Thai massage may be fairly new to day spas and massage therapy clinics in North America, but the technique was originally developed by Buddhist monks in Thailand more than 2,500 years ago. Created as a healing modality – or healing technique – this massage technique is designed to reduce stress, induce relaxation, increase flexibility, ease the tension in muscles and joints, and balance the energy systems in the human body. Generally, people come away from a Thai massage session feeling physically relaxed and mentally energized.
Unlike the more common Swedish massage, Thai massage is not performed on a table, and you are not required to be nude. Instead, you’ll be asked to bring or wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing (some high-end spas provide this), and you’ll begin your massage lying on your back, on a futon mat, on the floor.
Your massage therapist will begin your Thai massage with gentle stretching and compression techniques to relax your muscles and open up your body. Most of the time, your therapist will begin with your legs. Because of this, many people compare Thai massage to a sort of puppet yoga, where you are the puppet, and the therapist will guide your body into a variety of different positions.
While the fact that Thai massage is done while you’re fully dressed may make it seem like it’s a good kind of massage for people who are uncomfortable with the nudity associated with more Western-style massage techniques, it is actually not recommended for your very first massage. This is because a Thai massage requires the therapist to use her entire body, including her feet, to position your body, which makes it feel much more intimate than a massage that involves you lying on a bed and being draped with sheets.
While there is often a sensual element to Thai massage, it’s important to remember that this technique is rooted in an ages-old spiritual tradition, and is meant to promote physical and emotional healing.