To those not familiar, when they first come across traditional Thai massage in Pattaya, they may very well think it’s a cross between yoga, acupressure and torture! Funnily enough, in many ways that is precisely what it is! This centuries-old therapeutic practice has its deep historical roots in both Indian (Ayurvedic) and Chinese (TCM) practices.
Once strictly reserved for the Royal Family, this form of massage is now a staple of the Thai spa industry. No trip to the Land of Smiles is complete without giving it a go. To adequately prepare you for what’s in store, we’ve compiled a list of the top four things you should know about traditional Thai massage before venturing forth. So, without further ado, let’s jump in and learn about this famous and unique therapy technique which you have to try on your Thailand holidays.
What we know today as traditional Thai massage is a product of ancient Chinese and Indian healing philosophies combined with local Thai healing traditions. These methodologies have been handed down over the centuries through oral traditions and teachings at local temples (aka ‘wats’). Indeed, for many centuries, Buddhist monks in Thailand were the community’s primary healers because they had access to a large body of knowledge and resources. People would visit them to seek relief from their physical and mental afflictions.
As you are no doubt aware, a built-up in muscles tension can lead to painful knots, aches and pains in the body; not to mention constricted flexibility and movement. This is when you need the services of a highly trained Thai massage therapist, who can restore normalcy through precise pressure application. Indeed, the need for Thai massage arose from stiff Buddhist monks who needed to regain proper blood circulation after sitting in one position for a long time. Nowadays, this same problem occurs in the modern working environment, with people sitting at a desk for eight or more hours a day. What’s more, Thai massage is good at restoring mental wellbeing, and thus is highly recommended for people suffering from stress, hypertension and insomnia.
Although traditional Thai massage in Pattaya and other parts of the country will use oil, this mash-up with aromatherapy is not authentic. Traditional Thai massage does not use oil, rather, it consists of gentle strokes, rubbing and kneading; expect the masseuse to use all their body weight and resources – elbows, knees, legs, arms, hands, feet – to squeeze, press, bend and otherwise manipulate you into strange positions to relieve tension and tease out pain points. For example, your masseuse (typically a woman) will dig her thumbs hard into your palms, roll her forearms on both of your shoulders, press her knees against your lower back and drum her feet into your hamstrings.
We are not going to sugar-coat this; your first traditional Thai massage may be a little painful and/or uncomfortable. A lot of this stems from unfamiliarity with the practice and the shock of being twisted like a pretzel. You will also experience actual ‘pain’ if you have multiple or deep blocked pathways. For example, if the masseuse can locate sensitive stops, such as tense shoulders caused by office syndrome, she will work on that same to relieve the tension. With repeated sessions, your muscles and limbs will begin to loosen, and the whole thing will become much more bearable and, dare we say it, enjoyable!