Lazy to go for a yoga class but need a good stretch? Thai massage is something you may like. They even call it “Thai yoga massage” in the west to attract customers.
In my first class of Thai massage about three years ago, I learnt that it can be considered yoga for lazy people. What the teacher actually meant is that you do not need to put much effort into it, but you get a good stretch just like in yoga.
It is considered that doctor Shivago (as said by some he was the doctor of Buddha) from India was the founder of Thai massage. His statue is worshipped in all Thai massage schools, and flower offering and chantings to doctor Shivako are daily rituals. Later his mastery came to Thailand from India and got mixed with Chinese medicine science of body meridians and reflexology points and turned into what we know now as traditional Thai massage.
In Thai massage the receiver is fully dressed in comfortable clothing (see Thai fisherman pants), and no massage table is needed, so you can give it almost anywhere. However, the ethics of Thai massage ask the giver not to do it in public, as it will distract both the giver and the receiver and will disrespect the ancient knowledge. That is why Thai massage is normally received at a hospital or a Thai massage shop.
The giver uses his/her fingers, thumbs, palms, elbows, knees, and feet to give the massage. To lessen the effort and increase the effect, the giver uses his/her bodyweight when giving the massage, no matter what part of the body is involved. If the giver is professional, the massage goes smoothly and there is hardly any pain during the procedure. If your Thai massage is very painful and your giver keeps sliding off the muscles onto the bones, you should immediately leave and never come back.
Thai massage can be for relaxation and therapeutic. Make sure you know exactly what you want before you get one and look for a professional if you want to get a therapeutic massage. Most of them know different points that can help you relieve pain in your back, shoulders, knees and relieve your headache too.
There are many lines that a therapist follows (such as inner 3 lines on the leg and outer three lines on the leg, etc), and many points that can be very good for pain relief and relaxation. If you press all these points on the foot of your friend or partner, they will melt with relaxation. Just make sure you know how to press and are not hurting yourself.
Where can you get a good Thai massage? That’s a good question. In Thailand, anyone can open a massage shop, and therefore no one can guarantee you will get a good massage anywhere. Some people did not even studied to give it.
If you do find a good place and have a chance to go back there, try to make your visits more regular, to increase the efficiency.
From my personal experience, I can recommend some places
- in Bangkok – Thai massage at Wat Po temple(go directly to the temple); the pier near Wat Po has a shop where doctor Da is very experienced; Gold Hands Thai massage near National stadium has good professionals, I go there for foot massage)
- in Chiang Mai (Lars is said to be one of the best; in general it is good to get a massage near a massage school such as Old Medicine hospital offers affordable good massage and herbal spa; Spa Mantra owned by ITM massage school is nice, but a little more pricey; Lila Thai massage is a big chain which employs ex prisoners, but there it really depends on the person who will massage you, so try your luck.
In Bangkok you will get Wat Po style which is more dynamic and stronger, and in the north you will get northern Lanna style, which is softer.
Study Thai massage?
You can study in Bangkok at Wat Po (beware of fake Wat Po schools and make sure you go to the real one), and in Chiang Mai at ITM massage school, Old Medicine hospital, Sunshine massage school for a more western approach. If you really want to learn and practice, not just the basics, it is better to find a private teacher, some of them are much better than massage schools and have individual approach.
Check out my video about studying foot massage at Old Medicine hospital