Thai Massage: Not for the faint hearted

In Thailand now there are so many spas and health centres offering different massage options that it is difficult to choose. However, the traditional Thai massage is still a favourite and is an experience that should be tried while here. It is the most widely practiced health treatment in Thailand and there are a huge number of schools and training academies where therapists learn this intricate skill.

It is believed that it was brought to Thailand over 2,500 years ago after originating in India and is a more rigorous type of massage than other classic types like Swedish or Shiatsu. Sometimes it is known as yoga massage as the therapist uses his or her hands, legs, knees and feet to move you into a variety of yoga-like positions.

Generally a massage lasts between one and two hours and no oil is applied. You need to wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes and the massage is applied through the clothes rather than directly to the skin. The therapist will mobilize your joints, elongate your muscles and focus on acupuncture points all over your body during the treatment. The aim is to align the energies in the body providing a balanced state.

Treatment often begins at the feet and gradually moves up the body towards the head. The body is gently moved into four positions which allow the therapist to perform different exercises. So at different stages you will find yourself face-down, lying on your back, on your side and at the end even sitting.

Everyone can have a Thai massage although pregnant women should check with their doctor first and find a therapist who is trained to deal with massage through pregnancy. If you have any infectious skin diseases, rashes or open wounds you should also not have a massage. Anyone with bloody clots or who has just undergone surgery should also consider giving it a miss.

Thai massage has a number of benefits. It will release knots, work on muscles and relieve tension and stress. If you have a good therapist you should also find that it increases flexibility and joint movement as well as helping improve postural alignment. If you choose to have a series of massages it should also in the over time assist in strengthening the immune system, stimulate the internal organs and even heal some long term injuries.

If you have never had a Thai massage before do tell the therapist before they start. As theoretically they should proceed in a gentler manner. Some therapists do tend to apply more pressure than others, but you can request a lighter touch at any time. It is not a good idea to eat a heavy meal before your massage as this will make you very uncomfortable in certain positions.

Most places offer a considerable amount of privacy for the massage. In the higher end resorts you will often be given your own room, and even in the local massage places you will have a bed which can be curtained off from prying eyes.

You need to prepare to get very close to your therapist as it isn’t uncommon to find yourself in positions which usually imply a more intimate experience, and find hands on parts of your body which you wouldn’t expect in the usual course of the day. And as you are stretched, prodded and pulled into positions which make you feel you are made of rubber just concentrate on how great you are going to feel when it is all over.