I come from a family and a culture where being a massage therapist or a manual therapist of any type was not only not an option, but it was never presented as a possibility of something reputable and with decent earnings. The profession may as well not have existed for my father; therefore, at the time, it didn’t exist for me either.
Having always been a very physical person in an academic environment, I had struggled finding the right study for me. I studied languages, philosophy, some psychology, communication, etc… interesting subjects (even useful, look at me writing in English! I’m Italian, for who doesn’t know, although I’m sure you can notice in my writing), but ultimately, they left me not knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Before I took off for my intercontinental travels, at the age of 26, I had been a lighting technician for 9 years and I had been learning and working in a TV house production, as an assistant director and a video editor for may be 3 years. Not quite the right background, but nevertheless something that has come to good use many times.
I’ve often been asked in interviews how I found Thai Massage, how the whole thing started and I’ve always enjoyed telling the story, because it all happened so unexpectedly.
It was 1999, I had just gotten back to Byron Bay, Australia, where I chose to migrate, after over 2 years of travelling, when a backpacker asked me if I could be his guinea pig for a massage he learnt in his travels. He didn’t tell me what it was called and I had no idea, but, by the end of it, I knew for sure I had never encountered such a massage before in my life.
It was love at first sight! Not with the guy who only practiced the legs stretches on me ( in case you don’t know what that is, here’s a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixuJe2XW1P0 ), but with this style of massage, that allowed so many more movements, so many different techniques and stretches, as it was performed on the floor and fully dressed. Wooooooowwww!
Since I was a young teenager, I
always enjoyed massaging friends, intuitively and there I was receiving
something completely different, I had never even heard of.
It left me like under a spell. I knew immediately I wanted to learn it, it was like if I had just found myself and there was no doubt in my mind, I needed to learn this thing.
It took me a little while to find out what it was called and where that guy had studied. But once I did, that same year, I booked my flights to Thailand, booked the course in Chiang Mai and stayed there to study for 3 weeks. I was on a mission!
The ITM basic course, teaching the Northern style sequence
was only 10 days long, but luckily I stayed for an extra week of study, which was
for me absolutely necessary to be able to retain the whole thing, with the
little practice time they offered.
I have a lot to say about the courses that ITM runs, but this is not the space for it.
So, there I was, coming back to Byron Bay with my newly acquired skill and with no intention to do anything with it, at a professional level. I had chosen to study it for myself, for my own experience, because I had fallen in love with it and, at the time, I wasn’t even dreaming of starting a new massage business in massage capital town of Australia! But… it happened. I went to a Vipassana meditation retreat as soon as I got back and on the last day there, I met someone who worked in a Byron Bay shop with massage rooms. She introduced me to the owner, who took me on and so I started my career as a Thai Massage therapist in Byron. As they say… when things are meant to be!
In 2004 I went back to Chiang Mai, took all the other levels with ITM, while I was researching every school and every Master in Chiang Mai, until I found the one who taught what I was interested in: specific meridian work and nerve and energy realignment.
I am so lucky and so grateful I have had the chance to study with Master Itthidet Manarat (Master Poo). The depth of his knowledge and thoroughness of his teaching made everything I had learnt at ITM look like mere tourist entertainment.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t teach anymore; and although, since I started teaching intensive courses, I have slowly but surely implemented more and more of his style, his details, his incredible knowledge into the sequence I teach, I can only fully honour his teachings, his style and all the extra things he taught us, in my Advanced tuitions.
Coming back to my story, what I’d like to underline is how life changing a backpacker’s Thai Massage practice, on his last day in Australia, has been in my life! That was the start of my continuous life PRACTICE, what I eventually called ‘the path of health and awareness’.
Thai Yoga Massage, through my now 19 years of practice and 15 years of teaching has been my biggest teacher. Like any movement form, it requires lots and give back lots and it offers a constant energetic exchange that doesn’t ever go only one way.
All my learning and experience in movement forms, in Yoga, in dancing, in giving, in receiving and in teaching I have been putting into the Thai Massage courses I teach, which started somehow similar to the ITM course 15 years ago and have, course after course evolved into the most thorough and most detailed, most safe and aware Thai massage course you can possibly find. Or so I hope 😉
For any question, clarification or booking don't hesitate to contact me. Byron Thai Massage School - Valentina Gombi
Phone: +61 419 667319
Office: 76 Sunrise Boulevard, Byron Bay, 2481, NSW, Australia