Most people think of painful, deep pressure and extreme stretching when they think of Thai massage. But is that really what its meant to be?
I'm currently in Thailand doing a Traditional Thai Massage course, and I want to share some of what I've learnt with you!
My teacher, Achang Rin, says there are two main traditional styles of Thai Massage: Royal Style and General Style.
Royal Style is what I'll be learning this week. Its the relaxing full body sequence designed with the King (or person of importance!) in mind. Its less intense, and more "polite" - meaning the therapist doesn't get too up close and personal with the client. This style works well for people who don't have a highly physically demanding lifestyle, who need to relax and be gently stretched. Royal Style uses thumb and palm pressure, and gentle stretches.
General Style becomes a bit stronger, because its designed for the every day worker, traditionally people like farmers, builders, and other people with heavy labour-intensive jobs. General Style can also feel a bit more "in your face" - this is where the treatment can start using elbows, knees, feet, and strong stretches. The therapist might even use their body weight, so it can be common for them to climb on top of the client!
A thai massage can take anywhere from 90-120 minutes, and covers the whole body. The client starts off laying on their back, then moves to each side, then laying on their front, and finishes in a seated position.
I asked Achang Rin if Traditional Thai Massage is really supposed to hurt?
She told me no, the purpose of the massage isn't to inflict pain!
Why does Thai Massage have a reputation for being a really painful style?
Achang Rin explained that in Thailand, many therapists don't complete official massage training. Many of the salons offering massage in Thailand have an in-house training program, where therapists get taught the techniques by one of the other practitioners. She said that often the line of people being trained by untrained people can be quite long, so what is being offered as "Traditional Thai Massage" is really a chinese-whispers version of a Thai Massage.
Combine that with the expectations from tourists that the massage will be fairly intense as well as the people who specifically ask for it to be super firm, and the end result can become very different from the treatment you'd get from a properly qualified Thai Massage Therapist.
Traditional Thai Massage is done on a floor mat, so while we won't be offering Thai Style treatment in our Ferntree Gully clinic, there are some stretches and techniques that we can adapt to suit a treatment being done on a massage table.
I'll be back from Thailand and back in the clinic from June 24, book a time to come and see me and we'll see if any of these Thai Massage skills can be modified and used in your treatment!
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully. She has a special interest in chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, and more.