I visited Taiwan (not to be confused with Thailand, which is surrounded by Cambodia, Laos and Burma rather than an island off the coast of China) a few years back with my mom. It was a particularly stressful and eventful year between starting antithyroid medication, finishing grad school and planning a wedding. So when my aunt sent us to try out a spa that featured Thai massage, I was all about it.
I knew nothing about Thai massage. Up until that point, I’d had traditional Swedish, hot stone and aromatherapy massages before and just assumed it was more of the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was no stripping down to lay under a sheet with oils applied all over your body while new-age music played in the background.
Upon entering the room, we were given essentially pajamas to change into – loose fitting pants and a loose fitting button-up shirt. We laid down on the mats that were on a raised platform only a few inches from the ground. Two petite Thai women came in with some hot tea, and then the work began.
The massage started out pretty familiar with our lying on our bellies and their kneading our shoulders and along the back muscles to kind of loosen us up. And then, suddenly, these women climbed on top of us, using their elbows, forearms, knees and body weight to compress our major muscle groups. They stretched at our limbs. They bent our arms this way and that and then went at the muscle around the shoulder blade and down the back. I remember still being in shock that this woman was literally sitting on top of me while pulling and pushing me in every direction!
At one point, she asked in broken Chinese if I was ready. Ready for what?!? Without warning, she lifted me up from my shoulders into what is essentially upward facing dog (minus the use of my own arms). Ahhh… my sternum popped. *Ding* Chest-opener.
We got a break to drink some more hot tea, and then they asked us to sit up with our legs out. She took my right leg, crossed it in half lotus and then rotated it while bent. Kind of a hip opener of sorts. She twisted my body a la marichiyasana C. Shoulders and vertebrae popping with delight!
From behind, I got a little warm up neck massage and then BAM! This woman threw her body weight against the back of me to put me in a forward fold. A therapeutic pop happened somewhere in my lower back.
This was by far the strangest massage I’d ever had. It was INTENSE. The language barrier left a lot of room for unexpected surprises with little warning. But in the end, when they let us lie there in (more or less) savasana after 2 hours of physical bodywork, I was in bliss. Thai massage was someone else doing yoga FOR me on my body.
Thankfully, I had already been doing yoga for a few months prior to that experience, but my poor mom. She was not used to being contorted like that! Her tight hamstrings forced her to “sit out” a lot of the “postures” and take a breather.
Now, I’m not sure all Thai masseuses are that rough, throwing their body weight around and throwing MY body weight around. I haven’t tried getting one here in the States, mostly because they aren’t very common around these parts. (Now that I’m looking at it, Lake Austin Spa and Resort offers one, and I just so happen to have a gift certificate that I need to use there.)
In the end, I was pretty blissed out. I didn’t have to break a sweat and someone else did all the work for me. I had nearly all the same feel-good benefits of practicing yoga on my own accord, and I would rate that as one of my all-time favorite massages. I guess it just goes to show that whether you’re practicing yoga or having yoga practiced on you, the results are pretty awesome. You just have to get comfortable with the idea of someone else mounting you and moving your limbs around as if you were a rag doll. Haha.
Has anyone else tried Thai massage? What did you think?