Krabi, Thailand: Thai Massage
September 12, 2011
As Featured in The Ritz-Carlton Magazine
Before it became a spa staple in Thailand, Thai massage was considered a medical treatment. That’s why you can still find it offered in that country’s hospitals and at temples like Wat Po.
Thai massage differs dramatically from a Western-style or Swedish massage. For one, it uses yoga-like stretches and pressure-point work to stimulate the body’s energy pathways. And, in most cases, the massage takes you off the massage table and onto a futon on the floor.
That’s all the better for the therapy and the therapist, who uses her body — not so much her hands — as a tool to stretch, twist and elongate yours. That’s the caveat of Thai massage: It demands interaction with your therapist, who will sit on your feet or legs to leverage you through a series of poses. (Amazingly, this allows even the tiniest of therapists to work on the bulkiest of basketball players.)
In a typical stretch, the therapist will sit on the back of your legs and pull your arms behind you to arch your spine and expand your chest. Some of these stretches are not unlike the corrections a yoga teacher might offer in a yoga class, which is why Thai massage is often called lazy man’s yoga.
Because there’s no way your modesty could be maintained under a sheet or towel during these moves, spas usually provide loose-fitting clothing (one-size-fits-most Thai fisherman pants are typical) .
Compared to a Swedish massage, a Thai massage can feel especially intense, particularly if stretching isn’t something you normally do. Many aficionados find the method invigorating — and leave feeling taller, more elongated and energized, instead of sluggish, says Sirikorn Jantawong, spa manager of ESPA at Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Krabi, Thailand.
Thai massage turns the model of massage on its head: It isn’t a submissive practice where someone else unknots your muscles and puts you to sleep, but a limbering, invigorating, participatory experience.