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You want massaaage?

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 24 April 2010 | Views [660]

Thailand is home to a unique style of massage involving deep massage and stretching, but not oil. In the Thai language, it is known as "nuat phaen boran" - literally "ancient-manner massage", as this specific technique of bodywork dates back to the nineteenth century fusion of Indian, Chinese and Southeast Asian culture, medicine and traditional healing practices.

The theory behind Thai massage is similar to that of some Western and Chinese styles, but has its differences. Practitioners of modern Thai massage operate on the idea that the body is permeated with ‘air’ that travels along pathways through the body. They manipulate the body, by pressing on pressure points and adopting yoga-like positions, in efforts to both open the pathways and stimulate the air in its movements along them. In Chinese massage, this ‘air’ is known as ‘chi’ and the pathways as meridians, while in alternative Western massage, ‘energy’ and ‘chakras’ are the terms used. Thai practice differs from both these styles however, as they do not relate the air to any of the bodies organs, while the other two do.

Practically anywhere you are in Thailand, you can get a Thai massage. The call of “you want massaaage” can be heard repeatedly as you stroll along the streets of any well-visited tourist destination. Prices can range from between 100B for a dirt-cheap, out in the open massage to upwards of 1000B at a swanky spa resort. The main factors are your practitioner, the length of time, and your surroundings.

As someone who suffers from lower back and neck pain, as well as knots due to stress and poor posture, I have lost count of the Thai massages I have had over my past two months in Thailand. Generally, my experiences have gone as follows.

Upon entering the massage parlour you have chosen, you confirm the type of massage you would like (Thai, oil, foot or full body) for what period of time (generally a half or full hour) and the price. Then your feet are placed in a bowl of warm water with flower petals, and washed by the person who will be your masseuse. Sometimes you are offered a glass of water before the massage to assist in flushing out toxins from your system.

Then you are ushered into the room where your massage will take place. The room usually contained a row of firm mattresses laid out on the floor, with a towel and pillow on each. Sometimes relaxation music, incense and candles accompany this set-up. Sometimes the room is air-conditioned and sometime it isn’t.

From here, you are left in private to change into a set of loose clothing the masseuse provides. Generally this is a pair of Thai fishermen pants and a baggy, long-sleeved shirt. These clothes serve the purpose of not only providing modesty for yourself and your masseuse, but also so that your clothes don’t restrict the yoga-like poses you will be placed in during the massage. Sometimes you are the only recipient in the room, sometimes you are one of many and change in a bathroom.

The masseuse will now indicate you should lie down on your back on the mattress. She (or he) then usually bows her head in a wai (palm to palm) in a brief prayer or blessing. Then the bodywork begins.

 

Your body will be manipulated and massaged rhythmically from toes to scalp. At the beginning of the massage, whoever is working on you should inquire as to whether you are relaxed, happy with the pressure they are applying and that you need to indicate to them if you experience any pain or discomfort.

Over the course of the massage, the masseuse will use their fingers, palms, fists, forearms, elbows, feet legs and feet to work your muscles, as well as pulling on fingers and toes, walking along your spine and massaging your face.

Although not as relaxing as a Swedish massage, Thai massage should in no way be uncomfortable or painful. I always close my eyes, focus on my breathing and the sensations my body experiences.

Contrary to popular belief or rumour, Thai massage is not sexual! If any inappropriate touching occurs, you are expected to express your offense, and I would also immediately leave without paying if I were convinced it was intentional.

At the completion of the allotted time, you should thank your masseuse and they will again leave you in private to change back into your own clothes. Then you head back to the reception area to pay. Sometimes the massage is followed up with a glass of water and a glass of ginger tea, as the toxins released into your system by the massage can dehydrate you and make you feel ill.

I always leave the massage parlour feeling rejuvenated and refreshed!

Tags: healing, massage

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