Thai Massage
Thai Massage is an ancient form of bodywork that some surmise was developed at least 2,500 years ago. It’s assumed to have originated in India and was later brought to Thailand. It is one of my absolute favorite massages to give or to receive. And, here is why. It affects one on many different levels. Thai massage has the benefits of regular Swedish massage and more. Such benefits include but are not limited to the following: increases metabolism, relaxes and refreshes muscles, aids in detoxifying the lymphatic system, helps to relieve sore or cramped muscles or muscle spasms, improves the circulation of blood and lymph, improves oxygenation and nutrition to the cells, and helps to release waste and toxins from the muscle fibers. Psychologically, it relieves fatigue, anxiety, depression, and generally provides a sense of calm to the person receiving as well as to the person giving. However, in addition to these benefits, Thai Massage also, increases joint mobility, improves flexibility, improves body symmetry, and increases and balances the flow of Chi or energy through the “sen” lines, which are, in my opinion, somewhat compatible with acupuncture meridians.

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With regular Swedish massage, clients often leave feeling a little groggy, or spacey, or really tired and wiped out. This, I believe, is a lovely effect, if you want to totally unwind, let go of all that stresses and worries you, and then go home and enjoy a hot bath and/or a good night’s sleep. Although, this effect is possible with Thai Massage, it has often been my experience that clients leave with a new found energy and renewal in the body. They leave a session ready to participate in the rest of their day with a clearer head, and a more balanced body. In other words, it is a great way to start your day!

So, here’s the best way I can describe what you can expect. Thai massage, generally, but not always is conducted on a mat on the floor. The client is fully dressed wearing loose fitting, easy to stretch in clothing. Some have called this form of massage, “lazy man’s yoga.” Because, it is in some ways like having a yoga class done to you. Generally, the client begins by lying on their back; face up while the massage practitioner begins at the feet with some Thai reflexology and loosening of the foot and ankle joints, then the energy lines of the legs are stimulated through “pressure points” similar to Shiatsu. Although, the intention in Thai massage is different from Shiatsu or acupuncture. Thai Massage does not conceive of the body in terms of acupressure points, rather it perceives the body as having lines (many thousands of lines, I might add) that energy runs through. And, before any stretching occurs, those lines are opened, and balanced. This accounts for the first 10 to 20 minutes of the massage.

Next comes the really lovely part, the Thai massage stretches. Another interesting belief inherent in this type of massage is that our bones are flexible. There’s nothing in our Western medical paradigm to support this notion. However, many of the stretches in Thai massage use the middle of the bone as the fulcrum for the stretch and involve a pressure-counter pressure hold by the massage therapist. In theory, it sounds painful and just not right to our Western minds. But the experience is pure delight. In a culture where we rarely squat to do anything, we need to take classes in order to stretch, and many of us are so out of shape that getting into shape can be a struggle, this massage reminds us of how our bodies were designed to be used. The massage opens, lengthens, twists, and compresses muscles. And, at points can feel more like a dance than a massage. Our tight, computer using, rarely sitting on the floor crossed legged bodies, after the initial shock of being manipulated and moved about, are totally refreshed by being reminded of what natural feels like.

As the massage continues, it becomes obvious why it takes a blog to explain Thai massage. This form of massage is a synthesis of many different techniques. Consequently, the massage therapist has several tools in his or her box. The massage therapist could apply leaning pressure, stepping or walking on the body, reflexology, energy line work, compressing of major arteries (what is known in Thai massage as blood stopping), stretching, and yoga. And in order to apply these techniques a therapist uses much more of his or her body during the massage. They use thumbs, palms, feet, elbows, forearms, and knees. The recipient is moved through several postures, face up, or prone position, face down, or supine position, side-lying, and sitting up cross legged.

In addition to being by far one of the coolest massages ever, Thai massage is also one of four branches of traditional Thai medicine. I just love that. Can you imagine seeing your general practitioner doctor, and he or she giving you a Thai massage for what ails you? I would definitely be visiting my doctor more frequently if that were the case. The other branches of medicine are diet, spiritual ceremony, and medicines such as salves, orals, herbal compressions or vapors. There are many wonderful books dedicated to describing this beautiful massage and art form, and I encourage any one interested in learning more to read about it.

Here are a couple of the books I own and recommend:
Thai Massage, Sacred Bodywork, by Ananda Apfelbaum
Thai Massage, A Traditional Medical Technique, by Richard Gold

And, in the meantime, take the plunge, and experience a form of bodywork that is truly transformational. It’s nothing new. It’s totally old school, like 2,500 years old old school.

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