Renowned for services ranging from eyelash extensions and laser hair removal to chakra balancing and chi revitalizing, Bangkok is host to an exotic and bizarre array of treatments and therapies. A quintessential component to this multi-faceted jamboree, traditional Thai massage is perhaps the most well-known and celebrated of Bangkok's pampering services. As the Japanese delicately knead flesh in accordance with Shiatsu and the Chinese offer rubs following principles of Tui-Na, Thailand presents a signature massage technique involving traditional systems of holistic beliefs.
Thai massage draws significant influence from India's ancient Ayurvedic traditions of medical practice. Ayurvedic medicine, also a holistic form of healing, plays an integral role in the practice of both Hinduism and Therevada Buddhism. Monks and similar practitioners of healing transmitted Ayurvedic techniques to Thailand some 2,500 years ago, thus giving birth to the wonderful phenomenon that is Thai massage.
Thai Massage: Revitalising the Entire Body
Unlike Western massage styles, the Thai version focuses on circulation and pressure points, promoting internal health as well as muscular flexibility. Treatment often begins with the feet and gradually moves upwards towards the head. The body is gently arranged into four positions (face-down, face-up, side, and sitting position), which enables the masseur to perform a variety of exercises that would be otherwise unworkable.
Rhythmic compressions, rolling of limbs, and gentle rocking are Thai massage methods employed in order to relax and realign energies in the body. Varying amounts of pressure are applied to energy lines (or 'Sen') along the body in accordance with the Ayurvedic principles of balancing one's energy.
Elbows, feet, knees, and forearms are used to execute certain strokes and manipulations, making the experience quite physical for both parties. Finding oneself in the lap of a masseur, though occasionally surprising, is not uncommon and serves to augment a deep stretch.
Maintaining the Balance in 'Sen'
In both Eastern and Western healing systems, the concept of maintaining balance or equilibrium is considered crucial to good health. 'Sen' are considered passages for energy, and correspond with blood vessels in the body. Traditional Thai healing practices suggest that when the 'Sen' become blocked, energy grows stagnant and the body loses its balance, leading to a range of ailments. Thai massage acts as an external stimulant to produce specific internal effects within the body, both freeing energy from obstruction and preserving health and harmony.
Because of its emphasis on body work, joint release, and deep breathing, Thai massage is often considered comparable to yoga. Modern yoga practice often includes traditional elements intrinsic in Eastern religion, including spiritual philosophy, postures designed to keep the body fit, and varying facets of meditation. These elements are sometimes adapted to meet the needs of non-religious practitioners, who may be attracted to yoga by its utility as a relaxation technique or as a way to keep in good shape.
Yoga for the Unmotivated?
The difference between the two exercises is that during a massage, it's the responsibility of the massage therapist to carry out the work, while the individual on the receiving end reaps the benefits. Increased flexibility, oxygenation of the blood, postural alignment, and elongated muscles are all prospective enhancements resulting from a session of Thai massage. Fluidly, one's body is positioned by another in a series of poses aiming to promote health and relaxation. Yoga requires poses to be achieved through the efforts of a single person, and the notion of contorting oneself while concurrently meditating is no simple task. Thai massage is, in fact, yoga for those of us who are inherently unmotivated.
A considerable amount of privacy is allotted in most places offering Thai massage, making it an ideal solution for the individual who isn't quite up for the challenge of yoga. Let's face it, not everyone is equipped with the physique or poise necessary to squeeze into spandex and curl into the Downward Facing Dog position. Yoga, for the most part, is available in group sessions. Though spandex is not a requirement, it's not uncommon to practice among a variety of other adults, all of whom happen to be more flexible than you. For a more intimate experience, Thai massage manages to produce similar somatic results without the awkwardness of being observed by seemingly elastic peers.