You might have heard that yoga and Thai massage are closely linked. You might even have heard the term “Thai yoga massage”. But what exactly does this mean? Let’s take a look at what yoga has to do with Thai massage.
What’s in a name?
Thai massage has many different names, including:
- Thai massage
- Traditional Thai massage
- Thai yoga massage
Some people see traditional Thai massage and Thai yoga massage as two related but distinct types of massage. Yet, many others – including myself – see them simply as different names for the exact same thing.
In my experience, Thai people don’t generally refer to Thai yoga massage, but simply Thai massage or traditional Thai massage. Personally, I see the term “Thai yoga massage” as a Westernised version of the name, perhaps to encourage its popularity, seeing as yoga is so fashionable in the West these days!
So where does yoga come into it?
However you refer to Thai massage, one thing remains clear – it definitely has an element of yoga within it. In fact, it’s also been referred to as “lazy man’s yoga” and many have reported that it’s like “having yoga done to you”.
The way I see it, there are 3 ways in which yoga plays a key part of Thai massage:
1. Postures (or asana)
Thai massage uses a combination of acupressure and assisted bodily manipulations to relieve tension, relax the muscles and open the joints. It’s these bodily manipulations that are similar to yoga asana and said to be like “having yoga done to you”.
The therapist will skillfully move your limbs and apply pressure in the right places to stretch your body, in a very similar way to yoga. But because someone else is moving you, you’re able to go deeper than you’d be able to alone – just like being adjusted in a yoga class if you’ve ever experienced this.
You’re able to remain passive and relaxed whilst the therapist moves and stretches your body for you – which feels so good! And it’s not only you who benefits. Your therapist will be getting into some yogic-like positions too, and moving in a way that protects and stretches their body at the same time.
In yoga, breathing is an essential part of your practice. It’s important to connect your breath to your movements so that you’re not forcing or straining your body, but simply allowing your movements to follow your breath in a natural, intuitive way.
It’s the same in Thai massage. Most of the stretching movements will follow the natural rhythm of your breath and the therapist will at times ask you to either inhale or exhale as they move you. This allows for a deeper, more comfortable stretch.
3. Coming back into balance
Yoga is all about union. The union of mind, body and soul. Or of mind, body and breath. It’s about getting to know yourself better and understand your true essence. Whatever’s going on in your life and in your mind nearly always shows up on your yoga mat – it’s unavoidable!
I believe the practice of Thai massage includes these same elements. During a treatment you’re able to take time out just for you, to go into your own world and see what’s really going on. As blockages are being released from your physical body, you can also focus on releasing mental and emotional blockages from your mind.
Regular Thai massage can help you unwind, let go and bring your whole being back into balance.
Do you need experience of yoga to have a Thai massage?
No, absolutely not. This reminds me of when people say “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”. This is a contradiction in terms! It’s practising yoga that will help you become more flexible. Most experienced yoga practitioners I know were nowhere near as flexible when they first started practising.
It’s the same with Thai massage. You start from where you are right now. Most Thai massage therapists are used to dealing with a wide variety of people and body types. No two people are the same. We adapt each massage, applying just the right amount of pressure and stretching to suit your individual body. There are no expectations and nothing to get right or wrong. Just like yoga, regular Thai massage can help you become more flexible.
If you’d like to try “lazy man’s yoga” and feel what it’s like to be moved, stretched and massaged whilst experiencing a deeply relaxing and nurturing state, contact me to book a Thai massage in Brighton.
Hannah Moss is a Thai Massage Therapist based in Brighton. She left her corporate office job to travel to India and Thailand to study and follow her passions in yoga and Thai Massage. Hannah finds giving massages a truly rewarding experience and strongly resonates with the sentiment that “Thai massage is the art of giving from two hands and the heart”. To read more about Hannah click here
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