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Ten Ways To Make Thai Massage More Therapeutic

ten ways to make thai massage more therapeutic

Massage versus therapeutic massage

My main modality has always been Thai Massage, but the observations in this article apply to massage in general.

But first…my disclaimer.

I’d rather be controversial than boring. This article is meant to be both irreverent and serious, both entertaining and educational. But be forewarned: If you don’t have a sense of humor, I advise you to stop reading right here!

So now – when does Thai Massage become therapeutic? The fact is that there is no one point where massage turns into massage therapy. It’s a matter of degrees. Actually, it is quite difficult for any massage NOT to be therapeutic at least to some degree.

How does a non-therapeutic massage feel like?

painful massage image

Let’s start close to the zero percentile. I can remember some massages that I would classify as having next to no therapeutic effect.

Here’s one I clearly remember. Once I went to the Gellert Spa in Budapest, Hungary.

This is a very famous spa with natural hot springs baths and lots of massage therapy.

Unfortunately, I ended up with a big hulk of a therapist who treated my body like it was a slab of meat.

He pushed and pressed and squeezed all over, and I was just enduring the session, waiting for it to end.

I also had quite a few really sub-standard Thai Massage sessions in Thailand where I felt like getting up and walking out.

The only reason why I didn’t do that is because I figured the therapist just didn’t know any better, and I didn’t want her to lose face in front of her colleagues (which is a big issue in Thailand).

These are examples of sessions that have close to zero therapeutic value, when you feel that all you did is waste your money and your time.

Getting better – somewhat therapeutic massages

Moving up the ladder, there are sessions that are technically correct, but there is no heart and soul in them, there is no connection, and no feeling.

There is nothing offensive about them, but they feel like they affect you only in a very superficial way. There might be some therapeutic value, but it is quite limited since the effect does not reach you on a deeper energetic level.

The ideal – Thai Massage heaven

massage heaven

Way over at the other end of the spectrum there are sessions where you go into a trance, you feel blissed out, and you enter massage heaven. You feel light, clear, peaceful, content, and balanced – like walking on clouds.

You just know and feel deep down that your energy has shifted in a major way, and this effect stays with you for quite some time. There is not even a question in your mind about the therapeutic value of the session.

What’s the road map to better Thai Massage therapy?

massage therapy sign

So how do you get there as a Thai Massage therapist? Should you spend a few thousand dollars on some fancy massage therapy training program in Costa Rica or Timbuktu, or should you learn 150 new techniques?


Or maybe you could study three new modalities, or join a few more associations that pepper you with advice on clinical, medical, and scientific data on how the neutrons, protons, croutons, neuro-popsicles, or the body’s built-in natural heroin lab do-hickie transmitter watchamecallthem affect your clients when you work on them?

Or you might need to brush up on who got kidnapped in the ‘abduction’ of the femur away from the median (also called mid-sagittal) plane.

Or what are the flight details of the transverse ‘plane’ (also known as an axial plane) which divides the body into cranial and caudal portions?

If that does not help enough, you could study the relationship between the intercondylar fossa between the condyles at the distal end of the femur and the intercondylar eminence on the tibial plateau, specifically where the anterior and posterior intercondylar fossa is entangled with the sites of the anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligament attachment. That might do the trick!

An easier and simpler way that will definitely work

massage as a healing art

If all that is not your cup of tea, then allow me to present a much simpler way – well, ten ways actually  – to make Thai Massage more therapeutic.

They are all totally free. Their only cost is an open mind, and the willingness to possibly unlearn some habits that stand in the way of better therapeutic work.

  • 1. Forget about your full body routine, and your sequence of massage techniques, and focus on what your client really wants you to work on instead of doing what you think you should do or what you habitually do.
    Many times the difference between a less therapeutic and a more therapeutic massage is simply that you stay on a particular area much longer and keep working on it until there is a real improvement.
  • 2. Let your intuition guide your hands instead of your brain and your anatomical knowledge. Close your eyes and focus on feeling what is happening under your hands instead of focusing on what you are doing with your hands.
  • 3. Use your hands as listening tools. Instead of doing something to someone, allow information from the body of your client to flow back to you through your hands while you are massaging. This is just a shift in thinking.
  • 4. Shift from being a massage mechanic to becoming a massage artist. Think of yourself as moving energy instead of moving body parts.

    Grow beyond the concept that massage therapy is just a way of manipulating someone’s anatomy and embrace the idea that you are working with someone’s total energy field (including but not limited to their anatomical parts).

  • 5. Use your hands to consciously transmit healing, soothing, loving energy. Mentally focus on sending this energy and verbalize this energy transmission in your mind.
  • 6. Learn some kind of energy work process to develop more sensitivity in your hands (lots of free material online). I personally use simple Qigong techniques.
  • 7. Instead of focusing on your hands while you are massaging, put your attention on your center of energy, the hara. This is the area right behind the naval, your main energy reservoir.

    Feel that your energy originates from there and not from your hands. This will engage your entire energy field in the massage instead of mostly your hands.

  • 8. Be very aware of not working with muscle power more than absolutely necessary. Try using your body weight as much as possible. Develop the feeling of leaning instead of pressing. This will result in a much better feeling for you and your client.
  • 9. Mentally talk to your client’s body. If you work on someone’s shoulder, silently communicate with the shoulder and ask it to relax, to heal, to let go.
  • 10. Visualize relaxation and healing occurring in your client’s body. See the intended outcome of the massage session in your mind. Picture your client as whole, healthy, and radiant.

Naturally, it is essential to have an extensive repertoire of good Thai Massage techniques and some understanding of anatomy and physiology. If you read this article, I am assuming that you have those already. Just don’t stop there.

If you use these 10 suggestions, the quality and therapeutic value of your Thai Massage therapy work will increase dramatically, as will your feeling of self-esteem and your client’s satisfaction.

How to learn more about this

All these methods are free. And if you want to learn more about this in a more profound way, see actual examples, learn specific massage energy techniques, watch it all in action, and learn many more additional ways to improve the quality of your therapy skills, check out Thai Healing Massage Academy’s online training course.

If you are interested in learning the entire Thai Massage system, then check out our in-depth online course. This includes the ‘Magic Touch Secrets’ course.

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The author, Shama Kern, founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy

The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades, and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.

14 thoughts on “Ten Ways To Make Thai Massage More Therapeutic”

  1. Shama, this is probably THE BEST of your massage articles I have read so far!!! …an yes, it makes me laughing :-))))
    Thats very much my experience too!
    As I heard once from Chance Kanfush, long term Pichest student:
    “If you wake up in the morning and you feel no pain in your body, call your clients and cancel all appointments, because you gonna have a great day! But otherwise, be grateful to your clients because thanks to them you will heal yourself!”
    Another example, everybody who experienced small children casual touch or step, knows how enormously healing and yet spontaneous, innocent and not intentional it is. They have no idea of healing, they are just playing… can our work, our technique be like that of children play? If we want too much, if we focus too much on “fixing” the client, and doing him “the right massage technique”, we may end up with our own back pain, shoulder inflammation or frustration and exhaustion.
    Similarly, author of “Myofascial Approach to Thai Massage” Howard Evans stated: “In craniosacral work the aim is to establish a relationship with Breath of Life, expressed as the health at the core of our patients system rather then with their disease
    Many blessings!

    • Thanks for your elaborate comment Alex. Yes, Pichest keeps telling his students that they need to pay attention to ‘feeling’ and not just ‘doing’. And you are right, young children have a touch that has not been conditioned yet by cultural or religious rules, ego influence or hormonal drive – good example.

  2. Hi Shama,

    I very much appreciate the simplicity by which you write. Your ten tips bring greater clarity and joy to my Thai Yoga Massage practice.


  3. Great post, Shama! I will certainly share it. I’m always trying to bring across to my Thai Massage students that even though I am the “King of Techniques” and I love to teach all kinds of cool moves, the most important thing is understanding that the underlying purpose of the whole exercise is to “move energy and help your client to feel better” no matter how technical your knowledge or elaborate your moves may be. Love your analogy about being more like a “massage artist” and less like a “massage mechanic”.
    Be Well,

    • Thanks so much Deon for your facebook post and your endorsement of my courses. I am honored to have the “King’s” approval:)
      I totally agree, having lots of techniques is not only useful, but essential for good Thai Massage. But without “moving energy” they won’t be as effective as they could be. I wrote this post because sometimes I have students who are just pushing for more and more techniques, but they don’t take the energy part seriously. They don’t know what they are missing!

  4. Shama perfect article!:-)) I was laughing (and thinking too) so much… I have had the same way through many, many, many “scientific or holistic or medicinal or…” books and videos and courses and… And after 20 years of some practise (I am not professional) I have now in my sixty the very same opinien as yours 10 suggestions (and it is due seeing your courses and read your advices and articles). Many, many thanks Shama!

    Holy words :-)): If that does not help enough, you could study the relationship between the intercondylar fossa between the condyles at the distal end of the femur and the intercondylar eminence on the tibial plateau, specifically where the anterior and posterior intercondylar fossa …………
    My massage library has now about 150 books and may be 80% of them is on the same level as you wrote 🙂

    • Thanks Jan, I am happy that you can relate to my writing style. I had a lot of fun writing this article, and mixing in a little humor helps me not to take myself and life too seriously. I love to focus in on what to me is the essence of massage. It’s the one part we often don’t hear so much about.

  5. Never really analised my way of working so deep, but reading your article, this is what I do 🙂
    Thank you for describing it.
    I love the ‘massage artist’ by the way!


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