TRADITIONAL THAI (YOGA) MASSAGE
Traditional Thai massage is good for:
- Tension release, e.g back pain, neck pain, etc.
- Alleviating tightness with stretching
- Can potentially help digestion
Despite having evolved from ancient Indian teachings, as well as having similarities to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Thai massage (nuad boran) is rather unique. It is different from Western forms of massage in that it is done on a mattress on the floor, with the client in loose trousers and a top, and usually uses no oil. It is basically a mixture of acupressure and stretching techniques. In this respect it is similar to a sports massage– a mixture of firm massage, trigger point work and stretching – it is just done in a different way (I actually mix the two where appropriate). Acupressure is the use of pressure applied with the thumbs or fingers on specific trigger points / along what the Thai call sen lines (comparable to meridian lines). It is similar to what we call neuromuscular technique in sports massage – a method of reducing muscular spasming and hence easing tension in knots and tense areas.
My Traditional Thai Massage Training
I trained in Chiang Mai in Thailand, at ITM, an internationally recognized school that trains students in Traditional northern-style Thai massage, which differs from the Bangkok / southern-style in that it focuses a bit more on stretches. The Thais believe the treatment works on clearing blocked energy pathways, and it is good for both improving flexibility and easing tension. There are various remedial techniques used to tackle issues such as shoulder pain, back pain, knee problems, digestion problems, etc. The treatment can also be more relaxing with a focus on neck, face and head massage. In the Thai view, it is seen as an almost meditative experience, so clearing the mind and focusing on the breath are important. The teachers where I trained called Thai massage ‘yoga for lazy people’, and you feel like you’ve had a good stretch after a session! But also (as with yoga), it helps you to ground yourself and connect spiritually, if you are that way inclined – as many of us are so much ‘in our heads’ / prone to stress these days. Quite a lot of work is done on the feet and legs first, and this really does help you to feel ‘grounded’.
Full-body Thai massage
A full-body Thai massage can actually take about two-and-a-half hours, but obviously, this is not often practical for many people in this country. However, a lot can be achieved in ninety minutes or an hour. During the session, the patient lies on their back first, then on their side, on their front and then seated. For more neck, face and head work to finish, the patient can lie, supported by pillows, in the therapist’s lap. It is possible just to focus on preferred areas/areas of tension, but preferably at least some work is done on the whole body, as it’s seen as more effective. This holistic view is comparable to sports or deep tissue massage when we work on areas away from the specific point of tension to deal with related or referred tension, imbalance or compensation that are part of the ‘bigger picture’ of the presenting complaint.