The Difference Between Thai Massage and Traditional Massage

Thai massage is a form of therapeutic touch that differs in many ways from traditional massage. Instead of a massage table, you lie on a mat on the floor while the provider manipulates your body in certain ways to stimulate your organs and improve flexibility.

Thai massage

is part of traditional Thai medicine. The first difference you'll notice between a Thai massage and classic Western styles is the lack of equipment.

While Swedish and deep tissue massages are performed on a massage table, Thai massages are performed on a mat. This allows the customer a fuller range of motion, which is useful. Because unlike Western massage styles, you won't just be lying on your back or on your stomach when you get a Thai massage. Neither will your masseuse, who gets an even greater advantage by being on the floor rather than hunched over a table. During a Thai massage, the masseuse moves around and above the client to access a wider range of angles in each part of the body, even in cases where the client is much larger than the masseuse.

Instead of using only the hands, fists, forearms and elbows, the Swedish masseuse's usual tools, the Thai masseuse can generally use her legs and feet during the massage. They often use a combination of both to gain an advantage by starting deep stretches of the client's arms, legs, hips and shoulders. Thai massages are often referred to as “yoga for lazy men”.This type of massage was considered a form of medical healing in Thailand for many years and involves more than just lying on a table. One of the biggest differences between a Thai massage and a traditional one is the equipment, or the lack of it.

A Thai massage is done on the floor or on the mat and requires more movement than a traditional massage. The most obvious difference between a Thai massage and a traditional Western massage is the setup. A Thai massage is done on the floor or, ideally, on a massage table with support bars on the top. This offers the masseuse a full range of mobility while performing the massage, allowing for a wider range of motion. This is another reason why traditional Thai massage is not performed on a table, since the masseuse who is standing on the upper part of her body, on top of a massage table, will probably cause it to collapse or fall off.

For example, in some cases, a Thai masseuse stands on the client's back and uses flexible feet instead of stiff forearms to knead the back muscles. Swedish massage is usually performed on a massage table, with the receiver clothed and covered with curtains. Similar muscle relaxation and lengthening can be experienced after a Thai massage session, but without the effort of an hour-long yoga class. Both Thai massage and deep tissue massage have specific applications, and each of them has its own range of benefits. Sufficient stretching is required during a typical Thai massage, the discipline jokingly called Lazy Man's Yoga. The inclusion of stretching in Thai massages may increase range of motion more than Swedish massage.

Deep tissue massage is another type of massage that explicitly focuses on the deeper connective tissues of the fascia and muscle. Thai massage is based on the principles of channeling the body's energy to treat the subtle energy field within the body. For example, if you've had problems with muscle pain, tension, and knots, a deep tissue massage is ideal. To increase the flow of energy through the senses, your Thai masseuse will move your body in a wide variety of different yoga-like poses, while pulling and balancing your body in a variety of ways. In addition to Buddhism, Thai massage was also heavily influenced by Ayurvedic practices in India and also by traditional Chinese medicine.

By contrast, Thai masseuses can use their knees to stabilize the client's hips while pulling their arms to stretch the upper body, a movement that would be dangerous, if not impossible, for a masseuse working on a classic massage table.

Tiffany Greenhalgh
Tiffany Greenhalgh

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