How is a professional Thai Massage supposed to feel? Is it a feel-good sensation? Is it a blissful feeling? Is it a clinical experience? Is it a healing experience? Is it a relaxing feeling? Is it an invigorating sensation? Can it be painful? Is it a sensual feeling?
Let’s look at all of these in more detail:
1. Is Thai Massage a feel-good sensation?
Does a session always feel good? That depends on the therapist. Some of them work with the no-pain-no-gain motto, and some clients subscribe to this as well.
Some therapists work in a mechanical way, only executing fixed sequences without regard to the client’s needs, body type, or energetic patterns. That typically does not feel very good.
Based on my experience of practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades, my position is that it should mostly feel good and relaxing.
Pain stimulates resistance in the body and can lead to muscles tightening up instead of relaxing. A relaxed state is always ideal for a healing response.
Certainly, tight muscles can evoke some pain. But this should be a good pain, i.e. releasing pain, and not a pain that feels sharp and damaging.
The conclusion is that Thai Massage should feel good. If you are receiving a session that does not feel good, then you should probably look for another therapist.
2. Can Thai Massage generate a blissful feeling?
Yes, it can. From my personal experience, I have often felt like I was walking on clouds after a good session. My whole body felt renewed and refreshed, and my mind was peaceful, balanced, and content.
This blissful feeling is most likely to happen if the therapist is excellent, intuitive, tuned in energetically, and if the client is able and willing to relax and let go.
3. Can Thai Massage be a clinical experience?
It should not feel clinical. It should be a holistic, energy-based experience. It should ideally be done by a sensitive and intuitive therapist who is able to listen with their hands instead of just doing something with them.
A clinical experience leaves out the soul of Thai Massage. It lacks the essence and the beauty of it.
Of course, the therapist should be technically competent. But there is more to it than technical skills.
There is creativity, empathy, good communication skills, intuitive skills, presence, and therapeutic skills. Without those, it might be clinically good, but it will bypass all the other essential elements.
4. Is Thai Massage a healing experience?
By its very nature and history, this healing art is meant to help improve conditions in the body. It is part of Thailand’s system of natural healing, and it has been used as a therapy for many hundreds of years.
To this day, countless Thais seek help from therapists to address their health issues. Done right, Thai Massage will result in healing experiences, improvement of health challenges, a balanced energy system, and maintenance of good health.
5. Is Thai Massage a relaxing experience?
It certainly should be. However often it is not. Why is that?
This system of bodywork uses a lot of stretching techniques. If therapists are inexperienced, lack sensitivity, believe in the no-pain-no-gain concept, work mechanically, or – in some cases – are even brutal, then their work will not feel relaxing.
In contrast, experienced, sensitive, intuitive therapists can put you into a trance with their work.
Here is another aspect that ties into the ‘relaxing massage’. Often it is assumed that ‘relaxation’ and ‘therapy’ do not go together. This is totally not true.
For healing purposes, the ideal state of body and mind is one of maximum relaxation. We know that most of the healing in the body takes place during sleep – a state of total relaxation.
Massage for relaxation and massage for therapy are not opposites, but perfect companions. In fact, they cannot be separated at all. Therefore Thai Massage should be as relaxing as possible.
6. Is Thai Massage an invigorating sensation?
Yes, it can be invigorating. The reason is that the many stretches activate the body in ways that can be new and refreshing. The body opens up in ways that it is not used to. It can move better, and energy flows better throughout the body.
All this can result in a feeling of invigoration, freshness, renewed energy, and more mobility.
7. Can Thai Massage be a painful experience?
Unfortunately, this can sometimes be the case. However this is not because the actual system is designed to be painful, but because the therapist is insensitive. The many stretches in this system can easily be overdone if the therapist works mechanically and without sensitivity.
That’s why it is so important that students, when learning Thai Massage, are taught more than just the mechanical elements of the techniques.
If they also learn to develop their sense of touch, creativity, intuition, and good communication skills, their session will not be painful, but relaxing, beneficial, blissful, and therapeutically effective.
It is a myth that Thai Massage is painful by nature. There are only therapists working in painful ways – and this is neither necessary nor desirable.
8. Can Thai Massage be a sensual feeling?
This is the ‘hot potato’ of them all. However, a discussion of this topic can uncover a thought-provoking idea and lead us to become better therapists.
It all depends on how the word ‘sensual’ is interpreted. It is a controversial word. The dictionary definition of ‘sensual’ can either refer to something that is ‘pleasing to the senses’, which Thai Massage certainly is.
But it can also refer to sensuality as in sexuality, and this is definitely not part of professional Thai Massage.
By its most literal definition, massage is a sensual experience. It is perceived and enjoyed through our senses. It makes you feel great, relaxed, peaceful, blissful. It is meant to be pleasing to the senses.
However, because of the close association of this word with sexuality, no professional therapist wants to have this word associated with what they are doing. Therefore the term ‘sensual’ should not be applied to professional Thai Massage.
