Thai Massage training is all about stretching, right? Not so! The stretches look fascinating, and they are a unique and highly developed element in ‘Thai Yoga Massage’. However, there is a lot more than stretching to this healing art.
A session which consists mostly of stretching is more like an applied yoga session or an exercise routine. For some people this might be just what they want, and for others this is simply too much.
Thai Massage for everyone
Luckily there are other elements in Thai Massage to accommodate every kind of person, and every degree of intensity. In the hands of an expert practitioner, a session can be gentle or strong, faster or slower, challenging or relaxing, intense or trance-inducing.
Thai Massage can literally be done an ANY kind of person regardless of age or degree of flexibility, provided the therapist has learned more than a one-size-fits-all sequence. This is unfortunately often the case during short training courses.
For a good, flowing, and effective session, all four elements have to be combined. Let’s analyze these elements:
Thai Massage element #1 – massage
It is called Thai ‘Massage’, after all. However in contrast to Swedish/oil massage, stroking or gliding movements are not used since the client is fully dressed and no oil is used. This changes the nature of the massage element in Thai Massage.
Instead, therapists have many techniques at their disposal like compression, leaning, rolling, rocking, squeezing and circling.
Thai Massage element #2 – energy line work
Or sen line work, as it is called in Thailand. This is much less esoteric than it sounds. Unlike Reiki, for example, which uses only the energy element, Thai Massage uses actual physical massage movements which are done along those energy lines.
To the untrained eye, it all looks like massage, however the physical massage techniques follow the path of the sen lines. This is quite different from the western model where the therapist works on anatomical components like muscles, ligaments, and joints.
In the western model, the focus is on the anatomy, whereas in the eastern model the focus is on improving energy flow in the sen lines. This is a fundamentally different concept.
Thai Massage element #3 – stretching
This is what this system is famous for and where the name Thai Yoga Massage is derived from. The stretches are clearly related to yoga asanas. This is not surprising since this healing art has its roots in India’s yoga system.
The fallacy is to think that Thai Massage is mostly a system of stretches. This is not correct. The stretches are just one part of the entire system.
Although typically sessions include many stretches, the fact is that a session can also be done with very few or hardly any stretches.
Thai Massage element #4 – the real art of it
The fourth element is what ties the other three together and makes them work harmoniously: sensitivity, feeling, and intuition. This is very important for learning Thai Massage correctly.
For example, the sen lines are not just a mechanical technique. They need to be felt and sensed in order to be effective.
Or take the elbow or knee work of Thai Massage. Imagine a practitioner sticking an elbow in your back without sensitivity or feeling. This can get painful or even brutal pretty fast, and that’s why this modality sometimes has the reputation of being a painful system.
Therefore feeling and sensitivity is absolutely essential for both stretching and sen line work as well as for all the massage techniques.
You might say that this is necessary for all massage systems, and this is correct.
However it is even more important for Thai Massage since it deals directly with energy lines, it uses often massive stretching techniques, and it uses elbows, knees, and feet.
Therefore the risk of overstretching or using too much pressure is greater than in most Western modalities.
Feeling, sensitivity and intuition are the elements which connect the first three elements in a harmonious way. They create a flowing and artistic way which combines massage moves, energy line work and stretches into a beautiful and highly effective healing arts system.
How to learn Thai Massage
If you want to learn all these four elements, you can receive advanced training through Thai Healing Massage Academy’s online courses, including certification options and CEUs.
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades.