Thai massage incorporates the philosophies surrounding the Chinese concept of acupuncture and combines these philosophies with the stretching exercises done by yogis in India. The ultimate aim of Thai massage is for the receiver to attain spiritual enlightenment and harmony. On a base level, Thai massage is supposed to activate the capacity of the body to heal itself and to promote better health and well-being.
Just like in most eastern healing practices, Thai massage makes use of pressure points, which are called sen in Thailand. Practitioners of Thai massage claim that there are 72,000 sen in the body, of which ten are on the highest priority when it comes to doing the massage. Applying pressure to these sen points unblocks the flow of energy and restores balance to the body. In the terms of conventional western medicine, Thai massage is supposed to increase the circulation of blood within the body and completely eliminate the toxins that cause pain and illness to the body.
Thai massage is done with both the giver and the receiver of the massage fully clothed. The massage therapist does not use any tools – only her fingers, hands, knees, legs and feet. She also uses body weight to apply force and pressure to the receiver’s body. The treatment is done with the receiver lying down on her back on a padded massage mat instead of a table.
There are four basic stretches that are employed in Thai massage. The first one is aimed towards warming up the body and making it more receptive to the manipulation of the therapist. It involves extending the hamstrings on the leg and pressing the back of the thighs on points along the energy lines of the leg.
The second stretch is called the plough stretch. What is done here is that the therapist pulls at the client’s legs and, with the client’s knees straight, pushes them forward and inward towards the patient’s face, compressing the abdomen. The aim here is to elongate the spine.
The third stretch is also meant to lengthen the spine. Here, the client is made to lie face down on the mat. With her knees bent and her feet up and her hands gripping the therapist’s thighs, the client is pulled upward by the shoulders to stretch her back.
The fourth stretch is another exercise that is supposed to lengthen the spine, as well as to release the tension on the shoulders and back. The client once again lies down on her back with her feet propped up against the therapist’s thighs. The therapist then pulls her up by the arms.
To a casual observer, Thai massage appears to be painful and strenuous. If properly done, however, the receiver of a Thai massage treatment would not feel any pain afterwards. In fact, the treatment should leave him or her calm, relaxed, more centered and more alert.