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What Is Thai Massage?

What Is Thai Massage?

By: Christa Sperry RMP, RYT-200

Thai Massage (also referred to as Thai Yoga Massage in the west, and traditionally as nuat phaen boran in Thai) is an over 2,500-year-old dynamic bodywork therapy combining elements of Ayurveda, assisted yoga postures, acupressure, massage, mindfulness, breathwork, and metta (the Buddhist idea of loving kindness). The story goes that the renowned yogi and physician to the Buddha himself, Jivaka Kumarbhaccha, traveled to Southeast Asia after the death of the Buddha. He and a group of early Buddhist monks and Ayurvedic doctors began practicing what would become known as ‘ancient style massage’. It has developed over centuries in Buddhist temples (wats) in Thailand which are traditionally the health centers for the common people. Thai massage works to increase fluid and energetic circulation through the body. It also decreases cortisol (stress hormone) and increases serotonin (happy hormone).

What are the benefits of Thai Massage?

Thai Massage can help a variety of musculoskeletal issues, including upper/lower back pain, neck and shoulder concerns, sciatica, chronic joint disorders, hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower leg pain or tension. It can improve posture and range of motion, and dissolve energy blockages. Its meditative aspect can also help aid in relaxation and deeper breathing. It is a very unique style that gives you the deep stretch the body craves. I have clients of all ages and walks of life that seek this type of bodywork regularly for various reasons, including:

  • Improving their golf or tennis game

  • To aid in migraine prevention

  • To help stretch the body in between workouts or CrossFit

  • Before or after big competitions (dance, CrossFit, marathons, golf, tennis, etc)

  • They hate stretching on their own and never do it

  • Before or after extended traveling

  • Chronic hip, low back, and thigh pain prevention or maintenance

  • After hiking most of the Appalachian Trail

  • Becoming more in touch with their physical body after trauma or addiction

What can I expect during a typical Thai Massage session?

Thai Massage is performed on a futon mat on the floor (or sometimes on a massage table). The practitioner and client are both fully clothed in loose-fitting, gym, or yoga-style clothes. The session may start with a brief meditation on metta (loving-kindness) by both the client and practitioner to set the tone for the rest of the session. The practitioner then uses her hands, feet, and limbs to move the client through a series of assisted yoga-like postures while the client remains passive, focusing on loving kindness and breath. The practitioner will also massage and apply deep pressure to the sen lines (energy lines) throughout the client’s body, use a rocking rhythm, or administer rapid tapotement to the muscles, and sometimes use essential oils as aromatherapy. Though there is a more or less standard rhythm and method to the massage, the practitioner will adjust it to fit the client’s current needs. A typical session lasts about 90 minutes.

Is Thai Massage right for me?

Thai Massage can be suitable for a wide range of people regardless of fitness level or flexibility as the session will be tailored to meet you where you are. However, it is more physically demanding than other types of massage, and therefore you may want to take a few things into consideration before you book your first session. If any of the following apply, Thai Massage might not be for you:

  • You are currently pregnant (*note: Thai Massage could be performed in some cases, however, a traditional prenatal massage might be better suited to your needs.)

  • You have an artificial joint or spinal fusions

  • You have a serious heart condition or uncontrolled high blood pressure

  • Rheumatoid arthritis may require a doctor’s note

  • You have had surgery in the past 1-3 months (depending on the nature of it)

  • You have severe osteoporosis or very brittle bones

In Conclusion

Thai Massage has a little something for everyone: It is relaxing yet also stimulating; it gives you body awareness you may not have had before - addressing issues in the body that may have been lying beneath the surface for many years affecting your daily life; it can aid in deeper breathing, thus deeper relaxation; it can help improve your workouts or game...the list of benefits goes on. I have experienced some pretty mind-blowing results not only from receiving treatments myself but also from being a humble practitioner of this ancient form of bodywork. I hope to see you sometime soon on the mat!