Thai Massage Interview with Reinhold L.M.T.

Reinhold L.M.T.
Reinhold, L.M.T.

Reinhold is a licensed massage therapist specializing in Thai massage. His practice in mostly in Manhattan, but he travels to all 5 boroughs for in-home Thai massage and works out of a studio in Hoboken, NJ as well.

His foundational training is in Western medical massage but he has since learned to integrate these techniques with the Traditional Thai, adding the best of his training in Shiatsu, Myofascial Release, Trigger point Therapy and Sports massage as well.

You can learn more about Reinhold and his treatments in New York at his website www.ThaiMassage-NYC.com

When did you receive your first Thai massage?

In our final semester at Swedish Institute, we were asked to take at least three 20 hr. intro courses to gain exposure to different modalities. I chose Thai Massage because I had no idea what it was.

When and why did you decide to study Thai massage? I think the stretches that a partner at your training give you impressed you a lot, how exactly was that?

On the first night of class we talked about energy lines, which was not an unfamiliar concept for me since we had all been through an extensive Eastern  Studies program in addition to the Western curriculum. We also began to learn how the Thai work the legs and I remember that night being quite impressed at how effortlessly and deeply the hamstring muscles could be compressed with the feet compared to the exhausting hand and elbow techniques that had been covered in Western modalities.

On the second night, part of the demo was a move designed to stretch the low back muscles. Even though my practice partner had never experienced Thai Massage nor had she ever tried the technique, as soon as she put me into the position my body immediately recognized that this would be the way to overcome the chronic back pain that I had resigned to accept for the last 20 years.

When she arrived at the same stretch to address the opposite side I sensed that the resolve which had guided my educational path toward a goal to become a medical massage therapist had slipped away. When I felt the profound effect that even a beginner could have utilizing the Thai method for back issues and the personal affinity that I have for employing the stretching techniques that the Northern Style Thai sequence is loaded with, I knew that this was what I wanted to specialize in.

If this were not enough to get my attention, the therapeutic effects of these stretching techniques, combined with specific pushing had a notably longer lasting result in comparison with all of the other work that had been covered in other classes. I do not intend to say that it takes no experience to be a good Thai Masseur. This individual was always an exceptional practice partner and what I sensed was like a deep vast well of potential and value for my future clients.

You chose to study at the Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai. Why did you chose this place to learn? What did you like about it? Is there something in particular that you think could be improved?

The book that our intro teacher chose as the text for our class was:

Thai Massage: A Traditional Medical Technique

Richard Gold PhD LAc

ISBN-10: 0323041388

ISBN-13: 978-0323041386

Out of all the fine books on Thai Massage, I am glad that he chose this book because inside it there was a distinction between Northern style Thai and the Wat Po or Bangkok Thai style. The Northern style being characterized by the passive stretching that I loved from my class and the Wat Po style known more for the pressing of the energy lines (Sen). I wanted to  stay along the path that I had started through Dr. Gold and he had credited The Old Medicine Hospital as the source for this understanding.

As a matter of fact, as I receive the request for this interview I am back in Chiang Mai Thailand a second time attending a newer school which is a descendant of the Old Medicine Hospital called ITM.

It’s founder, CHONGKOL SETTHAKORN is one of the leading pioneers in creating and teaching a modern curriculum of Northern style ancient Thai Massage. He incorporates movements and body postures from Tai Ji Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan creating a truly wonderful healing art.

For twenty years, Chongkol has taught people from all over the world the ancient art of Thai massage. In 1992, he founded the International Training Massage School (ITM) in Thailand to promote the Thai massage technique internationally.

Chongkol was the lead teacher at the Old Medicine Hospital School in Chiang Mai for six years (1985-1991) and was Richard Gold’s teacher when he attended the school. In this capacity Mr. Setthakorn helped to design the Thai Massage instruction and routines that are the standard in Chiang Mai for Northern Style Thai Massage.

