Thai Massage on the floor or table?
Most western massage styles are done on a massage table whereas Thai Massage is traditionally done on a floor mat.
Although it can be done on a table as well, working on the floor provides better leverage, more power, and better ergonomics for the therapist.
Choosing the right mat
Most western therapists have little or no experience with working on the floor, and when they start to learn Thai Massage, they don’t know what kind of mat would work best for their practice.
The right mat is quite important since it can make the difference between feeling comfortable during your sessions and not feeling at ease, or even inconvenienced.
This video demonstrates what I consider the ideal setup for Thai Massage work. It shows what I use in my own practice.
This video is part of Thai Healing Massage Academy’s “Thai Massage Tips And Tricks” video series. If you want to watch all the other videos in the series, you can find them here:
The ‘Thai Massage Tips And Tricks’ Video Series
For Thai Massage it is a big advantage if you create a working environment which is much more spacious than a massage table, and which allows you to move around the client freely. This can be done with a floor mat.
There are different options depending on how much money you want to invest, how much space you have in your work room, and if you want a portable or stationary setup.
The size of the Thai Massage mat
Ideally the mat should be as wide as it is long. Then you can freely move around the client without ever getting off the mat.
It doesn’t have to be one mat. You can place two narrower mats next to each other and connect them with velcro or put them on a slip resistant surface.
Another option is to use one mat which is not so wide, and then use a couple of small cushions next to it on which you can position yourself when working on the client.
The consistency of the mat
A Thai Massage mat should not be very soft because if you kneel on it, you will sink into or through the mat.
If there is a hard floor underneath – like a tile or wood floor – then you will hurt your knee. And if you stand on the mat, it will feel wobbly and it will be difficult keep your balance.
So the mat should be fairly firm, but not so hard that it is not comfortable for the client anymore.
The thickness of the Thai Massage mat
The mat should not be very thick because then you have a step up between the floor and the mat. This is less comfortable for you since now you have to deal with two levels when moving around the client.
You want to have the mat just a little bit higher than the floor. In other words, the mat should be as thin as possible, but not so thin that it doesn’t provide a comfortable support for the client. For example, a yoga mat is much too thin.
A good thickness is about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) maximum. This is especially important if the mat is not wide enough for the therapist to stay on it the entire time.
If the mat is large, the therapist can stay on it, and then it doesn’t matter if the mat is thicker.
Client comfort and support
There are many techniques in Thai Massage where the client’s arms and legs extend outwards. If the mat is not wide enough, then the client’s arms or legs are on the floor and will need to be supported with an extra cushion.
If you have a hard tile or wood floor, then this is an issue. If you are working on a soft carpeted floor, then this is not such a big issue.
The ideal solution is clearly a wide mat which will support the client’s body in all positions and techniques and which is most convenient for the therapist as well.
Also a wide mat allows you to move the client from one position into another, like from supine into prone or the side position and back again.
This cannot be done on a narrow mat and you will have to ask the clients to reposition themselves. This is of course possible, but it is not as elegant and convenient as when you can do it yourself without the client having to make any effort.
Summary of ideal Thai Massage mat elements
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The author, Shama Kern, has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for two decades. He is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.