In any relationship, whether it’s with a business associate or a close friend, you want to be heard and understood — when you’re receiving a massage, your relationship with the practitioner is no different. The quality touch techniques employed in Navina Thai massage allow the practitioner to respond to the client’s needs as they arise, thanks to a highly-tuned sensitivity to the receiver’s body.
Thai massage involves a number of techniques designed to induce relaxation and healing through understanding, but the concept that animates each of them is conscious touch. This practice, which accommodates the client’s unique sensation threshold, allows the practitioner to tailor the session so that it is always restorative and relaxing for the receiver.
What’s Conscious Touch?
Conscious touch is inspired by Metta, or compassion — an underlying principle in the philosophy of Thai massage. Integrating compassion into the massage experience creates a sense of nurture and support, and makes the practitioner more attuned to the client’s needs.
Another element of conscious touch is a belief in the value of slowing things down. This could entail anything from slowing the pace of the massage, taking more time when applying pressure to a joint, or pausing to allow the client to settle into a pose. A careful awareness of speed leads to a more impactful treatment.
Your practitioner should either talk to you before or during the massage about the level of pressure that you desire — after all, your verbal feedback is just as crucial as the feedback your body is giving.
A Range of Techniques
A great Thai massage involves three main techniques: static pressure or C-bend, cross-fiber friction, and linear friction. When applied to muscle tissue with conscious touch, each will release tension without giving you pain or inducing sensitivity.
Regardless of the chosen technique, your practitioner should know which muscle reflex to elicit and which to avoid.
The stretch reflex refers to how the nerves of the deepest muscle contract around the fibers in what is known as a muscle spindle. If the muscle is stretched too far or too fast during a massage session, it will reflexively contract to protect itself. Moving slowly here will decrease the likelihood of muscle contraction.
The second reflex of concern is the golgi-tendon organ reflex. In this case, it’s the nerves in the tendon that may act to protect the muscle. In contrast to the stretch reflex, the golgi-tendon organ reflex relaxes rather than tenses the muscle to protect it.
With this response, it is possible to move into a deeper stretch while continuing to remain vigilant and move slowly.
Working the techniques with these two reflexes in mind results in a more successful session. The c-bend, or static pressure technique applies direct pressure to the muscle.
Approaching the muscle from a c-bend position makes it easier to avoid the stretch reflex while encouraging the golgi-tendon, allowing for the deepest stretch possible without prompting involuntary resistance. It typically works to lengthen the muscle for relaxation or the alleviation of scar tissue.
By contrast, cross-fiber friction goes against the grain (or muscle fiber). More corrective than the direct pressure of the static technique, cross-fiber friction is best used on damaged tissue. How does it work?
The technique breaks down scar tissue and realigns muscle fibers, making it ideal for older injuries. Note that, in the case of an acute injury, additional damage could be caused by attempting to use this technique.
Linear friction is used sparingly in Thai massage, as it typically involves the use of massage oil or lotions, which is uncommon in the practice. It warms muscles by moving blood and lymph away from the area being treated. This typically results in the release of toxins, as well as the stretching and broadening of muscle fibers.
A highly-trained and certified Thai massage practitioner, like any of the professionals at Navina, can use compassionate touch to make your body feel heard and understood — finally!