What is Thai massage and what are its benefits? If you traveled in Southeast Asia, most probably you spent a little bit of time in Thailand, if not a lot. And you can’t go in Thailand without experiencing at least once a real Thai massage. So, what is Thai massage exactly?
Origins – The Legend
Like a lot of therapeutic treatments out there, this comes with quite a legend. It’s said to be founded by Shivago Komarpaj (or Jivaka Komalaboat), a physician that originated from India over 2500 years ago. What’s special about this physician? Well, the legend says that he was a personal friend to Buddha himself, besides being his physicist. He was also taking care of many other celebrities from back in the day like Sangha and the king of Magadha, King Bimbasara. Sound pretty intense and hard to believe, fortunately, there are some documents and records that supports a little part of this legend.
Origins – The Facts
Now that we took care of the history, here’s the actual facts about the origins of Thai massages. First off, it’s a cultural melting pot of Southeast Asian medical culture. It’s a great mix of acupressure, reflexology, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, meditation and yoga. It’s also founded on the four divine states of mind in Buddhism such as compassion, loving kindness, vicarious joy and equanimity
Therefore, it was most likely created by combining Indian, Southeast Asian and Chinese traditional medicine. Today’s version is a variation of what was put together in the early 19th century based on healing traditions around the kingdom of Thailand back at the time.
With the Thai massage being a great mix of all of these cultures and traditional medicine, you have a very dynamic type of massage that allows to relax both spirit and body. More then that, this type of massage is an exchange between the care giver and the receiver where it acts as a form of meditation and yoga. Here’s a quick list of the benefits and practical application of a Thai massage.
1 – Yoga like stretching
Due to it being an active massage, both giver and receiver dance to the rhythm of the massage in a very thorough exercise that stretches you quite a bit.
2 – Reduces Muscle Tension & Spasms
Pressing techniques pinpoints to the built-up muscular tension to relief the tension in muscles all over the body. That’s the whole reason we usually go for a massage, to relief tension and finally get to relax both body and mind.
3 – Mobilizes the joints
The yoga style manipulation by the care giver releases tension in joints and improves mobility. It greatly stretches your body in all directions and some positions do feel very close to yoga, but with an added amount of tension.
4 – Improve blood circulation
The incorporation of touch, muscular and skeletal manipulation and acupressure increase circulation through out your body and raises your overall heart rate as well. You might even feel a bit sore after the massage, which is natural due to the exercise. The same way you would get a foot massage through reflexology or a foot massager.
5 – Balances and Increases Energy
Based on fundamental Chinese medicine principals, Thai techniques work along the energy meridians of the body and help the flow of energy and circulation. It’s not an unfamiliar principal since it’s applied in other massage types, like the Shiatsu one as well, which mainly concentrate on that principal.
6 – Treats Sciatica, Headaches and Neck Pain
Acupressure, joint manipulation and release of energy meridian work in combination to release tension, nerve irritation and alleviate pain especially around the neck area.
How does Thai massage compare to other types of massages?
To make it easier for you, here’s a comparison table between different types of massages and how the Thai one compares to them.
|Massage Type||What to expect?||What you are doing during?||Target zones||Best for ?||Level of comfort/pain|
|Thai Massage||Full body workout; wrestling with the therapist; stretching; tapping; pressure; getting walked on…||Lazy yoga; stretching; moving around with therapist||Whole body||Improve energy; increase flexibility; overall well-being||Moderate|
|Swedish Massage||Long sweeping strokes; muscle kneading; friction; tapping||Lay and relax||Whole body||Intro to massage; Stress relief; relax cramped muscles||Low|
|Chinese Massage||Pressure; acupuncture; Kneading; Stretching||Lay and relax||Whole body||Stress relief; musculoskeletal realignment||Low|
|Shiatsu Massage||Gentle pressure on pressure point||Breath deeply; relax||Upper body; neck; shoulders; back||Headaches; back pain; lack of energy||Moderate|
|Deep tissue||Deep pressure points on knotted muscles (painful)||communicate with therapist to find optimal pressure; cry a little; endure the pain||Knotted muscles||Stiff; painful trouble spots for shoulder and neck||High|
My Personal Experience of It
I traveled through Thailand and I obviously tried out the Thai massage. I had the different types of massage before as well, so I wasn’t going in without knowledge. I didn’t know fully what to expect, but knew it involved quite a bit of movement. Now here’s the thing I didn’t expect. WRESTLING!
It really felt like a wrestling match between me and the therapist, a very small Thai woman. And she was winning the match. She had to since that’s the idea. But she basically bent me in all possible and imaginable (and unimaginable) position. Did it feel bad? Not at all, it was like a mutual workout! By the time she was done, we were both breathing heavily, and we enjoyed tea to relax after. Given that my entire body felt a bit sore, I felt very light after 30 min. It was an amazing feeling and for those that need a deeper type of massage, I would definitely recommend trying it out.