Keep reading and learn more about the bodywork that originated in Thailand and is known by many names including Thai Massage, Thai Yoga Therapy, and Nuad Boran.
As a qualified and experienced Thai Yoga Massage therapist, this article will guide you to understand more about this amazing type of bodywork.
What is Thai Massage?
Thai Massage is a healing practice that traces its roots back to ancient Thailand. It encompasses a range of techniques and styles, each with its own unique approach and emphasis.
This type of massage, also known as Nuad Bo Rarn, focuses on acupressure points and energy lines, combining deep tissue manipulation with passive stretching.
There are few different styles, namely southern and royal, each with its own techniques and benefits, keep reading to know more.
The Shiatsu Guy recommends:I see Thai Massage as the cousin of Shiatsu.
It’s like two countries developed a similar kind of massage, but the differences in the cultures really come into focus here.
Thai Massage is more flowing, and Shiatsu is a little more structured…
If you’ve ever visited Thailand and Japan you’ll know exactly what I mean!
What are the different styles of Thai Massage?
Understanding the differences between the various styles of Thai Massage is important for anyone interested in experiencing the benefits of this bodywork, as each style offers unique techniques, characteristics, and intended outcomes. Here we show you the styles and their unique characteristics.
How are Royal and Southern Thai Massage different?
This table summarizes the distinct techniques, characteristics, tools used, and focus of each style, highlighting their differences in approach and intended outcomes.
|Royal Thai Massage (Nuad Boran Lanna)
|Slow and deliberate movements, acupressure, stretching
|Emphasis on luxury, refinement, overall wellness, and relaxation
|Raised platform or low table, herbal compresses, wooden sticks
|Promoting overall wellness and relaxation
|Southern Thai Massage (Nuad Chaleisak)
|Faster and more vigorous movements, deep tissue work, stretching
|Focus on practicality, utilitarian approach, traditional healing practices
|Mat on the floor, hot stones, oil
|Treating specific ailments, relieving pain and tension
How are Thai Massage and Thai Yoga Massage different?
Thai Massage (TM) and Thai Yoga Massage are two distinct forms of bodywork that originated in Thailand and are often confused with each other. While both share some similarities in terms of techniques and principles, they differ significantly in terms of their overall approach and intended outcomes.
|Thai Massage (Nuat Phaen Boran)
|Deep tissue work, assisted stretching, acupressure
|Release tension, promote relaxation, target energy lines
|Hands, feet, elbows, knees
|Relief from stress, muscle tension, pain. Improve flexibility and mobility
|Thai Yoga Massage
|Assisted yoga stretches, acupressure, rhythmic breathing
|Balance energy flow, promote well-being, spiritual experience
|Hands, feet, body weight
|Spiritual and meditative experience, overall physical and emotional health improvement
How is Thai Yoga Massage Performed?
Unlike traditional Western-style massage, which is typically performed on a massage table, Thai Yoga Massage is usually done on a padded mat on the floor. The recipient remains fully clothed throughout the session, which allows for a greater range of movement and flexibility.
During a session, the practitioner uses their hands, feet, elbows, and knees to apply pressure to specific points along the body’s energy lines, or “Sen” lines. These points are similar to acupressure points in Chinese medicine and are believed to correspond to different organs and systems in the body.
In addition to acupressure, Thai Yoga Massage also incorporates passive yoga-like stretching and movements. The practitioner gently moves and stretches the recipient’s body into different positions, which helps to release tension, increase flexibility, and promote overall relaxation.
What are the benefits of Thai Massage?
It has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including improved circulation, reduced muscle tension and pain, increased flexibility and range of motion, improved digestion and elimination, reduced stress and anxiety, and many more. Let’s dive through some of these benefits one by one.
Reduced muscle tension and pain
A session can help release tension and stiffness in the muscles, reducing pain and discomfort.
Increased flexibility and range of motion
The stretching and movement involved in Thai Yoga Massage can help improve flexibility and range of motion in the body.
