Spirit of Thailand

Spirit of Thailand

Culture, Relationships,
Thai Massage, Traveling

Can Thai Massage Be Painful?

Thai Massage does not have to be painful

There are people out there who subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” theory in regards to Thai Massage. Interestingly enough a lot of the Thai people actually subscribe to that.

Many massage therapists in Thailand have told me that their fellow countrymen often prefer really strong massage even if it is painful, but in contrast the foreigners prefer a gentler and non-painful approach.

However I have also met a good number of Thais who will not get Thai massage because they have heard or experienced that it can be painful, and so they stay away from it.

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Should you Study Thai Massage in Thailand?

image of Thai Massage technique

I live in the center of the universe as far as Thai Massage is concerned – Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are hundreds of Thai Massage shops and schools all over town, and tens of thousands of people come from all over the world to study here.

So the question is: Is Thailand the best place to study Thai Massage? Here are the pros and cons.

Pros of studying in Thailand

Thumbs upSome good reasons to study here is that it is cheaper than in the west. The cost of living is low, the country is beautiful and the people are friendly. If you combine a vacation with the study of Thai massage, you have a really attractive combination.

You easily meet like-minded students and there are many opportunities for networking and making friends. Another advantage is that you can choose from many schools and even study in several of them.

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Yoga Teachers and Thai Massage

Thai Massage stretch

How can yoga teachers benefit from the practice of Thai massage? Here are eight good reasons:

1. Since many Thai massage moves are very similar to yoga postures, it can help students if their yoga teacher can gently loosen them up and maneuver them into a position through the help of Thai massage techniques.

2. Generally in Yoga teacher trainings there is not much focus on the quality of touch. Since yoga teachers often need to touch their students to adjust a posture, it can be helpful to have more knowledge about the quality of touch that is derived from massage training.

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A Collection of Weird Massage Stories

Unexpected massage adventures from around the world
Image credit www.chortle.com

Whenever I travel somewhere in Asia I always try out a local massage for better or for worse. Sometimes it was definitely for the worse, and here are some of my more bizarre experiences.

Bangkok Thai Massage Trauma

typical Thai Massage shop setup

Once I was in the tourist district on Kao San Road in Bangkok and went to a typical Thai massage shop. Many floor mats were lined up in a big room with many sessions going on simultaneously. I was assigned a male therapist.

The first thing he did was turn on a fan that blew cold air on me in a room that was already air conditioned to arctic temperatures. When I told him that the fan made me cold, he insisted that he needed it since he felt hot.

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How to Evaluate a Thai Massage

Thai massage - 1 hr costs about $3.50
Thai massage – 1 hr costs about $3.50

Most people who visit Thailand are impressed by Thai massage because it is so different. Western massage generally does not use much stretching, whereas Thai massage is sometimes called “lazy man’s yoga”.

Some of the positions can be quite challenging, and they are  often similar to yoga positions. There are forward bends, back stretches, spinal twists, traction moves, and leg stretches, all in many variations.

Foot Massage next to sidewalk
Foot Massage next to sidewalk

Massage in Thailand is a very different experience from the west where massage is done behind closed doors in a private room, with clean sheets, soothing music, and a professional and licensed therapist. In Thailand most massage shops look very different. Some are out in the open with just a roof over the area or even on the beach.

In many shops you can see the massage happening through a window while you are walking by on the street. Since Thai massage is done fully dressed, there is nothing revealing to be seen. Massage in Thailand is not a very private affair.

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Is Massage Therapeutic or Relaxing?

Heavenly Head Massage

Thailand is famous for its unique version of bodywork, Thai Massage, which is really a combination of  massage and applied yoga stretches.

There is a lot of information available about the benefits of massage. Nowadays there is plenty of scientific evidence that massage is good for your body. Massage is also good for your mind. It relaxes, de-stresses, and temporarily shuts off  incessant mental chatter. The Thais have been well aware of both of these benefits for more than a thousand years.

I am lucky to live in a place where massage is not a luxury, Chiang Mai, Thailand. At about $5.- an hour there is little reason  not to indulge regularly. My personal measure for good massage is being able to fall asleep during the session.

When I first came to Thailand over 14 years ago, I was fascinated by the Thai Massage system which is practiced everywhere. I fell in love with it and soon it became my new career. Receiving it also became one of my favorite leisure activities which is luckily very easy here.

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What is Thai Massage?

Thai Massage back traction

Thai massage is part of a family of Asian healing arts – Japanese Shiatsu, Chinese Tui Na, Indian Yoga Therapy. They all share common elements which distinguish them from Western Swedish massage.

  • They are performed fully clothed, generally no oil is used. Therefore the technique has to be different from oil massage. Instead of long massaging strokes, pressure is applied by thumbs, hands, knees, forearms, or feet.
  • Asian healing arts all incorporate the principle of  ‘energy’ – “Ki” in Japan, “Lom” in Thailand, “Prana” in India, “Chi” in China. The idea is that the physical manipulation affects a subtle energy flow which in turn aids the healing process. Western massage is more focused on anatomical principles like structure, muscles, and tissue.
  • Asian massage techniques incorporate much more physical manipulation than Western Swedish massage.  There is stretching , bending, twisting, and traction. Thai massage is often quite similar to yoga poses.

The Magic of Touch in Chiang Mai Bus Station

Chiang Mai bus station

 The main bus station in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Does this Thai bus station look like a place where magical events take place? In my case, this is exactly what happened. At least it felt magical to me. There are some events in life which we never forget even though they happened a long time ago. It might have been a little thing, a kind word, a helping hand, a truly happy or beautiful or magical moment. In my case it was a simple heartfelt touch.

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