The reason that I chose to change over to ITM this time around is because there is a 2 week Level V course offered here. This was quite appealing to me since it has been a goal of mine for quite some time to serve in a teaching capacity. My recommendation is that if you have any thought at all about obtaining a teaching certification in Thai Massage, begin your course of study at ITM because even though Chongkol originally set up the curriculum at Old Medicine Hospital there are now numerous subtle differences between the two that make it unnecessarily tedious to properly prepare for the weekly exams should you decide to change to ITM for level III after taking level I and II at Old Medicine Hospital

How many years have you been practicing Thai massage now? What were particularly memorable experiences you had?

I have been practicing Thai Massage for 3 years. These trips to Thailand have made quite an impression on me. The loving kindness, compassion, vicarious joy and equanimity that the Thai people exude throughout their day to day lives is good example for how I can effect the goals of my practice as a Thai Masseur. I believe that it is of equal importance to deepen these aspects of my being as well as adding to the repertoire of moves and stretches that Thai Massage is most popular for.

What’s the most common thing you hear people saying about how they feel after your treatments?

WOW!

When you give a Thai massage treatment – how much of your work is based on anatomical and physiological knowledge, and how much on intuitive awareness?

As my practice matures I find it expanding into the latter but the former will always be indispensable.

I understand you offer both a traditional, authentic Thai massage treatment like it is given in Thailand, or a kind of fusion that integrates techniques from Swedish massage and Shiatsu into the treatment. How would you describe the difference between these two choices, as it relates to the effect the treatment has on your client?

Well, the choice is offered on the website, but in reality, all of my clients get the fusion.

Interestingly, on this trip, I have been enjoying the Wat Po style treatments after class at a location just down the alley from my guesthouse where all of the practitioners are blind. I really enjoy observing their interactions with each other when they are not doing the bodywork. There is an extra level of collective consciousness in addition to that which I have observed as a matter of course everywhere around here. These blind folks keep the hands busy by making toy figures, jewelry and other things out of fishing line and colorful beads while their other community members take the next customer as they come in the door. Anyway, what I am realizing is that what my practice has become is more accurately described as a fusion of the Northern style and Wat Po style Thai. When the blind people work on you it hurts, but your body knows it going to be better off when they are done and there is no malevolence in them at all.

You practice Thai massage in New York City – from your experience, is therapeutic Thai massage widely known there, or do you still meet a lot of people who don’t really know what it is?

Short Answer: I do meet allot of people who do not know what it is and have been filling an emissary role.

Long answer: About half of my week is spent on customers who get weekly treatments. Some of them got a tip from a friend who told them Thai Massage would address their concerns. The rest is a steady stream of tourists, curiosity seekers and those referred by my regulars. From these people I have learned that Thai Massage is much more well known in Los Angeles as compared to NYC. The number of people who discovered Thai Massage on vacation in Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia also stands out. I think the typical spa goer has a basic knowledge of Thai Massage since it’s more and more commonly seen on menus. Many have also been exposed through retreats in the South West and the like. Whenever I experience a Thai Technique that is new to me I can’t imagine why it has taken as long as it has for the awareness to spread since, in my humble opinion, this is far and away the superior form of bodywork.

– End of Interview –

For more about Reinhold visit www.ThaiMassage-NYC.com

Thai Massage Interview with Nemir Adjina

nemir adjina
Memir Adjina

Here is an interesting interview with Nemir Adjina. One thing I find particularly interesting is that he puts a lot of emphasis on the emotional and spiritual aspects of Thai massage, and the impact modern life has on us.

I asked him a couple of questions about his experience with and feelings about Thai massage, and here are his answers.

He teaches classes, workshops and retreats all over the world.

To find out what Nemir is up to and how to get in touch with him, visit his website at www.sawadeeinternational.org.

When did you receive your first Thai massage?

In London in the year 2000.

When and why did you decide to study Thai massage?

