What makes Thai Massage or any other therapy unique? There are countless massage and therapy systems to choose from, and that’s great!
But just like not everyone likes to eat the same kind of food,
not every type of massage or therapy will work for all of us.
There are big differences. For example, let’s take Rolfing which is a highly physical and intense therapy which can sometimes be quite painful. Now compare that with Cranio Sacral therapy which is very gentle, totally pain free, and hardly involves any physical movement at all.
Or let’s look at Thai Massage which involves lots of physical movements like stretches, twists, traction, and passive yoga moves. Compare that with Swedish massage which in its basic form does not use any of those movements.
Which massage is right for you?
Is one better than the other? Yes, for certain individuals, but not in general. What do I mean by that? Let’s say someone’s objective is to receive a blissfully relaxing massage during which you can unwind and go to sleep. For this person Rolfing clearly would not be the right choice. But for another person who needs some good therapy and does not mind an intense session, Rolfing might be an excellent choice.
So the same system can be an excellent or a totally inappropriate choice for a particular person. This is not a reflection on the therapy, but on the needs of the client.
===> The therapy, the therapist and the client all have to match.
In other words, clients have to find a therapist whom they resonate with and who is skilled in a system that fills their individual needs.
In order to benefit from a particular massage or therapy system,
we need to be educated what its features, methods, intended
benefits, working environment and tools are.
Let’s take a closer look at 8 distinct advantages which Thai Massage has, for both the client and the therapist.
1. Thai Massage is done fully dressed
Advantage for client: Not everyone is comfortable with getting undressed for massage. Being able to keep their clothes on makes such clients feel safer and more inclined to receive massage.
Advantage for massage therapist: Women can be hesitant to receive oil massage from a male massage therapist. But this does not apply to fully dressed Thai Massage.
During my many years of practicing Thai Massage, I have never once felt any un-ease by my female clients for being treated by a male. I am sure that the ability to keep their clothes on was a major factor. Thai Massage makes it easier to attract clients across potential gender barriers.
2. Thai Massage does not require privacy
Advantage for client: Here in Thailand, where I live, massage is often done in a large room where mats are lined up next to each other. Rather than the more clinical professional style which is the norm in western countries, it can be quite a social scene with lively conversations and social interaction. This type of open setting allows you to get a feeling for the place and visually evaluate therapists before deciding on a session.
Advantage for massage therapist: Fully dressed clients allows for spontaneous massage sessions in a variety of settings that are not possible with oil massage where you need a private room and draping sheets. I have done sessions in people’s living rooms, in the park, and on the beach. It allows you much more flexibility.
3. Thai Massage does not require the use of oil
Advantage for client: If someone drops in for a massage and goes back to their business activities, it can feel awkward to have oily residue all over the body. This is not an issue with Thai Massage.
Advantage for massage therapist: One less thing needed, one less expense.
4. Thai Massage does not require a massage table
Advantage for client: For Thai Massage a table is never an advantage for the client. By its very nature Thai Massage requires a lot of movement and changing of positions. A floor mat feels more supportive and is much easier to roll around on than a narrow massage table.
Advantage for massage therapist: The only reason why a therapist would use a table for Thai massage is that he or she is physically not able to easily move around on the floor which does require more flexibility than standing at a table.
There are several techniques that cannot be done on a massage table or at least are more awkward and difficult to do. I know western therapists who climb up on the table and stand on it. I’d rather stand on a floor mat any time.
One big advantage of Thai Massage is that therapists can make ideal use of their body weight. A massage table reduces this advantage since it does not allow you to shift your weight right on top of the client.
Working on a floor mat allows for better ergonomics, a wider range of techniques, and it saves the expense of having to buy a massage table. I have never owned one in my 16 years of professional massage therapy work.
5. Thai Massage allows you to use many different body parts
Advantage for client: Clients wanting deep work have a better chance of getting this from a Thai Massage therapist who can make good use of hands, forearms, elbows, knees and feet. Even smaller therapists can therefore be extremely effective. The best examples are the countless tiny female Thai massage therapists who can make even large clients wince. Everybody who has been in Thailand can attest to that.
Advantage for therapist: The ability to use many body parts and reduce the use of hands can be a life saver for your massage career. Hand and wrist problems can stop your massage therapist profession dead in its tracks if you don’t know how to use other tools besides your hands.
This is where Thai Massage offers a huge advantage. When I do intense therapy sessions on large clients, I use my hands less than 30% of the session. All the deep work is done with forearms, elbows, knees and feet.
6 . Thai Massage incorporates lots of motion and stretching
Advantage for client: If you lie in one position and your therapist is putting pressure on one area, the effect is more localized than if your entire body is put through lots of motion and stretches which effect much larger sections of the body.
Stretching is a unique feature of Thai Massage. It is basically applied yoga, since the origin of Thai Massage is the yoga system of India. In effect, the client is getting a massage and a yoga session rolled into one treatment.
Advantage for therapist: There is a much bigger arsenal of tools available. There are literally hundreds of stretches and modifications available in the Thai Massage system besides working on muscles and tissue. This allows the therapist to address issues which cannot be addressed as effectively without the motion and stretch techniques.
7. Thai Massage works with energy, not just the body
Advantage for client: Thai Massage therapy is not just bodywork. It is a body-mind system that reaches deeper than muscles, tissue and bones. It works with the life energy of the clients by realigning, channeling and strengthening their core energy.
In my career I have met and studied with several Thai Massage masters. Their distinguishing feature was that they did not just teach how to expertly work with various body parts, but they incorporated a higher awareness and refined understanding of energy and consciousness.
Let us remember that Thai Massage was originally practiced by monks in temple settings. It was developed as a body-mind healing system, not just as a method to address physical symptoms.
Advantage for therapist: Learning Thai Massage properly will train the therapist to be able to feel or sense energy, connect with clients on a more profound level, move energy in their clients body and energy field, and develop their own awareness to higher levels.
In Thai Massage you don’t just move body parts, you are moving energy as well. Practicing Thai Massage can become part of your personal growth.
8. Ideal use of body weight, ergonomics, breath and energy
Advantage for clients: Many times I have heard from my clients that they felt like I was flowing or dancing around their bodies. For me Thai Massage is an art form that resembles a graceful dance between two bodies, client and therapist.
In my Thai Massage classes I always run a little test. I first press on a student’s body with muscle power and without the use of my energy. Then I lean into the same spot with pure body weight, while using my breath and my channeled energy.
When I ask my students which version felt better, the answer is always the same. The second version feels much better.
Advantage for therapist: Basic Thai Massage is often taught in a mechanical way. However on a more advanced level Thai Massage allows the therapist to make use of their body weight, their body ergonomics, their breath, and their subtle energy. Working in this way is more like a meditation than a physical exertion and is highly rewarding for the therapist as much as for the client.
I have often been asked by my clients if I was not exhausted after a two or even three hour session. But the fact is that Thai Massage, if done correctly, energizes the therapist instead of depleting them. It can give you an energetic boost, like an energetic “high”, and a feeling of tremendous well being and satisfaction.
Thai Massage is a body-mind therapy system than can be conveniently done fully dressed without the need of oil, strict privacy, or a massage table in a variety of settings or environments. It works not only on a physical level, but on an energetic level.
Thai Massage helps preserve the health of the practitioner through the ability to use many body parts and ideal ergonomics. It adds motion and stretching techniques to the list of benefits of massage therapy, and it incorporates a level of awareness that elevates it from body work to a true healing art.
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of
Thai Healing Massage Academy, and the creator of 20 home study training courses for Thai Massage. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 16 years.