Thai Massage has the power to feel both like the most intensive and deepest massage experience you’ve ever had and simultaneously cause you to fall asleep or be on the edge of sleep. Unfortunately not a whole lot of Thai Massage practitioners work this way, or with this in mind, but if you have been for a treatment with us then you’ll know what I mean. How do we do that? Other than the obvious magic, there are some very real, physiological mechanisms at play here that we use to our advantage.
Thai Massage is typically known for it’s intensity – which can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes, and is something that has deterred many people from seeking another treatment. It’s far too common that people remember the “pain” of a treatment – and very simply stated, this occurs through a lack of education, understanding of the body and resulting skill of the practitioner (it sounds harsh, but it’s honest). Practitioners should be able to perfectly “dance the line” of intensity so that you feel as though it is the perfect amount, never venturing into a painful experience, but also something with generous weight to it.
So how is it possible for us to find that perfect intensity and depth of relaxation?
The main overriding mantra and practice that we follow is the concept of “slowing it down”.
It might sound really simple, but slowing it down is the key to this magic trick because it does the following:
- Gives the tissues time to lengthen – this specifically relates to the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) reflex – if you want to learn more about the physiology of it, I’d be more than happy to chat with you. Essentially, the giving the tissues time to experience the gradual application of pressure means that the GTO reflex and other nervous tissue responses have enough time to do their jobs and induce greater relaxation and lengthening in the tissues. With the extra time, and the extra tissue length, you’ll find that your pressure is reaching deeper tissues without attempting to force anything. (Because as soon as we force our massage pressure, the tissues actually tense-up and push us out…which is the opposite to relaxing).
- Utilizes and encourages deeper breathing – if you haven’t heard about the power of breath, it’s something you should look into further. When it comes to dancing the perfect line of intensity, which you’ve achieved by slowing it down, you’ll notice an automatic increase in the depth and volume of breathing. To the contrary, if pressure is too much, breathing is often short and sharp, or paused altogether. The greater Oxygenation of the blood carries its own inherent benefits for rest and deep relaxation, and the deeper breathing also assists in the surrender of muscles that aren’t yet relaxed. This occurs as a result of the more active, deeper inhalation (requires greater muscular recruitment and activation), which in turn allows the exhalation to be more passive, causing greater widespread relaxation. (stronger activation followed by more complete relaxation is what our muscles like to do, but when we don’t move much or breathe deeply, our muscles are kind of half-engaged the whole time making it difficult to remember what complete rest feels like).
So there you have it – now you know one of our magic tricks…! Or rather, now you know about one of the many awesome tricks that our body has built-in. We just have to know how to use this knowledge for our own good. And not only is slowing it down in a treatment the best way to find the perfect blend of intensity/sensation and surrender, it’s also a pretty great way to enhance all other aspects of our lives too.
Enjoy this read? Take a look at another article: “Why Does My Massage Therapist Karate Chop Me During My Treatment!?” or “What Those Pesky “Knots” Really Are, and How Thai Massage Relieves Them“.