I was looking for a type of massage which involved the whole body, I was living in Dubai practicing architecture and studying Yoga and  Jiu Jitsu at the time, my Yoga teacher said he practiced Thai Massage but I had not heard of it, and did not know what he was talking about. Returning to London I was looking for a change of lifestyle and thought that there must exist a type of bodywork which is similar to Jiu Jitsu but with the purpose of curing, not harming. Out of the blue came an offer to try Thai massage, I remembered what my Yoga teacher had said, and gave it a try, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

How many years have you been practicing traditional Thai massage now? What were particularly memorable experiences you had?

10 years. I have been privileged to teach in many countries (Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina ) the courses always provide memorable experiences.

As a practitioner, I have  worked in Mexico, Spain, New York, London, the carribean, Germany, Italy.

I am touched by the emotional impact of the work. Once I treated a lady with MS and she burst into tears upon seeing her body move with increased mobility. Another time in New York, my client cried to herself, it was the first time she had allowed a man to touch her for years. In Sardinia a client spent 3 days in a kind of state of grace.

In such cases , we go deeply into the life of an individual, which is always humbling and moving.

In my first visit to Thailand, I went looking for a teacher who would give me a “spiritual” massage, when I recieved the treatment from Blind Master Sinchai Sukparset, I had a dream where he brought me water to drink, I woke up crying.

Sometimes the experience is not agreeable, after one treatment a client collapsed into a conversion crisis (like epilepsy) which lasted for 4 hours, I called the ambulance, she recovered to sign the release form, then lapsed again into this strange state, it was not easy to be with her, she had not told me that she suffers from this condition.

I have also met some extraordinary people, for example a Persian mystic who teaches a massage to establish the energy of heaven in the body, in preparation for the coming change in the earth’s energetic field. According to him, in the not too distant future, the energy of heaven will descend on the earth, and our bodies (which already contain both energies) can be prepared for this.

You say that traditional Thai massage is more than just therapy – and that one of the aims is spiritual re-integration. Can you explain in detail what you mean spiritual integration?

By spritual re-integration I mean a more harmonious and natural relationship between mind, heart and body. Thai massage is often refered to as massage with two hands and a heart, so it must be done with compassion, both for oneself and for the other.

The practice of meditation is very useful in this regard. For me it means amplifying the role of our heart in our lives , research has proven that the heart is an intelligent, aware entity which has a strong electromagnetic field (in other words, it emits light). The heart has a powerful influence on our mental and emotional states, we have to re-integrate our selves, become whole.

Most ancient spiritual traditions concentrate on the heart – why is this?

The ancients sages and seers knew what modern science is only now showing us to be true. Yoga means to bring together, to connect, the Sufis aim to produce the Insan Il kamil , the completed person, this is the goal of spiritual practice, and also of Thai massage.  Of course, first we have to remove the pain!

What’s the most common thing you hear people saying about how they feel after your treatments?

It depends on the circumstances, the time and intention behind the treatment, each one is different.

What are the physical requirements a person should possess if he or she wants to study with you?

Thai massage requires a certain flexibility in the feet and knees, it can be developed with time, but it is easier if you have already got this, either genetically or through some practice like yoga.

What qualities should a good Thai Yoga practitioner develop in your opinion?

Compassion and humility and the ability to listen

When you give a Thai Yoga treatment – how much of your work is based on anatomical and physiological knowledge, and how much on intuitive awareness?

A good question. It depends, one needs a good understanding of anatomy, of how the body is put together, you also need to be able to feel, to observe, then trust your intuition. The balance is never the same, a good Thai practitioner once said to me “sometimes we do with the mind, sometimes with the heart, it depends”

You say that you want to continue your studies of Nuad Bo ruan, and you personally feel you have only scratched the surface so far. That is not something common to say for a practitioner who has your range of experience and exertise, including an internship at MaeOnHospital in Thailand. To my understanding, you think that Thai massage still holds an even greater potential – what is it that you hope to be able to achieve with Thai massage as you further your studies?

