I am a recent student of Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine and this is a brief summary of my experience in learning massage with oriental medicine. Just to give you an idea of our schedule for learning massage I will outline our class schedule for you.
There are basically two halves of school, in the first half we learn anatomy and physiology in the mornings and massage in the afternoon until we have completed the basic massage table and chair patterns and completed anatomy and physiology. The second half of school we spend our time on oriental medicine and applications to massage practice with some specific patterns to help correct biological and physiological problems.
When learning oriental medicine you start to see how different parts of the body are connected and can influence one another. You also see how you mind, mood, food, environment and other things can influence your health and state of being.
With this knowledge you can help people significantly more with basic massage just by understanding their pain better. Someone may experience frequent pain in a specific area on their body or experience a loss of energy and not have any explanation as to why.
With oriental medicine you understand that areas of the body are connected and can influence one another, the pain may be referred from blockage in another part of the body or the energy loss could be something so simple as breathing properly and aligning posture.
Self maintenance is the most important part of massage practice in my opinion. By learning proper body mechanics, qigong and tai chi we as massage therapists can maintain our own bodies so that we are able to practice massage effectively while keeping our own bodies healthy and safe from damage.