In my first post, I mentioned a few recurring themes that would likely show up throughout this blog. I am a big believer in serendipity, kismet or being in the right place at the right time. But I don’t think serendipity is just about coincidence or luck. It’s about being open to opportunities that present themselves even when you’re not looking.
Back in early summer 2002, while still working at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, one of my co-workers, Jackie, came in to the spa with a brochure from Universal Touch, Inc. The brochure was describing an upcoming 3 week trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand to attend ITM School of Thai Massage. Jackie had attended a weekend seminar that was sort of an introduction to Thai Massage, and Margie the instructor of the course and coordinator of the trip, was recruiting massage therapists to sign up for the excursion. After looking over the brochure I said to Jackie, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to Thailand.” I was half joking, because I had never traveled out of the country without my husband, and I’m not exactly brave when it comes to that sort of thing, plus I would have to take a leave of absence from work. But I figured there was safety in numbers, and since it was the slow season at the hotel they granted me the leave. So that September Jackie and I along with Fran, another co-worker from the Ritz-Carlton, joined 22 other massage therapists from South Florida on a 3 week adventure to the other side of the world to learn this ancient combination of acupressure and stretching known as Thai massage.
There are wonderful schools and instructors of Thai massage right here in the United States, but to be immersed in the culture, to eat the food, to visit the temples, to live among the locals, was priceless. Every morning I would get up before dawn to go for a run in the public park. The first morning I was a bit apprehensive to go out in a foreign city before sunrise, but I tucked in behind a group of monks and was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the park, shocked actually, to be in the company of several hundred people of all ages who gathered for their morning tai chi practice. On my way to and from school I would walk past the Muay Thai training facility and often catch a glimpse of the fighters training in the outdoor ring. An hour before school started, we would do a combination of yoga and tai chi. Later in school, as we were learning how to transition between the various different positions of Thai massage, the teacher would refer back to the movements we learned that morning in tai chi. We learned the history of Thai massage and how it actually stemmed from the Ayurvedic medicinal practices of India. We learned about the Muay Thai fighters and how Thai massage was part of their training and prefight ritual. We were taught reverence for the practice. Before each session we would do a brief meditation and at the end of our schooling we made a pledge to honor the tradition.
In the 6 months prior to my trip to Thailand I had run 2 marathons and a half marathon, and while I wasn’t injured my body was complaining a bit. Like many athletes I know, stretching and post workout recovery was not my forte’. But as I was giving and receiving Thai massage daily, I was noticing my aches and pains melting away and my flexibility and range of motion improving. I was emailing all of my running buddies, promising that when I got home I would practice on them so that they too could experience the benefits of Thai massage. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the flame that sparked my passion for sports massage and working with athletes.
Since that trip, I have often said that if I were to win the lottery, I would travel around the world studying different cultures’ forms of bodywork. While I don’t play regularly, I feel like I won the lottery when I decided to get out of my comfort zone and seize the opportunity that presented itself in the form of a trip brochure.
If you’d like to give Thai massage a try, you can schedule a 90 or 120 minute Thai massage at Connective Touch Therapeutic Massage in Reston by clicking on the “Schedule Now” button.