It is like Yoga, if you practice only the physical aspect, you will be limited , even if you practice for 30 years, you will only scratch the surface, maybe even worse.

The aim of yoga is mental stillness, when the mind is still, we can see very deep, and we realise we are only at the surface, unless we have mental quiet, we cannot see the depths, and we think that what we have is all there is.

Thai massage is like that, in that sense it can be called Thai Yoga Massage, not because we bend our bodies, but because it leads to inner peace. Then we start to get a feeling of there being so much more. The real depth of this tradition is only now becoming known.

Working in the hospital was a valuable experience, treating Thai people for their ailments, physical and emotional, which are no different to westerners.

Modern culture assumes that its way of knowing is correct, but we have lost a lot of useful qualities along the way. Take feeling for example, can you detect a human hair beneath 7 sheets of paper with your fingertips? I cannot, but that is training for pulse diagnosis in ancient Greek medicine. As a Thai massage practitioner I aim to have that kind of sensitivity in my fingertips, how else can I feel what is going on in the body? How quiet can one become? This quietness is largely lost in the modern world, but was a part of traditional culture, sensitivity to nature, the ability to see, to hear, to really feel.

Luckily there is  an American man, Tevijjo Yogi, who has studied Thai medicine at great depth and is initiated into the ancient shamanic/ Buddhist tradition from which it comes, as he is one of very few who  is able to connect the ancient Thai tradition with the modern world.

I suppose what I hope to be able to achieve is to remove the obstructions, even around the heart, and to help remove the veils which obstruct each persons ability to see the light of their hearts, including my own!  Each thai massage starts with the Wai Khru, which apart from other things is a prayer for the well being of all humanity, that is the essence of Thai Massage.

Finally, if there is one message that you could share with everybody in the world, one realization or understanding that you could just “give” people, as if you had a magic wand – what would that message or realization be?

There is an english saying “Laughter is the best medicine!”

– End of Interview –

For more about Nemir, visit www.sawadeeinternational.org

Thai Massage Interview with Gabriel Azoulay

Gabriel Azoulay

Once you read these words of Gabriel Azoulay, you’ll surely find that he is someone who truly carries the spirit of a healer in his heart. He’s working on an interesting project at www.IntegrativeThai.com, where he shares a lot of his knowledge, expertise, thoughts and insights about the practice of Thai massage as a form of therapy.

I asked him a couple of questions about his experience with and feelings about Thai massage, and here are his answers.

He teaches classes, workshops and retreats all over the world.

To find out what Gabriel is up to and how to get in touch with him, visit his website at www.GabrielAzoulay.com

When did you receive your first Thai massage?

Funny thing is that when I was working for the Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, AZ, I was leading the week yoga retreat and staying on property. Included with my week as the leading instructor I got a free massage. When I called the Spa all they had was “Thai Massage” and when I asked further they told me it was like ‘yoga for the lazy person.’ I still recall telling the receptionist, ‘well, I do enough yoga, you don’t  have anything else?’ and they did not. So I ended up without getting a Thai Massage then.

A few days after the retreat the yoga director asked me about my time and my massage and when I told her the story she could not believe I would pass up such a wonderful session, which peeked my curiosity and I started researching Thai Massage and discovering a lifestyle and philosophy that was rooted in all I had been studying.

I had the honor of getting a Thai Massage session a few weeks later by a friend who also inspired me to change my itinerary on an upcoming trip to India and go to Thailand first and meet Pichest Boonthume.

How is Thai Yoga different from traditional Thai massage?

I use the words Thai Yoga to describe what the average person considers Traditional Thai Massage. Thai Yoga is the experience behind Thai Massage, that you can get in any Thai Massage shop on any street in Chaing Mai.

The real question for me and my client is what is our intention? What is One’s intention when they use these words?

