Why work out if someone can do it for you? Thai massage is a completely unique mixture of massage, pressure points, stretching and yoga. Your masseuse will bend you, stretch you, knead you and sometimes walk all over you. It’s a full-body stress reliever – great for flexibility, improved circulation and relaxation.
Thai massage is sometimes called Thai yoga massage, because it uses many of the same positions (called asanas) as yoga – the difference being that you are moved and held in position by your therapist rather than moving yourself. You might feel a bit like a puppet, but you’ll find yourself in positions you’d never have attempted on your own.
The asanas are only one element of the top-to-toe Thai massage experience, though. Your therapist will use his or her hands, feet, elbows and forearms to apply pressure to your body and may even walk on your back or crack your knuckles. Stimulating your pressure points is combined with deep-tissue kneading to ease away muscular tension, boost your circulation and get rid of any poisonous toxins you have lurking in your tissues. Like many eastern therapies, Thai massage is also designed to boost the flow of chi (your invisible life force) around your body.
A typical thai massage can last from 30 minutes to two hours. It can is done fully clothed (there are no oils involved), but if you turn up in your drainpipe jeans you might find your therapist asks you to change into something a little more comfortable. Traditionally, many people will be treated in the same room (on a large padded area of the floor), but many more westernised practitioners will use an individual treatment room for each client.
To make the most of the meditative benefits of the massage, it’s done in complete silence. When your massage is finished, your therapist will ‘wai’. This is a gesture of thanks: a slight bow with your palms pressed together. It’s polite to return your therapist’s ‘wai’ by copying the action.
Thai massage is thought to be one of the best forms of massage for clearing your mind because your entire focus is on the experience. If you have a crowded mind and you’re feeling stressed, it can also help to calm you by working out muscular tension and releasing endorphins, your body’s feel-good chemicals.
This form of massage is also perfect for anyone who wants to improve their flexibility, circulation and posture. After a long spell away from the gym, a full-on yoga class might seem a bit daunting, in which case Thai massage is a great way of easing yourself back into exercise.
If you’re listening out for the pitter patter of tiny feet, please speak to your doctor and your Thai massage practitioner about ways to adapt the massage to your changing body.
It’s thought that Thai massage was actually developed over 2,500 years ago in India - by a physician to the Buddha no less.