of questions for Great Teacher. When the time for asking arrived, she pulled out her list and started with the first question (basically “HOW do I feel energy?).
Great Teacher replied, “Just feel.” (It’s so maddening when they do that.)
She moved on to her next question, reframing the first. “How do I feel energy?”
Great Teacher replied, “Just feel.”
Undaunted (which is what I like about her as a teacher), she worked through her list. She got the same answer every time.
And, boy was she pissed. All the way to Japan?! The time?! The commitment?! The expense?! Alas, Great Teacher was just being honest. It is that simple. There is nothing more.
Okay, you say, but How Do I feel energy?
Right. I knew you'd ask that.
Gratitude to the Lineage of Teachers
On Thursdays throughout the Kingdom of Thailand, students express their gratitude to their teachers. The ceremony can be elaborate or simple. In Thai language to wai means to show respect with hands in prayer position and head bowed. Khru means teacher. When we wai khru, we show our respect to our teachers.
Thai massage therapists honor as well Dr. Jivaka Komarabhacca, often referred to simply as the "Father Doctor" of Thai medicine (and spelled variously). If you have spent some time in Thailand and in Thai massage shops (and why wouldn't you!), you have surely seen beautiful altars honoring the Buddha, the Father Doctor, the King and Queen of Thailand, past kings of the country and revered monks. Honoring, respecting and showing gratitude are a daily practice in Thailand, one of it's most lovely daily practices.
When my little feet first touched down in Thailand as a traveler and student of Thai massage, I quickly learned how to kneel properly, bow my head deeply and recite the chants that my teacher taught me.
The best massage therapists are brilliant at recognizing pattern. Across a broad range of clients and over the course of years, your Thai massage practice is rich with pattern. Your job is to find it.
A journal helps you do just that.
See that little journal up there? It goes with me to work. Why? Because I never know when something utterly new will turn up on the massage mat. What could be new after 13 years, you ask? Ah, but it is new all the time.
I carry in my mind, in my heart, in my touch the memory of all the Thai massages which have gone before. They are there for me when I need them. When I work, I am not thinking. I am responding. My responses are based on the long history of massages I have given and on the patterns which emerge from them.
When something new shows up, I turn to my journal. I write it down. For me, the act of writing with the intention to digest is a powerful learning tool. It helps me pay attention.
I turn to my journal, because I know that something which has just shown up will show up again. It is a new pattern revealing itself to me. My job is to recognize it. Journaling helps me do that.
No, I am not learning about illness, injuries or medical conditions I have not seen before. By and large, we humans show up with needs which are as old as human history.
What I am watching for is the learning that spills out of the mouths of my clients, out
Thai Partner Yoga Brings You Together
You and your love together on that little yoga mat working out the kinks.
You know how your man is always asking you to rub his neck? And you do your level best, but the tension comes right back? Maybe the neck rub is a bit of a one-way street in your house. How could you both get a bit more of what you want?
I can teach you some basic Thai stretches and massage moves that benefit both of you. At the same time! And you'll be doing it together. Lovely.
Thai Partner Yoga Teaches Give and Take
Are you the alpha dog in your relationship? When you are on the mat giving your body weight over to your love. Letting them lean in to you. Stretch you. You will have the opportunity (which you may or may not decide to take) to yield. Yield to their support. Yield to their direction. Yield.
Yielding is a choice. It can take practice. Yielding in balance is a good thing in a relationship. Partner yoga allows you to practice.
Thai Partner Yoga is Wicked Easy and Fun!
See that man up there? (Gosh, I love that man.) He's having fun, right?
When was the last time someone sat right the heck down on you? And stretched out your sweet hips. And lengthened your low back. Tractioned your entire spine? All just by sitting down.
I can teach you where to sit. How to get down there comfortably and how long to stay put. Fun, easy and so very effective. And the best part? You can do Thai partner yoga at home together any old time you want.
Emerge. My word of the year.
My Thai massage practice has felt to me like a living, growing organism with a life cycle of its own.
When I began this work in 2001, my practice was just that. Practice. Lots and lots of it. My first "client" was a dear friend who willingly flopped down on my living room floor and let me push, twist and sit on him. It must have felt just like that. Lots of push and twist. This was before I learned to relax and lean. Just lean. And wait.
My "client" came once a week for many months, and with this I began to learn to manage a therapeutic relationship. At the time I was enrolled in a two-year massage therapy program and working toward an Associate's degree in massage. I was also still running my full-time museum consulting business (ah, you didn't know I used to be a cultural historian, did you?). Oh, and I was paying a mortgage. (Single girls have boundless energy!)
I had no idea how much was in store for me when I chose this work (or it chose me). I would soon move to Thailand, marry a Thai man, open a Thai massage school, and have a baby there. Who could have known?!
Since its beginnings, my practice has grown, and grown up. It has matured and blossomed into more than a practice. It is a successful business. It is a lifestyle (which I love), and it is a part of me, one of the best parts of me.
My practice is taking a new direction this year, one that will allow it (and me) to emerge.
This blog, which feels a bit like my living room where we chat over tea, will be a part of that emergence. More and more, I will be writing for Thai massage therapists. Sharing what I have learned. Helping others to grow a vibrant practice, a successful business and the lifestyle they most want.
This year two new e-courses will be launched right here, and there will be freebies (we loves freebies!). I am also creating a new newsletter for Thai massage therapists.
"How will she do all this and still give me my regular Thai massage," you ask? Don't worry. (Married girls have boundless energy!)