Traditional Thai Massage for me, is the sequence taught in the Old Medicine School. It is a very specific and unique sequence of movements and presses that the client should be taken through.

By its very nature, that of being a sequence, it is very similar to Ashtanga Yoga, where the same sequence is done every day as a means of meditation and healing.

After months with Pichest, I learned that not only does Pichest understand the sequence he grew up with, he knows every part of it by heart. More so, the way he moves around the client is very efficient and very specific. He might perform the same sequence on different people, but what and where he presses on the client, is just as important as where his body is in every step of the way.

When you combine the sequence, AND the direct intention of the practitioner to know and to feel where their body is, and how to transition from one position to the next, that is THAI YOGA. A yoga practice that involves opening the bodies of both practitioners.

This is why Pichest constantly says: ‘good for me, good for you, good for everybody,’ and ‘Thai Massage – good for me (the giver), heals my (the practitioner) body, but can also destroy (if we do it with out being aware of where we are, only doing for the sake of the client, we will hurt ourselves).’

I call it Thai Yoga, because if we follow the sequence, then we are doing the same thing on every one. Which is very relaxing, very opening, and very connecting, both to the mind-body of the client, but also between the client and the practitioner. Everyone connects, gets to move their body, and like any yoga practice it is very nurturing.

I like to say:  ‘It’s like dusting and doing laundry.’ We all need to clean out ‘our home,’ our bodies.

That’s what the sequence of Nuad Bo’ran does, in my opinion.

Have you ever noticed how amazing it is to walk into your home when it is spotlessly clean?

It is so refreshing, reviving, healing even.

The same is true in the body, if the body feels “clean,” “refreshed,” “polished” we feel that much closer to being “healthy,” “happy,” spacious.” The qualities we are looking to establish in our clients.

You can also work like Master Pichest, where after years of practice, and paying attention to the effect of the postures, we “feel” what our clients needs are, and we will not work according to the sequence. We will drop the order and follow a sequence that we feel will serve our clients the most. We might not even do the same thing on both sides. That is true Therapy, but that is something that you develop into, not something we learn. That’s why I keep going to Pichest. It’s like learning to paint while living with a master. He can not teach you painting any more, but he can guide and inspire the painting in new directions as he watches you perform your “art.”

I write on that in my new WebBook – www.integrativethai.com, the difference between what I call Thai Yoga, or Traditional Thai Massage, and what I simply call Integrative Thai – where Integrative Thai is applying what we learn from Thai Massage, from any other massage modality we know, like sports, or myofacia, or A.R.T, or neuromuscular, or any other you know, we apply all our tools, in a Thai fashion (on a futon, with clothes on), to help our clients reach balance.

To make the point come home, remember how we said, TTM, or TY, is just like cleaning and dusting. I am sure you clean and dust your house the same way every week, you have a habit on how you do it, that you like. Well, TTM, the sequence taught by Dr. Shivaga, in my opinion is an incredible, efficient way to clean out the house.

However, when you spill red wine on the carpet, do you go and clean it the same way you clean the house? With your vacuum and such?

Probably not. At best you would go mix new cleaning ingredients and spend an hour just with the spot trying to get it out, at worst you would go rent a heavy duty cleaner. In either situation you would only work on the stain and you would use a new set of tools.

Therapy, in the way that I talk about it with my clients, is like cleaning out the stain, while Traditional Thai Massage, or Thai Yoga is like cleaning the whole house.

Different intentions – are we trying to relax and sooth the entire system? Or are we trying to work out and get rid of a specific stain?

When and why did you decide to study Thai massage?

I presume I decided to study Thai that day that I learned that I had misjudged what Thai Massage was, boxing it into ‘yoga,’ where in fact it had a whole lot more.

What made the deepest impact though was my first week with Pichest.

I was only going to him to study Thai Massage before I went to Mysore, India, and here I met a man who truly considered Thai massage a very deep and spiritual practice, a Yoga practice (yoga is not the poses we see people doing at the gym, that is Asana practice, nice and amazing, but Yoga, in the words of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is ‘discovering God’).