This systematic review found that Traditional Thai massage (TTM) is effective in reducing pain intensity and improving outcomes such as disability, perceived muscle tension, flexibility, and anxiety in individuals with chronic pain, with the benefits lasting for up to 15 weeks.
Relief from Headaches and Migraine
The efficacy of Thai massage in providing relief for individuals with chronic tension headaches has been supported by research findings, while separate studies have demonstrated its potential in alleviating migraine symptoms.
This form of bodywork can help stimulate blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which can promote healing and detoxification.
In a study involving people with peripheral neuropathy, a complication commonly seen in diabetes, researchers investigated the effects of Thai foot massage. The results showed that this specific massage technique improved the participants’ balance.
The researchers believe that the improvement in balance may be due to the increased blood circulation, which in turn stimulates the somatosensory system. This system plays an important role in maintaining balance.
Reduced stress and anxiety
Regular treatments can be deeply relaxing and can help reduce stress and anxiety levels.
This comparative study found that a single treatment of Thai massage (TM) is equally effective as Swedish massage (SM) in improving general physiological and psychological outcomes, including resting heart rate, range of motion, mood, and anxiety levels.
This study suggests that traditional TTM can effectively reduce psychological stress, as evidenced by decreased salivary alpha-amylase levels, increased parasympathetic activity, decreased sympathetic activity, and decreased plasma renin activity, highlighting its potential benefits in stress reduction.
Improved digestion and elimination
Thai Massage can help stimulate the digestive system and promote healthy elimination.
This randomized controlled trial indicated that Thai traditional abdominal massage may serve as an alternative treatment for constipation within the realm of public health.
Enhanced energy levels
This form of bodywork is believed to balance the body’s energy systems, or “Sen” lines, which can help improve energy levels and overall well-being.
Recent research shows that Thai massage increases physical energy and mental stimulation, while Swedish massage enhances relaxation and sleep. These findings highlight the unique benefits of this massage as a revitalizing therapy option.
Thai Yoga Massage can promote relaxation and a sense of calm, which can improve the quality of sleep.
This study suggests that TTM can effectively improve sleep quality without any adverse effects. Given its safety and comfort, TTM could be considered as an alternative therapy for individuals with sleep problems.
Improved mental clarity
Regular treatments can help promote mental clarity and focus by reducing stress and tension in the body and mind.
How is Thai Massage Different from Regular Massage?
Thai Massage differs from regular massages in several ways. Here are some of the main differences:
- Technique – TM uses a combination of acupressure, stretching, and deep massage techniques. The practitioner uses their hands, feet, knees, and elbows to apply pressure to specific points along the body’s energy lines, while Thai Yoga Massage also incorporates yoga-like stretches and movements.
- Clothing – During a treatment, the recipient remains fully clothed and usually wears loose, comfortable clothing that allows for a full range of movement. This is different from most traditional massages, where the recipient is typically undressed and covered with a sheet or blanket.
- Location – It’s often performed on a padded mat on the floor, rather than on a massage table, but sometimes on a raised platform. This allows for greater movement and flexibility during the session.
- Goal – While both regular massages and TM aim to promote relaxation and relieve muscle tension, TM also aims to balance the body’s energy systems, or “Sen” lines. It is believed that by releasing blockages in these lines, the body can achieve a greater sense of balance and well-being.
- Duration – Sessions tend to be longer than traditional massages, typically lasting 1-2 hours. This allows the practitioner to work on different areas of the body and incorporate a variety of techniques.
Thai Yoga Massage Techniques You Can Do at Home
While it’s best to receive Thai Yoga Massage from a qualified practitioner, there are some techniques you can try at home to relieve tension and promote relaxation. Here are a few simple techniques:
Seated forward bend – Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Inhale, and as you exhale, slowly bend forward from the hips, reaching for your feet or ankles. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then slowly release.
Shoulder stretch – Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms. Inhale and lift your arms away from your body, stretching your shoulders and chest. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then release.
Spinal twist – Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand on the floor behind your back. Inhale and lengthen your spine, then exhale and twist your torso to the left. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Quad stretch – Lie on your stomach and bend your right knee, bringing your heel towards your buttocks. Reach back with your right hand and grab your ankle. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Foot massage – Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place a tennis ball or massage ball under your foot and roll it back and forth, focusing on any tight or sore spots.
