Comparing Yoga with Thai Yoga Massage

Yeah, they are different, but the learning process is the same.

I started going to yoga classes like many people do…with hot yoga. Oh my! As a teacher for years, hot yoga is something I love and despise. Its the fad, one that I fell for too. I think yoga beginners need to go to fundamentals classes too. They need to learn proper positions and how to breathe. Its not easy to teach those concepts in hot yoga, though I often do. But it honestly feels good to me and I love to sweat. I think the sweating is what people think is burning fat for them. That’s OK to believe. To me, if something seems like its working, then its working.

Actually, before hot yoga, I had many books on "stretching" or "yoga for runners" or whatever yoga "insert the name". I did the stretches. It was totally a "body" experience and had nothing to do with the mind. One day, I saw this info about Bikram. They had a 26 pose sequence that I downloaded in a mini-size, laminated, and put it in my wallet. My regular practice was pulling out my card and doing the sequence. I eventually went to a Bikram class and (kind-of) enjoyed it. I think I mostly liked wearing my short-shorts and sweating it out with lots of people in a cramped room also wearing short-shorts (or swim suits).

When I started going to a real yoga studio (i.e. not a gym), I started to learn more about the practice. Yeah, I was a little annoyed by the flowery alliterations sometimes. Some of it sounded like total fluff. I mean, I was raised as a wrestler and then joined the Army. Our alliterations were "tear his head off!" So to hear, "open your heart chakra" or "flower your anus" wasn’t something I connected with. But some of the stuff started to get through to me. I started to learn the importance of savasana. In fact, now I claim as a teacher that its the most important pose in class. It also is the true reason for yoga. I was still resistant to things. Even today, I’m still resistant to some things, and still am, despite being a yoga teacher. But I understand it more.

The bottom line is that you can never stop learning about yoga. You keep adding layers and layers of knowledge. And your experiences add up too. Every person you see and touch has an additive effect. Its like every year, I get another certificate or Ph.D. from my yoga (so to speak). At my front burners right now are Animal Yoga, Budokon Yoga, Steel Mace (yoga related), Aerial Yoga, and Acro Yoga. And, a favorite student of mine is now a Rocket Yoga teacher. So I’m learning from her new things from a different perspective. I’m always learning.

Yes, I mentioned Thai Yoga Massage. I knew when I started into this journey, that there was so much to learn. I was reading books on Thai Yoga Massage. I was getting lots of practice on people. But honestly, when I took the level I class and started practicing, I thought I was big man on campus. I worked through the sequence and thought I was perfecting it. Then I had my first mentoring session where I gave Thai to a senior instructor. Everything was off: my tempo, my pressure, my technique, my body positions, my transitions. Yes, I memorized a sequence, but perfecting my craft was still a long way away. Just like in Yoga. I memorized things, but putting into practice and affecting outcomes in people’s bodies was still far off.

I took anatomy for Thai and realized I knew nothing. I mean, I took a year of anatomy in college. I also took comparative zoological anatomy, gross human anatomy (dissections), and kinesiology (human body mechanics). But when it came to a true functional anatomy, I had so much to learn. I still do. Then you overlay neuromuscular aspects, trigger points, clinical assessments, modern tools for therapy, and overall energy systems, I realize that I’m still at the bottom step of the stair climb.

But this is where yoga and Thai yoga come together. Its a never ending process of learning. In yoga, they say if you say you are a guru, then you are not a yogi. Being humble to know there is so much out there to learn is the art of being a good teacher. Ego gets in the way of everything. Its why you can’t follow people. Bikram taught me that the founder is totally human and not someone to emulate. Its a disrespected practice to me now because it was based on a cult-like following of a person. As a Rocket Teacher, I greatly admire the founder, Larry Schultz. But I also know he was a man. He had lots of flaws and quirks. But I understand his intention and admire the practice.

I told one of the Thai yoga apprentices that I was going to Thailand to receive the Thai Yoga Massage experience. He said "just don’t adopt their bedside manner". I guess I’ll find out what that means. But I know there are flaws in the practice that need to be addressed. Much of this is ironed out in my more modern training system. In SE Asia, the focus isn’t as much on book knowledge of anatomy or trigger points. Its a 2,500 year tradition passed down through the generations based on energy. Those nuances can’t be lost today. But there is so much to add to the practice that is useful. I’m learning these layers of knowledge, just like I do with yoga.

Never stop learning. I say this often, but in the Karate Kid with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, Jackie makes an amazing statement. Jaden wanted to learn Kung Fu to kick someone’s ass. But Jackie points out that "kung fu is in everything. It’s in all of life. Its in how you put on your jacket. Its in how you treat other people". This is so true of many things, but especially yoga and Thai yoga massage. I’m finding similarities in all of it. It doesn’t make me a guru. But it helps me understand life and how I need to treat people.

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