The fact that he used the words Yoga often in relation to Thai Massage, constantly asking us to break away from a sequence (though the worst part for me then, is that I did not even know a sequence very well), and to drop our own desires, let go.

Something which we are constantly trying to do in Yoga. To just let go and accept things as they are.

It was that week that changed my life forever, making me aware that Thai was the real Yoga practice, for me. Where in Yoga only one person benefits through meditating, or Asana practice, where as in Thai Yoga, two people were benefitting, both people we meditating and expanding the energies of their bodies.

Ashtanga will always be my Asana Yoga practice, my personal connection to the existence we call God, but Thai Massage, that has become my ability to serve others, in a way that is deeper than just my Yoga teachings.

I like to believe that Dr. Shivaga created Nuad Bor’an as a practice for the monks to gain the benefits of Yoga, while serving the community. Serving others is the Buddha’s main teaching, it is through serving others that we reduce the suffering that we are already making, that is constant. By serving others we let go of our suffering and help others release from theirs.


You studied with Pichest Boonthume and Enzo Coribello. Why did you chose to study with them? Can you talk about their teaching styles and your experiences as a student?

I chose to study with Pichest because my friend in Tucson told me that is who she studied with and that he was an amazing person. She had spent two weeks with him. I had no idea what to expect, coming from the Yoga world, I thought he would teach me what to do step by step, and thus I went to Thailand with very minimal training, just one weekend worth of Thai Massage in the local Massage school.

I was not very good.

But Pichest inspired me, from the first meeting we had at his house on the Sunday I landed, and seeing how his garage is like a temple, to the last time I saw him right after my son was born 18 months ago.
At the end of the first week though, I went and studied at Loi Kroh, and that taught me the entire sequence.

So when I landed in Mysore, I had learned the entire sequence of Traditional Thai Massage, though having hardly any practice in it.

But India is cheap, and I was offering my massages for $5. I was able to practice 2 and 3 hour sessions, watching my memory of the exact sequence, because even in my one week with Pichest I saw him once go through his sequence, and he knew the sequence like the back of his hand.

Like a pianist playing the scales.

Pichest knew each and every step, not like what we see today, where practitioners are not quite sure about the steps or the order.

Pichest knew, and would modifiy when he “worked” based on what he “felt” the client needed, but he sure knew the entire sequence.

A week before I left the USA I was practicing at my primary teacher’s Ashtanga Studio, and one of the students and I chatted at the end of Mysore that morning about my upcoming trip to Mysore, India, and Thai Massage came up, when she mentioned that there was a guy in India that does Thai and that she thought he was amazing.

I did not remember his name when I arrived, but one morning sitting at a local breakfast hangout, about two weeks after I arrived to Mysore, my breakfast buddy pointed Enzo out at a near by table, as the only one who does Thai Massage in Mysore.

I had booked a Thai Massage session with Enzo, we chatted about Thailand and my experience with Pichest, whom he had heard about but never met.

At that first massage Enzo explained how he was very traditional and will be going through a modified portion of the TTM sequence as taught in Old Medicine School. It was a 90 minute, silent, very sequence based experience, which left me glowing.

I knew Enzo had mastered transitions and manipulations and when I heard he was teaching a small group, I signed up.

Where Pichest demonstartes exact knowledge of where to be, how to step in order to transition from one move to the other, Enzo describes it, in great detail.

It was Enzo that inspired me to teach Thai Massage like I teach Yoga, “your foot here, your knee there, your hand here, now lean 1-2-3-2-1.”

I constantly give thanks to Pichest, Enzo, and my best friend David Johnson, who has taught me how to talk with simplicity and the difference between Massage and Therapy.

How many years have you been practicing Thai yoga massage now? What were particularly memorable experiences you had?

