Whether it was a Valentine’s Day gift from a loved one, a special treat on vacation or perhaps even a staple in your monthly regimen, most of us have experienced a massage. In Western culture we are familiar with several types of massage, most of them derived from a Swedish style that incorporates a massage table, oils and deep relaxation.
With the self-care movement on the rise and touch therapy needed now more than ever, we are beginning to see new styles of massage emerging. Enter: traditional Thai massage.
While it may be fairly new to us in the United States, Thai massage has been around for centuries. It was founded by Indian doctor Jivaka Kumar Bhacca around 500 B.C. Dr. Jivaka’s medical training was rooted in India’s Ayurvedic system. Jivaka’s approach was eventually carried to Thailand during the second and third century.
Thai massage incorporates yoga-like stretches and myofascial techniques to help release adhesions in the body. Adhesions build up over time, either from past trauma or from muscles compensating to protect an existing injury. If left unattended these adhesions can begin to restrict muscle movement and become incredibly painful. Most of us are completely unaware of their presence until they are discovered during massage (ouch!). Additionally, Thai massage incorporates rhythmic rocking, stretch and compression techniques, and breath work to open the energy lines of the body, and clear physical and emotional blocks.
Traditional Thai massage is performed on a thick mat on the floor, allowing the practitioner (or massage therapist) to freely move around the client. The client dresses comfortably in stretchy or loose-fitting clothing. The therapist uses her hands, fists, elbows, knees, forearms, head and feet (yes, we will walk on your back!) to apply pressure to the body while gently manipulating the limbs. While each session is tailored to the needs of the client, a Thai massage therapist tunes in to the energy currents of the client’s body and intuitively treats the areas that require the most attention.
Thai massage is a powerful tool for reducing inflammation in the joints and increasing mobility. It also improves circulation which brings more oxygen to the muscles and tissues to help prevent future injury and improve recovery from workouts. Better sleep, lower blood pressure, reduction in chronic headaches or migraines, lower stress and increased energy are all possible benefits of receiving Thai massage on a regular basis.
While you most likely will feel incredibly relaxed after your massage, Thai massage also leaves the body feeling energized. By opening the energy channels along the meridians of the body, there is now a clear path for your energy, oxygen and blood to flow evenly with no restrictions, which leaves you feeling invigorated. Some theories even suggest that mental stimulation from Thai massage can evoke creativity and clarity of mind.
Your experience during your Thai massage should leave you with very clear picture of which parts of your body need attention on a daily basis. Specific stretches targeting those areas can be “prescribed” by your practitioner in order to continue working on your mobility from home.
I remind my yoga students all the time, we are only given one body to live in, and we should treat it with the utmost care and respect. Receiving regular body work, such as traditional Thai massage, shouldn’t be seen as extravagant or indulgent. Rather, Thai massage can be an essential part of maintaining our physical and mental health.
Courtney Nelson is owner of Serenity Den Yoga, a Lake Oconee studio that offers a wide variety of classes, private sessions, and workshops to make yoga accessible to everyone. After training under Michael Sitzer, L.M.T. (Asheville, N.C.) who has spent the last 25 years learning and teaching Thai massage techniques in both Thailand and the U.S., Courtney is thrilled to be able to bring Traditional Thai Massage to the lake community. If you would like to learn more or book an appointment, call 770-377-9449 or email at email@example.com