Thai Massage: Not Your Typical Relaxing Massage

Thai Massage is described as:  relaxing, invigorating, and painful. That’s a wide gamut of adjectives! I think somewhere between relaxing and invigorating is where the massage should be for everyone. Later in this article, I’ll give you some tips for things to can do to make sure your massage is not painful.

What is Thai Massage?

Thai MassageThai Massage is very different from other types of massage. For starters, you stay fully dressed. Also, instead of using a table, there is a mat similar to a futon mattress on the floor. This is where you will receive your services.

Your massage therapist will move you into and out of yoga-like stretches. Some are very relaxing. However, some are quite challenging and intense. I would bet money that you don’t fall asleep during your Thai Massage.

The Thai Healing Massage Academy describes Thai Massage as “an applied yoga session or an exercise routine.” They believe that to create an effective Thai Massage, four elements must be present.

  1. Massage. “It is called Thai Massage, after all. There are many techniques like pressing, leaning, rolling, rocking, squeezing and circling which are used by the therapist.”
  2. Energy line work. These energy lines, or sen lines, are what is specifically receiving the therapy during a Thai massage. Typically, the style of massage in the western world focuses on anatomy where muscles, ligaments, and joints get massaged. Here, it is energy lines that receive the work.
  3. Stretching. “This is what this system is famous for and where the name Thai Yoga Massage is derived from. The stretches are clearly related to yoga asanas. This is not surprising since this healing art has its roots in India’s yoga system.”
  4. Sensitivity/Feeling/Intuition. These three elements combined allow the therapist to create an appropriate flow to give you maximal benefits.

My Thai Massage

My friend Tom Kirkle recently completed training in Thai massage. As a way to practice his new craft, he offered free sessions to fellow yogis. Since I love massages, stretching, and yoga, I took him up on his offer.

I wore loose workout pants, a tank top, and a long sleeved shirt. Having layers makes me feel comfortable because I really hate being cold, and I get cold easily. If you are also someone who hates being cold, I suggest that you dress in layers as well.

For me, the massage felt like when we would do a good stretch class at dance. Getting into a deep stretch makes me feel like I’m really doing something good for myself. That being said, at dance, we would normally stretch our legs but not our arms and upper bodies.

As Tom worked in my legs, mostly I thought the stretches felt great. Sure, there were a few stretches in my hip that didn’t feel awesome at first, but with some deep breaths, tight muscles relaxed. I’ll admit, I was feeling very proud of myself. Oh, this is no big deal. I wonder why this type of massage has such a stigma for inflicting pain?

Then, we switched to upper body work. Holy mother! With tight shoulders and a tight neck, I’m surprised that I didn’t pass out from all my focused deep breathing. To combat the horrible tightness, I buckled down and focused on my breathing. My inner dialogue probably changed to something like I am breathing. I am fine. This muscle will relax. This too shall pass.

Preparing for Thai Massage

To tell you that Thai Massage is no big deal would be false. It sure can be! If you have tightness, the therapist will find it and try to wring it out of you.

However, there are things that you can do to make sure that you have an enjoyable experience.

  1. Drink lots of water both before and after your massage. The before water will help with muscle health, and the after water will help flush released toxins from your body.
  2. Communicate with your therapist. If something feels painful or too intense, let your therapist know immediately.
  3. Make sure you are receiving your service from a trained therapist. Not all massage therapists are trained in Thai Massage so, if you’re wanting a Thai Massage, make sure your therapist is properly trained before you schedule.
  4. Focus on your mind/body connection. When you’re receiving your massage, try to breathe into any tightness and relax. Keep checking in with your mind/body connection so that you can have the best experience.

Is Thai Massage right for you?

Not everyone may enjoy Thai Massage. If you like stretching or yoga, you will probably enjoy a Thai Massage session.

As always, ask around (I like to use Facebook) to find out if anyone knows of a good Thai masseuse. Your friends will let you know if there is anyone particularly good around. Otherwise, you can always rely on old, trusty Google to find a massage therapist near you.

Have you had Thai Massage before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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Here is a pretty funny video about a guy getting his first Thai Massage.

Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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