I have been practicing Thai Yoga now 7 years. The most memorable experiences I have had… there are many. But I will choose two:

The first Monday with Pichest, at the end of the  morning prayer, Pichest turned to face us and asked: ‘what do Yogi do?’ in his beautifully Thai accented English. Such a question I now know is repeated often, yet that was the first time I had ever heard it, yet I have yet to be in the room where Pichest did not have to repeat it twice, as if we English speakers did not understand ‘what do yogi do?’

It’s just such a bizarre question, as most of us think we know the answer, ‘yogi does yoga.’

But no one ever really offers an answer, and no one ever says the right answer (and those of us who know the answer simply enjoy watching Pichest say it).

Pichest will then sit tall, and tracing a fingers in a large circle around his body he will say: “Yogi sits, Yogi feels.” Meaning, a yogi sits and feels his body from the inside out.

Thai Massage is something we should learn to feel from the inside.

Which makes this second experience so dramatic for me. This was many months after I first met Pichest. Perhaps my 5th visit, where my last few were long extended ones, where I learned a little about Pichest’s life with Thai, how a specific lady helped him reframe how he worked with Thai, and more importantly how he prayed and taught Thai. On this late morning, Pichest was working on someone’s shoulder, in an advanced position, where he looks at me and pointed out where and why he was pressing. Helping the side of the neck of the client, though the way he was sitting, and the way his forearm fit into his stomach as he was shifting his body weight onto the student, was massaging his own internal organs.

It was clear to me that moment that every movement he was doing took into consideration how to help the other, but also how to help himself.

It was clear to me one of the messages that he teaches, Thai Massage is the way the practitioner helps their body, or not.

You either act like a Yogi and know step by step where you are and what is happening, or you are not.

And if you are not, you are risking a chance to hurt yourself.

‘And then who help you?’ Pichest likes to ask. ‘You do, do, you dodo, help others, but no help yourself. You no feel, only do, but no feel.’

What’s the most common thing you hear people saying about how they feel after your treatments?

Amazing. This was the best massage I every had. I feel so energized. How come I never heard of this before.

These and similar type sentiments or words are things I head over and over again.

Especially when all we do is Traditional Thai Massage (a sequence based, full body session).

What are the physical requirements a person should possess if he or she wants to study with you?

You should be comfortable moving on your knees, that’s all that is required to study with me.

Whether you will practice it or not…that is the real question.

Thai Massage is an active practice. That’s why I use the word Yoga again. It is a Yoga practice for the one giving it.

If you are not comfortable doing Sun Salutation (not ashtanga where you jump back and forward, but rather the sivananda one, where you step one leg back), chances are you will never give a Thai Massage session.

However, you might never have done Sun Salutation, and never worked out in your life before, but are looking for something that you can feel moves your body, Thai Yoga is the best thing for you.

You learn very specific positions of where your body goes, and now you get to go practice them. If you practice what I teach you, the way I teach you once a day, you will be surprised at the levels of fitness, flexibility and happiness you experience within a week.

The only issue with that is that you need to have someone to work on every day… Something that can prove more challenging, to find someone we can just “use” to help us clean our home, while “cleaning” out their house.


What qualities should a good Thai Yoga practitioner develop in your opinion?

A good Thai Practitioner needs to develop the skills of connecting with their breath, being able to follow their breath for the duration of practice (if you can stay with your own breath, you will be amazed at how connected your session will become).

Lightness, or open heart, which simply means you are forgiving, to yourself, when you make a mistake, and to the client, when you realize they are not as flexible as you had hoped, or if they are super flexible.

These two skills can also be thought of as mindfulness, where mindfulness simply teaches us to be “aware” – aware of your body or your breath, where are they at any one time, and just as important “acceptance” – accept what ever is happening as you continue doing what you are suppose to be doing. Be aware that you forgot where you are going, or that you are breathing too fast, and then accept the situation without trying to control it, rather keep flowing with what you are doing, or simply notice the next breath and allow it to be more relaxed than the previous one.

