This week, we’re celebrating Zaw Lazum, IKRA Academy’s graduate of the moment. Originally from Burma, Zaw’s passion and work ethic make his success story an inspiration to anyone who dreams of earning their living doing what they love.
He’s got a great, full-time job, working at Scandinave Spa in the old port. He’s worked with celebrities who have given him nothing but positive feedback. And he’s got private clients he works with from the calm oasis of his home. He’s doing what he loves, and he’s earning a living doing it. To me, this is the definition of success—but it hasn’t always been an easy road.
Putting in the effort
When Zaw first arrived in Canada five and a half years ago, he already knew Burmese massage, but no official certification. And so, he couldn’t earn a living as a massage therapist.
For his first couple of years in Canada, Zaw did whatever he could to make ends meet. He worked as a waiter, washed dishes, cleaned, found work in coffee shops—he did what he had to, to pay the rent and get his feet on the ground.
Then, after 2 years of working random jobs and taking English and French, Zaw found IKRA Massage Academy and signed up for the professional Swedish Massage course.
For a year, he studied part-time while working other jobs to pay the bills. It was a lot on his plate, especially with the language and cultural barriers, but Zaw didn’t give up. Massage was what he wanted to do. It was what he had always done.
Zaw’s early years
Massage has been part of Zaw’s life since very early on. As a young boy, he would massage his mother and grandparents, and as he did so, they taught him where the traditional Burmese pressure points were. That was his first training.
When friends and family were stressed throughout his young life, he would rub their shoulders and massage them with a blend of intuition and what he had learned from his grandparents. They would always say “you have such good hands, Zaw.”
He found that through touch, he could help relieve people’s tension. Being able to help made Zaw feel good. As time went on, he became more and more motivated to help exhausted people find relief and comfort. And so, when he came to Canada and could not practice massage, it was hard, but he could not give it up. It was what he was good at–what he loved– and so he put in the effort to make his dream come true.
In 2019, after one year of studying at IKRA, Zaw graduated and finished his professional massage certification. For the next 2 months, he handed out his CV, and in no time, got hired by both The Queen Elizabeth Hotel and a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic.
With 2 part-time jobs, it still wasn’t the stability he wanted. Still, it was a massive step in the right direction—he was making enough money practicing massage therapy.
Now, just over two years later, Zaw is working at one of Montreal’s most well-known spas. He’s massaged celebrities, he’s growing his own private practice, and he’s IKRA Academy’s graduate of the moment.
Interview with Zaw
Zaw, you already had so much experience when you first came to Canada; what did you learn while at IKRA?
Yes, I already knew Burmese massage and some Thai, but still, I learned so much in IKRA’s Swedish massage program. I learned many new techniques that I now blend with my other methods. I think this blend is what makes my style so unique to me.
Also, as an international student, one of the most important things I learned at IKRA was how to deal with clients. I learned about Canadian culture and how to make my clients feel comfortable and at ease.
I have so much respect for my teachers. They were amazing and showed me how to work with the sheets, use my tools properly, and use music and scent to create a pleasant atmosphere. More than anything, they taught me how to work with the highest level of professionalism.
What was your favourite part of studying at IKRA?
It was working in class with the teachers and the other students. This was a big benefit. By watching other students and seeing how everybody had different styles and approaches, I learned a lot.
What has the most challenging part of your journey been?
At first, the language and the culture were my biggest challenges. When I first arrived in Canada, I went back to school and studied English and French; this was difficult. And it was really my time at IKRA that helped me understand the culture better.
Zaw, I heard that your employer at The Queen Elizabeth Hotel said that he had never seen a massage therapist receive so much positive feedback. Why do you think that is?
I think it is because of my intention. With all of my clients, I connect with them, and breathing from my heart, I work with the intention that what I do will help them receive what they need. I’m not trying to give a perfect massage; my goal is to give my clients what they need.
Have you always done massage with this intention?
When I was in Burma, I worked in a salon. When I worked with people, I would have a positive intention for them. People said that it felt different when I touched them. So, I continued doing it because it seemed to help. Then, at IKRA, I learned that massage therapists should always connect with their clients. I took this teaching and I applied it to what I was already doing. Now, I connect with my clients and I work with the intention for their best interests.
A unique style of massage
In traditional Burmese massage, you find influences from the nearby nations: India, China, Thailand. Yet, at the same time, Burmese massage is uniquely its own.
After receiving a massage from Zaw, I can say that his style is very much the same: it holds pieces I could recognize from Swedish massage, TCM and Thai massage to name a few, but it was his own unique style.
It’s hard to say exactly what was different about my massage with Zaw. But one thing I can say is that he was completely present. I felt like he genuinely cared, and that my comfort and ease were his main concerns. That his hands were not just going through the practiced motions of a massage, but that he was adapting to the tension and stress he uncovered as he worked.
With someone as skilled, devoted to his craft, and centred as Zaw, I know that his talent will only deepen as time goes on. And all of us at IKRA are proud to count him as one of our own and have the chance to celebrate him as IKRA Academy’s graduate of the moment.
To contact Zaw for a massage visit his FaceBook page here.
To learn more about our professional programs like the one Zaw took, click here.