Thailand is world-renowned for many things: their wonderful culture, the gorgeous weather, the exceptional food, and of course, some of the most naturally stunning islands and beaches on earth. In addition to that, the colourful nightlife attracts many people from far and wide, but there’s one thing that doesn’t get quite as much praise as perhaps it should: the traditional Thai massage.
The Thai massage is an ancient practise that dates back thousands of years, giving a number of magnificent health benefits. What makes this practise so unique, is the fact that it is incredibly different when compared to traditional Western massages that we’re typically used to (i.e., laying on a bed and being pampered with oils). Instead, the Thai massage is typically practised on a mat on the floor and requires more active participation from the recipient—that, and it’s not all soothing oo’s and ah’s—there are a few ow’s thrown into the mix as well!
But don’t let that put you off, the Thai massage isn’t painful. For the most part, it is a very pleasant experience. However, if you are tight, with many knots and you haven’t had a massage in a while, there will be discomfort, in an oddly satisfying and pleasurable manner. It’s rather confusing!
Visiting Thailand for the first time was certainly a culture shock. My senses were aroused by all manner of exciting oddities, but one thing that really took me by surprise was how tactile the Thai people are. I would notice a group of motorcycle taxi drivers sitting around and waiting for their next fare, giving one another massages. It was a strange thing to see, as in the West, seeing a group of men sat on a bench giving one another leg and shoulder rubs would be seen as inappropriate or emasculating.
The truth is; we are simply blind to the incredible benefits that come from having a massage. Many people in the west suffer from chronic back pain and other muscle / joint-related issues because they’ve never once had a massage. We have this strange and isolating tendency towards avoiding being touched by other people. If only we knew how much pain could be avoided if we were to put our trust in the hands of an experienced massage therapist.
Stress is one of the biggest killers and if left unchecked, it can lead to all manner of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Something as simple as having a Thai massage once a week, or even fortnightly, can significantly reduce stress. Here is a thorough study that was carried out in 2015, demonstrating the significant positive psychological effects of a Thai massage.
If you suffer from or struggle with fatigue, then you might be surprised to learn that a Thai massage could be a great help for you. Many studies have been carried out, looking at the correlation between massages (traditional Thai and Swedish Shiatsu), energy levels. But what is it about the practice that enhances energy levels?
The Thai massage focuses on ‘energy lines’, or as they like to call it: ‘Sen’. This is the notion that there are various channels of energy within the body, which if stimulated by applying pressure and rubbing in a circular motion, enhances energy flow.
It’s easy to forget just how complex the human body is. Whilst the body is made up of many parts, it functions as a single organism. Think about the way in which the brain controls every aspect of your body. You can’t click your fingers without your brain giving you the go-ahead first. Thus, it’s important to recognise the significance of how various parts of your body can influence others. For example, would it surprise you to learn that those who are incredibly tense with knots in their muscles and stiff joints, may be more prone to getting headaches as well?
By adopting these Thai massage techniques and promoting the flow of Sen through your body, you will invariably feel a great relief as there will be less strain on your body’s ‘computer processor’.
Much like enhanced energy flow, the traditional Thai massage is great for blood circulation in the body. By loosening up the muscles in your body and working out the various knots that form over time, you can enjoy increased circulation ensuring that your body’s energy flow is optimal and that your various organs are getting all of the nutrients that they need.
Another thing that I noticed when visiting Thailand, was how energetic and agile the elderly members of society are. Now, there are many factors at play, for example, their diet as well. However, the very fact that Thai people engage in regular massages, results in increased flexibility and overall core strength.
The yoga-like positions involved in the Thai massage, allow your body to stretch out properly and to improve the circulation of fluids in the joints. Simply put: a regular Thai massage will allow you to move around freely for longer.
This is a common question and one that really comes down to you as an individual. Naturally, having a Thai massage on a daily basis would be overkill. You need to give your muscles an opportunity to rest. The recommended frequency would be to engage in a Thai massage at least once a week. That way, as your muscles begin to tense over time, you can enjoy some relief and keep those energy levels flowing and the stiffness away.
Typically, you will be asked what ‘level’ of pressure you would like. Some people prefer a very gentle Thai massage, though others might want to go a bit harder, particularly if they are tied up in knots and feeling especially tense.
In most parlours, you will be given loose-fitting clothes to wear. However, others may massage you with what you are currently wearing. It can be confusing, as traditionally, you might expect to take your clothes off, though this is rarely the case. You may need to remove your top, though they will provide you with a towel to cover your breasts when moving into a different position.
Following that, your therapist will begin to pull and stretch and rock your body to-and-fro, encouraging you into various positions as the therapy progresses. They will use their thumbs, their elbows and even their feet, depending on the method that they are using or the part of your body that they are focusing on. Again, it can at times be uncomfortable, but this is only ever because your body has so many knots, that they need to be vigorously worked out. Trust us, it’s worth it!
Absolutely! If you’re not a little sore in places, then you haven’t had your moneys worth. It’s not painful by any stretch of the imagination, but your muscles will remember the experience for a short while, that’s for certain. The main thing that you will notice, is that you will glide out of that massage parlour with a certain spring in your step. You will be renewed.
If you are feeling any muscular pain, anywhere on your body, then a Thai massage is precisely what you need. When I first arrived in Thailand, I was carried most of my life in a backpack around with me and managed to mess my neck up pretty quickly. For a few days, I was unable to move my neck without experiencing sharp pain. That was when I decided to go for a Thai massage. It was life-changing!
I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t painful because it was. However, with every circular motion, every thumb or elbow digging into me, I felt the tension being relieved. It felt as though I was tied up in a ball and was slowly being unravelled. It was glorious. If you have back pain, you should seek out your nearest Thai massage therapist. You will not regret it.
The takeaway from this? The traditional Thai massage has survived for thousands of years because it works! If you’re interested in submitting your body to this wonderful experience (as we strongly suggest you should), then you’ll be pleased to learn that many of our villas have In-Spa facilities. Thus, you won’t even need to leave the comfort of your own villa to experience an authentic Thai massage. Instead, the specialist will come to you. The perfect addition to an already amazing vacation!