Mindfulness will automatically fill you with metta – which is loving-kindness. If you are aware and are accepting of yourself moment by moment, you naturally become aware and accepting of any one else, which is the actual experience of Metta.

When you give a Thai Yoga treatment – how much of your work is based on anatomical and physiological knowledge, and how much on intuitive awareness?

I firmly believe that you should have a solid understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the body if you ever call your work Therapy. If you are simply doing Thai Yoga, you should have a base, but the same base you have as a yoga teacher, or personal trainer is sufficient (believe me, most massage therapists have a very rudimentary knowledge of anatomy and physiology).

As for my work – When the client and I decide that the session will be connecting and relaxing, I.E. Thai Yoga – a sequence based routine, I am not very concerned with anatomy and physiology, those are there, but our intention is to relax, press and work the entire body in a dance like fashion, and I will either trust the traditional sequence, or I will trust my intuition to guide me into a different expression of the traditional song (remember the traditional Thai Yoga sequence if done without every repeating a movement and never skipping any part of the dance lasts 3 hrs).

I have seen great practitioners and my own teachers, and while Pichest uses words such as ‘feel’ and ‘see inside,’ his fingers truly know exactly where he wants to press.

Pichest does not spend the time studying the body from Western anatomy and physiology terms, though he applies those terms when he can.

Those of us in the West, we grew up with these terms, there is no reason why we should not use them, especially when our intution is not nearly as refined as Master Pichest, or other Masters in Thailand.

My best friend and teacher, David Johnson, has taught me that by knowing the physiology of the body, with guided experience and time, we can all FEEL exactly where muscles spindles are bunched together, where there is a lack of blood circulation along the myalin sheet, whether a joint is stuck, or a muscle is actually in a concentrically long (i.e. Restricted in an extended position) or concentrically short (restricted in a short position) and how to treat that body part.

But that is more Therapy, understanding how to take the stain out of the carpet, not so much the deep, full house cleaning which is Traditional Thai Massage (or Thai Yoga).

You taught in Thailand for 18 months – what are your favorite places in the Land of Smiles?

I lived in Thailand for a little over 18 months over a course of 4 years. I taught Yoga at Absolute Yoga and helped develop and lead their first Hot Yoga Teacher Training program. I never try and teach Thai Massage in Thailand, as after all, it’s Thailand, and you can study it for cheaper any where else.

I do hope that I can one day teach in Thailand where costs can be less than in the US, simply to share a different experience in how the traditional dance can be taught.

Enzo and Pichest showed me that there is a better way to teach beginners, so that they are set off in the best way possible, and not because it is a better massage for the client, but because it will be a better experience for the giver, their bodies will not break down quickly, and in fact, if you understand why Pichest insists on position the way he teaches them, your body will actually heal, get stronger and be better, without needing to pay someone else to work on you.

I have lived in Chaing Mai, Bangkok and Samui, and traveled in Krabi.

I must admit that I love the water and the sun in the Islands, but Thailand will always be the home of my teacher, Pichest, and when ever I am in Thailand, if I am not in Chaing Mai, I feel as if I am away from ‘home.’

Chaing Mai is my favorite city in Thailand, and now not only because it is so close to Hang Dong where my teacher lives, but also because the culture in the North seems more rooted in it’s Buddhist tradition. Obviously it is every where, but where else can you see a three hour parade of all the temples, with the school students dressed up and performoing traditional dances and offerings as they walk through the town from the East gate to the West gate, while the entire town is still going crazy with the water festival that marks the new year (the festival of Pi Mai, the new year), or the gathering of people along the river to send up into the sky, in a unison fashion the Krathongs, on Loi Krathog, the river festival?

– End of Interview –

And finally, watch Gabriel demonstrating some steps so you get a visual impression of how he teaches:

For more about Gabriel, visit www.GabrielAzoulay.com

You can also download a PDF version of the interview here.