Have you ever thought you might be in a more pro-active position when getting a massage? In the West, we’re quite familiar with Swedish massage or Aromatherapy, where you just lay back, relax and have your masseuse do all the work. In contrast, Eastern styles offer a more athletic version of a massage. In Thai massage therapy, or sometimes called Thai yoga massage, while you still remain passive, the masseuse moves you into different yoga poses. While Western-style massage will leave you feeling relaxed or even sleepy, Thai massage will leave you feeling both de-stressed and rejuvenated, emotionally and physically. Regular practitioners claim to feel the beneficial affects for days or even weeks afterwards.
Although Thai massage therapy originated as a facet of Thai Traditional Medicine over two thousand years ago, modern Thai massage also incorporates methodology from Chinese tradition, Buddhist spiritual practice, and Indian Ayurvedic medicinal practice. Unlike most styles of Western massage that make use of different oils and lotions to rub into your skin, in Thai massage, you wear your yoga clothes to allow the masseuse to guide you through your yoga therapy, and like yoga, the therapy session takes place on a cozy floor mat instead of a table.
In place of the repetitive scooping and stroking of Western massage styles, Thai massage therapy applies methods of Asian reflexology, specifically according to the theory of “sip-sen,” or the ten energy lines that run through the human body. The massage therapist will find your pressure points while he or she alternates stretching and compressing your muscles in a fluid, gentle rocking motion. Reflexology claims that by applying pressure to specific reflex points, energy flows to particular organs of the body to achieve physical balance and harmony.
Modern medical science also supports this claim. A recent study from Science Translational Medicine found that massaged muscle cells had higher activation of gene pathways that spur mitochondria – a secret benefit that the ancient Thai held true long before science even knew what “mitochondria” were! In turn, Thai yoga massage therapy can also enhance recovery from a hard work out by stretching and massaging tired muscles, provoking lymphatic drainage to return blood to the heart and digestion. A Thai yoga massage session will also reduce the inflammatory response of exercise by activating the release of anti-inflammatories in the body, affecting the same response as ibuprofen or an ice-bath.
Thai massage therapists will lead you through the yoga poses, making use of their forearms, elbows, knees and even their feet to slowly stretch you deeper into a pose and knead stiff areas of the back and legs. Thai massage is never painful, and although a licensed therapist will help you into poses you could not have done on your own, he or she will also cater to your comfort level, constantly checking to make sure you are not in pain. So Thai massage is hardly reserved for exercisers – with its roots in medicine, Thai yoga therapy can reduce and relieve the symptoms of migraines, arthritis, whiplash, paralysis, numbness, sciatica, and back pain.
Now you can do yoga without doing the work, so try Thai massage!
The following videos take you through Thai yoga massage therapy demonstrations: