Thai massage — a unique alternative to the more common Swedish or “classical” massage — can provide long-lasting health benefits.
When you think of getting a massage, you probably picture a private, candle-lit room where you lie face-down on a table and get a soothing backrub with copious amounts of body oil.
Most people in the Western World are familiar with this kind of massage, also known as Swedish or “classical” massage, but there are other kinds practiced elsewhere with even more advantages.
Thai massage, which has roots in ancient Indian culture, is practiced in the Eastern world and slowly but surely gaining popularity in the West. Despite some similar techniques, these two types of massage are very different.
While the Swedish massage is more commonly practiced, the Thai approach offers benefits that Westerners may never have expected from a massage experience.
East Meets West
According to Moonie ThaiHealing, the purpose of Swedish massage is to provide relaxation and tension relief for the recipient. There are five main techniques, all based on a Western understanding of anatomy and physiology: stroking and gliding, kneading, rubbing, pounding, and shaking.
While experiencing the massage, the client — undressed and covered in towels — lies on a padded massage table. To help facilitate the process, oils and lotions are used.
The Thai approach is totally different — Thai massage practitioners stimulate acupressure points to stretch and soothe tightened muscles, ease tension, and relieve joints. Though Western massage may be relaxing, Thai massage both relaxes you and invigorates you.
It differs from Swedish techniques in that it takes place on a floor mat, doesn’t use oils or lotions, and asks that the client’s clothes be left on.
Thai massage is sometimes described as “lazy yoga,” and while it may not physically taxing as conventional yoga is, it’s far more dynamic than Swedish massage. In a Thai massage, the clients change their position throughout — and though it’s passive (the practitioner moves you) they don’t feel “lazy,” but rather, engaged and mobile.
What Science Says
As we’ve noted in the past, scientists attest to the health benefits of Swedish massage, but have done little research on Thai massage. The studies on Thai massage that do exist, however, support the idea that it changes our bodies for the better.
For instance — according to the study of 13 types of massage, Swedish and Thai massage differed slightly in their effects on lower back pain. Swedish massage gave clients relief and functionality in the short term, but Thai massage helped more in the long run.
A different study measured the benefits of acupressure techniques, like the kind employed in Thai massage, and showed that massage with acupressure provides more relief than Swedish massage — that’s more than enough reason to try something outside of your comfort zone!.
Mind, Body, Spirit
Navina, which specializes in Thai yoga therapy, is built on the philosophy that everyone’s bodies are different and deserve customized attention.
Courses in the Navina Training suite, based in an understanding of Vedic philosophy (a component of Buddhism), include learning about the functional anatomy of the body and how it relates to massage. If you’re interested in learning more about Thai massage or simply about your own body, start with Navina.