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.
What is special about sleeping during a massage?
In my many years as a massage therapist, I have seen a lot of people fall asleep during my sessions. It became very clear to me that this was not normal sleep, but another, much deeper state. Image you are sleeping in your bed at home and someone starts to rub you, move you around, and squeeze your muscles. You would instantly wake up.
So how is it that during a massage with all this physical activity going on, people “fall asleep”? Normal sleep can be restless with difficulty falling asleep, tossing, turning, dreaming. The “massage sleep” state comes closer to a deep meditation or trance state where brain wave activity slows down so much that there are no dreams and little or no external awareness.
Often when massage clients wake up, this blissful state stays with them for quite a while. It can temporarily change someone’s outlook from negative to positive, from depressed to happy, from stressed out to peaceful.
Is therapeutic massage different from relaxing massage?
Sometimes I am asked if massage sessions are therapeutic or “just” relaxing. There really is no such difference. The body can best heal itself when it is in the most relaxed state, when mental chatter and stress do not interfere, when muscles do not tense up in response to mental or external activity.
Why do babies and drunks don’t get hurt easily when they fall down? Babies are naturally relaxed, and drunks temporarily lose their stress, tensions, inhibitions and habitual muscle tension. An Oak tree will break easier in a storm than a willow tree because the willow is more flexible and bends easily. Obviously in the case of the drunk, the negative effects outweigh the benefit of relaxed muscles.
The therapeutic and healing nature of relaxation
The deeper the relaxation of body and mind, the easier it is for the body to heal itself. Therefore any massage that relaxes you, is therapeutic and healing. A therapeutic massage which is done without the “magic touch” of a skilled and gifted therapist can be neither relaxing nor therapeutic, and a simple head rub that puts you into a trance state can be supremely healing.
How much training does it take to put someone into such a trance state? Training can certainly enhance our touching skills greatly, but some of the best massages I have received were loving touches or stroking by a friend or lover who was not trained as a massage therapist at all, but had great energy, pure loving intentions, and a natural healing touch.
Loving touch is a natural ability that we all have. Who does not know how to lovingly touch and hold a baby? Who does not know how to rub your lover’s head? There is a natural “therapist” hidden in you too, you are more gifted than you know.
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