“Breathe in — focus. Steady your body and mind on the task at hand. Stretch — zone in on the parts of the body that seem off-balance. Find out why these areas are tense, then facilitate the release of that tension. Be present in the richness of the moment for both yourself and for your client. Stay focused on their needs and your own.”
For practitioners of Thai massage, these thoughts and procedures should come as second nature. The art they practice is a full-body experience that focuses on breath and rhythm — it revolves around peacefulness, presence, and reaching a state of profound relaxation that fosters release.
Clearing Your Mind
When we think of massage generally, we tend to think of it as a service, a one-way interaction between the giver and the receiver. In Thai massage, however, the giver cannot effectively relax and facilitate healing in the receiver until they are relaxed and healthy themselves.
Their technique is responsive, reading, anticipating, and taking guided action to the body’s unique orientation, its particular tensions and imbalances. Relieving them effectively requires that the practitioner enter into a clear, compassionate mindset, but that isn’t always easy.
Even as you focus yourself, preparing to treat your client by moving slowly into positions that are familiar and comfortable, you can still become distracted. You think about your own body and any of your own ailments: going through the checklist of knees, back, shoulders, and forearms.
You adjust your position and keep going, but you also have to release the extra work in your own body — you notice your jaw is clenched with focus. You release it…
A state of clarity can be difficult to locate. The best ways to do so involve focus on your positioning in space, the effort you’re putting in, and your breathing. Once you have a good idea of all these things, now it’s time to take notice of them in your patient.
Outside of the treatment setting, a dedicated self-practice (such as meditation) helps beyond measure in creating mental clarity.
Giving and Receiving
One of the many beautiful aspects of Thai massage is that this practice is a reciprocal one, both mentally and physically. Each session of Thai massage is different because each one is a negotiation between two parties, receiver and giver.
Sure, the sessions become more consistent once two people have worked together for a number of sessions, but still, each day brings different stresses and tensions in each party, new problems that must be discovered and compensated for until a unique rhythm is found.
As a result, the massage is therapeutic for both the client and the practitioner. Instead of trying to silence all of his or her own concerns, the giver of each Thai massage must hear them and adjust themselves accordingly, shifting their physical position to remain comfortable or diverting their own stress and tension into an attention on the receiver’s.
Giving requires the practitioner to do more than just act upon the client. The massage artist must also be acted upon by the client — even if only in spirit.
Finding Your Rhythm
Each body has its own unique rhythm, its own unique pace that allows it to sink into its deepest possible expression of release. Through clarity in mind, dedicated practice and skillful touch we can find this frequency and set our pace to match it.
This is all part of a continuous cycle of adjustment and harmony: ask verbal and non-verbal questions about what level of pressure is appropriate and where the tension is being felt most, and gradually, an easy, self-directing rhythm comes forth.
Through compassionate touch, the negotiation between two sets of tensions results in a powerful relaxation — powerful enough to put at least one party to sleep.
It becomes a soothing dance between practitioner and receiver. And even though there might be a lead, both parties still receive great benefit.