Here are some frequently asked questions you might find helpful:
What should I wear for a Thai Massage session?
You should wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows for a full range of movement. Yoga or (clean) workout clothing is ideal.
Do I need to have any prior experience with yoga to receive Thai Yoga Massage?
No, you do not need to have any prior experience with yoga. The practitioner will guide you through any movements or stretches during the session.
Is Thai Massage painful?
It should not be painful. However, you may feel some discomfort during deep pressure or stretching, but it should not be unbearable. It’s important to communicate with the practitioner about any discomfort you may feel during the session.
Is Thai Massage safe for everyone?
While it’s generally safe for most people, it may not be suitable for everyone. It’s important to discuss any medical conditions or concerns with the practitioner before the session.
How often should I receive Thai Massage?
The frequency of massage sessions depends on your individual needs and preferences. Some people may benefit from weekly sessions, while others may prefer monthly or occasional sessions.
How long is a typical Thai Massage session?
A typical session can range from 1-2 hours, depending on the practitioner and the client’s needs.
Overall, this massage therapy can be a great way to promote physical and mental health and well-being. However, it’s important to note that results may vary from person to person and that bodywork should never be used as a substitute for medical care. If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before trying any form of bodywork.
Keeratitanont, K., Jensen, M. P., Chatchawan, U., & Auvichayapat, P. (2015). The efficacy of traditional Thai massage for the treatment of chronic pain: A systematic review. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 21(1), 26–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2015.01.006
Cowen, V. S., Burkett, L., Bredimus, J., Evans, D. R., Lamey, S., Neuhauser, T., Shojaee, L. (2006). A comparative study of Thai massage and Swedish massage relative to physiological and psychological measures. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 10(4), 266-275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2005.08.006
Manuel, A.-M., Damapong, P., Kanchanakhan, N., Eungpinichpong, W., Putthapitak, P., & Damapong, P. (2015). A Randomized Controlled Trial on the Effectiveness of Court-Type Traditional Thai Massage versus Amitriptyline in Patients with Chronic Tension-Type Headache. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 930175. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/930175
Chatchawan, U., Eungpinichpong, W., Sooktho, S., Tiamkao, S., & Yamauchi, J. (2014). Effects of Thai traditional massage on pressure pain threshold and headache intensity in patients with chronic tension-type and migraine headaches. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(6), 486–492. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2013.0176
Sripongngam, T., Eungpinichpong, W., Sirivongs, D., Kanpittaya, J., Tangvoraphonkchai, K., & Chanaboon, S. (2015). Immediate Effects of Traditional Thai Massage on Psychological Stress as Indicated by Salivary Alpha-Amylase Levels in Healthy Persons. Medical science monitor basic research, 21, 216–221. https://doi.org/10.12659/MSMBR.894343
MacSween, A., Lorrimer, S., van Schaik, P., Holmes, M., & van Wersch, A. (2018). A randomised crossover trial comparing Thai and Swedish massage for fatigue and depleted energy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 22(3), 817-828. ISSN 1360-8592. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2017.09.014
Chatchawan, U., Eungpinichpong, W., Plandee, P., & Yamauchi, J. (2015). Effects of thai foot massage on balance performance in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy: a randomized parallel-controlled trial. Medical science monitor basic research, 21, 68–75. https://doi.org/10.12659/MSMBR.894163
Boonruab, J., Poonsuk, P., & Damjuti, W. (2020). Effect of Court-Type Thai Traditional Massage Versus Senokot Treatment on Chronic Constipation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine, 25, 2515690X20960644. https://doi.org/10.1177/2515690X20960644
Chompoopan, W., Eungpinichpong, W., Chompoopan, W., & Sujimongkol, C. (2022). The Effect of Traditional Thai Massage on Quality of Sleep in Adults with Sleep Problem. Trends in Sciences, 19, 3063. https://doi.org/10.48048/tis.2022.3063