I feel stronger and healthier than 30 years ago
‘My friends did not recognize me. I really had to say, yes it is me, I don’t have a younger looking twin,’ laughs the 56-year-old Shaun Spencer. ‘I was like slouching, forward shoulders. I was always tired, constantly tired from my job. Now, I feel stronger, healthier than I felt 30 years ago.’
Shaun talks very relaxedly in a Zen-like way. His eyes twinkle, he smiles a lot. You can clearly see he is enjoying life. He looks fit, just had been working out in the gym, he says.
I am surprised to see how much he has changed. I remember meeting Shaun, who is originally from South Africa, living for several years in Amsterdam now, in one of our massage lessons a year ago. Back then, he looked very tired. Much older actually. I ask him to reveal his secret and Shaun enthusiastically tells me the whole story:
Lower back pain
‘I have spent the last 8 years behind the desk and computer. In that time I developed lower back pain. So I went to a couple of massage places and they gave me temporary relief. But it was temporally. Then I found a lady and she was very good, she helped me a lot. Actually, for the whole week, I had no back pain.
Work for me
And the second time I was with her, she said: ‘You don’t look so very happy’, so I said: ‘Well, I am not.’ She said: ‘What is it?’ I said: ‘Well, my job. I don’t like my job. But yeah I need money.’ And she said: ‘Why don’t you come work for me?’
Carpal tunnel syndrome
So I said: ‘Well I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I have been operated on, but my hands are still, you know, I use them in a different way than normal.’ She replied: ‘I too have carpal tunnel syndrome. Yet I have not been operated on and I massage six to eight people a day.’
So I thought ‘Ah’. And the second time she asked me to come work for her, I said: ‘Okay, let me try.’ So I did one course with her, I liked it. I did the second course with her, I liked it again, it was basic holistic massage, intuitive massage. I learned a lot. But for me, it was not enough.
So then I googled and found ITM Thai Hand Amsterdam, I emailed and asked if I could be a model ‘victim’ in one of the lessons to see if this was something for me. I really enjoyed it.
At the same time, I had learned that my position in my company was to be terminated within the next three years, so I decided I have to do something and I think I found something I like more.
Meanwhile, I had developed tennis elbow. I don’t really know the reason why I had tennis elbow, it just was. So I had done acupuncture and also physiotherapy for 9 months – twice a month-, and it still did not help. But then when I’d come here to the massage school the second time Manel had done a form of acupressure to my elbow and my forearm. The next day I woke up and I did not have the same pain. I thought ‘Damn, this works.’
So I enrolled in the month acupressure massage therapy program. I did foot reflexology, which at that time was my favourite and still is. Thai table massage, deep tissue and sports massage and Thai chair massage. And after that being in the school and the motivation I got being here, also from you and Manel, enticed me to even wanted to learn more. So I signed myself up for another two courses. Completed one of them, still busy with Wat Po. I really like Wat Po. I found a new direction.
I have not been at the sitting job since November last year. I was just telling somebody today at the gym that I feel stronger, healthier than I did 30 years ago.
No healthy life
Thirty years ago, I was 26. When you are in your mid-twenties you think that life is forever, and I wasn’t particularly leading a very healthy life or anything. I just was living. Enjoying the day and the time and doing what jobs I could. Just to earn money. And if I look at myself today…
I wasn’t very strong
I have never joined a gym. At the beginning of this year, I joined a gym. I needed to build up some strength, after sitting in a chair for 8 years, I wasn’t very strong. If I needed to use my hands, then, of course, I have to do something to build up some form of muscle and stamina to be able to give a lot of massages. Within three months of going to the gym, I have built up more muscle, power, strength and stamina than I had actually in my whole life.
I look younger
Some people don’t recognize me, I look younger now, I heard that from lots of different people, my wife included. She does recognize me of course, but she didn’t recognize my body, as in the old body, she likes the new body hehehe.
My wife is very happy, that I found something that I really like. And she profits as well. Because she had a hip replacement and she broke her ankle, all on the same side, and I have been giving her massages, Thai therapy, and she says, she has been to physios, she has been to doctors, she has tried everything and the only thing that helps her, that after she had a session with me for an hour. The next day she wakes up and says ‘wow I did not wake up last night from my hip’. So this only confirms it for me. Because I know it works, it worked on me. I was my own guinea pig first and I see it on her so she is very happy.
I am a lot more stable mentally now, more at ease, more at peace with myself and I get a lot of energy from giving massages. Also receiving them. I go now once a week at least for a massage. And it helps me in many ways. I walk straight. I feel healthy and I am a lot more positive. I haven’t been this positive in 8 years. So for me, it is a real big change. I am a musician by trade and in the last 4 years I never even picked up my guitar that is the effect that that job had on me. And now I am playing again and I feel very happy.
On the other hand, before I worked in the other company for 8 years, I had a recording studio, and I have been there actually for 18 years. I had a private recording studio for musicians, and unfortunately, I cannot use that space to give massages because my best friend with whom I share the space; he is a wood and metal designer with big saws and dust and all. I could have musicians come in with that, but I can’t have massage clients. So in May this year will be my last month that I am with him and then I am moving to another studio.
I am going to share the space with a lady, she is 65, and she has been giving massage for the last 40 years. So she has a lot of experience. They put the rent up for her so she was looking for somebody. She treated me with my back pain. One of the good places I went in the beginning. So for me, it feels like I actually have done a full circle. I started down from a painful point of view, all the way down to a healthy point of view.
The fact that I know that massage actually works made me want to become healthier. That was for me the trigger point. Because I know this is something, if it works for me, and I wasn’t so healthy then, can you imagine what I can do to people who in general are not so healthy?
And I was also not so positive before. Massage is not just a physical thing, I think it is a mental thing as well. In the last three years that I have been busy with massage, I am receiving it a lot because I took advice from my previous teacher and Manel as well: ‘get as many massages as you can’ so I did. And I found some bad ones I never went back, but I found a couple of good ones and I kept them. So every now and then I go to see them and I get a good massage out of it. But I learned also to focus on my breathing. When I get a massage, I have mastered the art of shallow breathing. I wait for them to push before I breathe out and for the rest, I can actually control my breath a lot more, and that in turn makes my body relax.
Make us all healthy
Look I am 56 now, so I have to work for another 12 years and this will enable me to still support myself and my family and at the same time make us all healthy.’
Thanks, Shaun for sharing your story!
To everyone… Create a healthy and happy day!
Nicole (& of course Manel)