What is Thai Massage?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Thai Massage, also called lazy man's yoga or traditional massage, is an Asian floor massage technique incorporating stretching and smooth flowing massage strokes to stimulate circulation and flexibility. It is usually done in loose, comfortable clothing and uses pillows to support the client during the massage session. This style of massage grew increasingly popular in the West in the twentieth century, and is commonly chosen for older and more fragile clients because it is more gentle than Swedish style massage.

Thai massage has been practiced in Thailand for thousands of years, and many other Asian countries incorporate massage into their healing traditions. Traditionally, it was performed by monks, who included other Ayurvedic healing practices with their massage sessions. In addition to massage, monks also offered dietary advice, herbs, and spiritual counseling with the aim of clients developing healthy bodies and spirits. Thai massage began to move out of the temple and into a variety of other settings in the twentieth century, and many Thai hospitals offer massage as part of treatment.

When Westerners began to travel more frequently in Thailand, many became interested in Thai techniques, studying them and integrating them into massage practices at home. Several Masters of this massage style have traveled to the United States and Europe, offering advanced training to students who are interested in it. Several massage schools offer certification in Thai massage, although requirements vary from location to location.


Thai massage is done on a padded floor mat, which allows the therapist to easily manipulate the body of the client. Working from the feet up, the therapist stretches, flexes, and bends the body to free up tension and promote flexibility. The therapist also incorporates breathing techniques into the massage session, along with acupressure points and trigger point techniques. Unlike Swedish Massage, it involves active participation on the part of the client, who works with the therapist for a successful massage.

This massage style is invigorating and stimulating, and both the therapist and the client usually feel less tension and more energy at the completion of the session. Like other forms of massage therapy, Thai massage is recommended at least once a month to be effective, although frequency of more than once a week may be contraindicated in some cases. Thai massage is suitable for a wide range of clients, including the disabled and elderly, due to its gentle nature and non-invasive techniques.

Before commencing a course of massage therapy, clients should confer with their physicians to make sure that massage will not be harmful. There are some medical conditions for which massage is not advised.


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