Emerge. Perhaps it is your word for the year too?!
Clients often talk to me about energetic experiences they have had, acupuncture in particular, while I am working on them. It is no coincidence that as I apply acupressure (without needles) to their sen, or energy lines, they are reminded of previous experiences feeling energy in their body. Sense memories come up.
This morning it happened again, and I want to share it with you, because it describes, in a nutshell, why Thai massage clears what's stuck.
This morning's client was reminded of a repetitive strain injury resulting from his profession, hand-intensive work utilizing vibrating tools (the worst kind, as they jangle the be-jesus out of your nerves!). After two fingers had gone numb, he consulted an acupuncturist. To his surprise (but not mine), in two treatments she resolved his problem. She applied needles to treatment points in his calf. Nowhere near the site of his numb fingers.
He described the needles as "burning." Right! His acupuncturist had tapped into a point of congestion. Congestion is an excess. Too much. Too much energy bound at that point in the line. Excess burns. It jumps. It pulsates. Like an excited seven-year-old boy (I have one!), it demands our attention.
In Thai massage, we work to clear congestion along energy lines in the body. What is congestion, exactly? What does it feel like to the therapist? Congestion is sticky. It is hard. It is stuck.
A Thai massage therapist works to clear what is stuck by applying acupressure (no needles, just feet, knees, elbows and hands) and passive stretches. But, where does it go, that stuck energy, when it releases? Where indeed. It travels along the energy line and evens out the road. Fills in the potholes, as it were.
One thing I can't do with Thai massage is give you more than you've got. I can't fill the voids, the valleys, the deficiencies along your energy lines. Not directly, anyway. I can only break up and un-stick the excesses.
In our work as Thai massage therapists, we address excess, and the deficiency takes care of itself.
And, this is why Thai massage clears what's stuck. In a nutshell.
Baby, It's Cold Outside!
We woke this morning to 7 inches of new snow and temperatures hovering around 4 degrees Fahrenheit. After making the coffee (immediately after), I did what any good Thai cook would do. I pulled out the mortar and pestle and started pounding.
I pulverized garlic from our garden and dried chilis. I threw them in my Dutch oven with black beans and other goodies, turned on a low flame in the oven and let it slowly simmer for a few hours. (Warm kitchen! Warm tummies!)
Garlic and Chilis are Warming
Garlic is good for you. You knew that already. But, did you know why?
Garlic increases the body's natural production of hydrogen sulfide, and the effect is to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Blood flow is warming, baby. Additionally, garlic's antioxidant effects protect the heart and fight or prevent some cancers. (Just ask the National Academy of Sciences, new research department.)
Postpartum Recovery in a Tea Cup
When my son's Papa was a young monk in his rural Thai village, he learned to gather wild and cultivated herbs for his Abbot's daily tea. Luang Pau (roughly "Great Father") taught him the medicinal uses of the local herbs. Each day the Abbot drank one cup of tea which the young monks made from lemongrass, kaffir lime skin and phrai (a Thai ginger). It was his daily health tonic.
After my son was born in Chiang Mai, my Thai family made this same tea for me. For the first ten days at home with our newborn, they kept our little pot replenished with fresh herbs and brought me a cup of tea three times a day. It was astringent, bitter and lemony in a pleasant sort of way. Because it had the sanction of Luang Pau and my husband's grandmother Khun Yai, a midwife and massage therapist about whom I have written before, I happily submitted.
On the second day, I was sitting in our front room chatting with a Thai massage student about options for study in our little school (newborn in arms), when I realized I was sweating. Now, in hot season in
The end of the year is a flurry of activity. We are all busy spreading joy. Right? That's what this is all about! Holiday cards, gifts and gatherings are expressions of gratitude and love.
As we work to spread joy, let's not forget ourselves. I ask you, my friend, "How you doin'?"
What rocked in 2013? What didn't? More importantly, why? Don't let the year close without taking time to learn from it. A little reflection with a dose of kind support can take learning to a new level and help you make real and lasting change.
In May of this year, I stumbled upon a gift. A gift so big that it changed my world. Permanently. I discovered those impossibly pink and blue workbooks you see up there.
A Thanksgiving Story
"I hurt myself lifting the damned turkey!"
Oh, sure. You can tell yourself you threw your back out when you bent over the scalding oven door to heft 20 pounds of turkey and stuffing at the level of your shins. You can tell yourself that, but you are wrong, my dear. (You can't blame it on the turkey.)
It was the stress that did it.
Ask for Help
And I don't just mean getting the big guy to haul that bird out of the oven for you (what a concept!). I mean really ask for help.
In this holiday of Thanks and Giving, make sure you keep the giving in balance. Your family wants to
When I was pregnant with my son in Thailand, the subject of heat, high heat, came up often. Hot season is a lucky time to have a baby, I was told. No worries keeping your little one warm. I found this perplexing. I am from central Maine. All of my baby pictures are taken in snow banks (the light is better there!). In Thai summer with days in the upper 90's fahrenheit, I was worried about how to keep the little bean cool.
When I arrived in the hospital to give birth, heat (or a lack of cold) came up again. When my mouth got dry during delivery, I asked for ice chips. I am sure I got that out of a movie, or something. Dr. Udom, my fabulous obstetrician, and the attending nurses (all dressed in Pepto-Bismol pink) looked at me quizzically. I repeated it in Thai language. Still not getting through, I dropped it, having other fish to fry at that moment.