Thai massage

In the Byron Bay area there are many people who area attracted to Asian therapeutic modalities including Thai massage and Thai Yoga massage along with the many Ayurvedic modalities. Following are reviews from two Thai massage sessions I was lucky enough to receive.

Session 1

It began unusually with a request from the practitioner to put on a pair of freshly laundered Thai fisherman’s pants and a t-shirt that she gave me for the session. Her session room has a really big mattress on the floor which is where the massage occurs.

What followed was an extremely thorough stretch, massage and workout, where the practitioner kneeded twisted and persuaded my joints to release and open and relax.

In some ways Thai massage is similar to Ayurvedic bodywork with its integration of deep stretching, the use of the feet to deepen massage strokes, various twists and stretching of joints as well as, peculiar to Thai massage, meridian stretches.

The practitioner knew the language of Oriental healing, and has a very good understanding of oriental bodywork theory.

With modalities like this there is a certain formula the session follows, which means it moves along quite smoothly, although if there are areas that need particular attention that too is possible.

At first she had me on my back, while she worked solidly on my feet and legs, then on my stomach, then on each side as she stretched and pulled, every now and again using a stretch/hold that I have not felt before, stretching joints in new ways which always feels odd at first before the body relaxes and  allows.

Thai massage is really good for those like me who don’t get around to doing yoga, as it is like yoga being done to you.

As the practitioner said, ‘It is yoga for lazy people.’

Being stretched, quite deeply, with accompanying bodywork like deep strokes or strong pressure point work, is really good, ideal actually.

It is amazing how practitioners know exactly what kind of stretch to apply, and then what spot to go into deeply to create some release.

This is a great massage modality for those who like action, who want to get a good workout and who like to ‘get in there’.

The practitioner was really thorough with the session going for almost 2 hours. I was left feeling really energised at the end, with quite a bounce in my step as I walked out.

Often with bodywork you can feel spaced out, super relaxed and reluctant to re-enter the world again, but after this session I felt very clear and solid.

Session 2

After the usual questions I lay on the mattress (like Ayurvedic massage it is done best on the floor rather than on a table) and the session began.

Thai Yoga massage has its roots in Ayurvedic massage inasmuch as there are a lot of stretches as well as deep strokes. The therapist told me there are 160 possible stretches that can be done, though as that would take about 3 hours she did not do that many.

It differs from Ayurvedic massage as underpinning the work is the Oriental meridian system of energy work. It differs from Shiatsu as there is more attention to working along meridians rather than a particular point.

She also used her feet to deepen some strokes and stretches, and this I really liked as it allowed depth without localised pressure, and also allowed a deeper relaxation.

Sometimes she would be pulling on a leg and with her foot opening and relaxing the hamstrings at the same time.

We began on my back, then progressed onto the side, where we did all kinds of weird and wonderful stretch positions, some making me feel tied up in knots till she applied the stretch and parts of my shoulders were stretched and opened like they almost didn’t know how.

That was great. I am either too lazy or too busy to stretch much, and so enjoyed what was really like yoga being done to me. Some of the stretches are pretty ‘out there’.

When I lay on my belly she used her body weight to make an impression around the neck and shoulders, kneeling or standing, working with her elbows, knees and forearms, whatever it took.

Like Shiatsu, there is the feeling of getting your body tuned, of receiving a treatment, rather than a luxurious massage, and so after I felt quite energised and clear.

The practitioner said that she also does ailment-specific treatments and seems to know what she was talking about.

The therapist has obviously been working for a long time and with many people as she is very competent and gentle in her approach, and in the way she takes care of herself with techniques which minimise her work rate while maximising effectiveness.

Written by Mark O’Brien for the “Session of the Month’, Here & Now magazine 1999-2005

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