Similarly, no professional therapist wants to be called a ‘masseuse’. It doesn’t sound professional, and it is open to other interpretations.
However, let’s dig a little deeper into this subject…
What Thai Massage clients want and what therapists project
Most of our clients do want to experience the enjoyment of a wonderful human touch. After all, how many massage clients have the intention of NOT feeling great in their session?
So how do we reconcile the client’s desire to feel good with the therapist’s desire to not come across as ‘sensual’?
Do we, as Thai Massage therapists, intentionally provide a wonderful, pleasing experience to our clients, or do we withhold it because we are worried that our intentions might be misinterpreted?
Should we block our flow of loving, healing energy along with our wonderful touch just to make sure that everyone understands how ‘professional’ we are?
Is professionalism compatible with loving, healing intentions and a great touch?
There can be a tendency among therapists to lean towards the clinical, mechanical side just to avoid any possibility of misinterpretation.
To illustrate this, let’s look at some real-life examples.
The story of an overly clinical massage
Once I was in the famous Gellert spa in Budapest, Hungary. I signed up for a massage, and for one hour a big and strong masseur went about pummeling me, slapping me, yanking me, and brushing me. That’s really how it felt to me.
It was not a pleasant experience at all. It felt more rough or even more brutal than pleasant. I’d say it was as far from sensual as you can get in a massage session.
I tried to convince myself that it had to be therapeutic somehow. I figured there must be something good about it since the Gellert is a world-famous spa. But certainly, I wouldn’t sign up for another session there.
The story of a heavenly massage
When I went back home, I booked a massage with a long-term friend of mine. She has a peaceful and beautifully decorated treatment room.
Aroma oils are being diffused, candles are burning, soothing music is playing, and she has an absolutely wonderful touch.
It is an environment that is highly appealing to all the senses. Personally, I would choose this type of setting over the Gellert any time.
She went to great lengths to provide an environment that is pleasing to the senses. And she is highly professional and always booked. People love her and her massage.
Anyone who was ever touched by her will always remember her beautiful, loving, and totally professional touch.
She has a wonderful reputation – not just because of her skills, but because of the pleasing environment which she created.
She made sure her clients had an enjoyable experience through all of their five senses:
- Her heavenly massage touch
- The aromatic smells of incense and essential oils
- The soothing sounds of the music
- The sight of the beautiful decorations in the room
- The taste of the herbal teas she provided after the session
In my mind, it was a wonderful sensual experience without being sexual in any way. It was like the ultimate experience for my senses in an energetically pure and totally professional way.
In contrast, all I remember about the Gellert therapist is that he was big and strong, and that I was glad when the massage was over.
I told myself that it must have been good for me, but in the case of my therapist friend, I did not need to convince myself.
Living your truth as a Thai Massage therapist
As far as I am concerned, I have decided to live up to my truth in my professional practice.
I love to receive massage that feels heavenly, wonderful, blissful, and that is professional at the same time.
My clients love this kind of experience as well. There is no contradiction here.
When Thai Massage therapists have clean energy without any sense of fear of being misunderstood, then in my experience it will never be an issue for the client either.
Denying that massage is pleasing to the senses, or insisting on a purely ‘clinical’ massage, eliminates the main reason why most people want to get a massage session – they want to FEEL better.
They don’t just want their dopamine levels adjusted or their circulation improved, or their lymph nodes flushed, although these are benefits as well, of course.
But they are not the primary reasons why most people treat themselves to a massage session.
And even if someone wants a Thai Massage primarily for therapeutic reasons, this doesn’t mean that it cannot or should not feel enjoyable as well.
Spas are designed as environments that are pleasing to the senses
Why do spas play soothing music, put flowers in the room, decorate the rooms tastefully, and use aroma oil diffusers?
Because all of these are sensory experiences. They appeal to the senses – to our senses of sight, smell, sound, and touch. They add to a wonderful massage experience that can be professional, therapeutic, and pleasing at the same time.
There is no conflict here. Our clients trust us when we are clear, confident, transparent, and have clean energy.
Therapists who are afraid of misconceptions are more likely to encounter clients who actually have those since this is part of their energy and that’s what they send out to their clients.
We should not allow fear of being misunderstood to limit us from providing the best, most pleasing, most loving, most healing, and most effective Thai Massage sessions to our clients.
How can you learn more about this?
At Thai Healing Massage Academy we teach professional Thai Massage online training courses which cover many therapeutic applications.
And we recognize that a supportive healing environment is best created if the client is relaxed, feels good, and enjoys the session.
In the hands of the right therapist, it can be a beautiful and highly effective healing art. If you are interested in learning Thai Massage, check out our extensive online training library:
Visit Thai Healing Massage Academy’s online training library with 20 Thai Massage courses for all your training needs and all levels of skills.
The author, Shama Kern, has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades. He is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses.