Thai massage is relatively new to central Texas. I continue to promote the work and educate bodyworkers and the public as to the differences. I’ve worked for ten years and if you give me an option Thai massage is what I’ll get nearly every time I work with a therapist. When students ask me why I started teaching I tell them I need someone to work on me.
The depth that I need to access, the muscular insertions and alignment needed are easily provided with this bodywork. Fortunately for therapists it’s also easier on our hands and bodies.
Swedish and deep tissue massage are the most common forms of bodywork performed in the U.S. American schools have pushed massage and bodywork regulation that’s having most states license massage and this is the primary bodywork taught in most schools.
Swedish of course is originally from Sweden and is generally long flowing strokes over muscles and skin using creme or lotion. This flowing motion not only relaxes muscle but improves vascular flow of blood and lymph in particular.
Deep tissue is a western anatomically based focus on particular muscles or groups of muscles. This is usually done after some Swedish work to open up an area. The superficial muscles are relaxed to allow the therapist in so to speak. Then using fingers, elbows, forearms or knuckles the therapist sinks into the tissues to relax and flush specific muscles that are tight.
Both of these kinds of bodywork are effective and there’s a reason they’ve become nearly ubiquitous. As I once heard someone say, “You can’t sling a dead cat in Austin without hitting a massage therapist.” Yep. Most of those massage therapists are doing swedish and deep tissue.
So how does Thai massage fit in?
In my professional opinion Thai massage is deeper than deep tissue. It does not use cream, you’re not undressed but Thai massage can access musculature that most deep tissue therapists overlook in my experience. Thai massage doesn’t cancel out this other work, I use it myself daily depending on a client’s needs but Thai massage differs in a very specific way. It honors movement.
When I lift someone’s arm and rotate their torso I’m getting their trapezius and rhomboids to lengthen. Even without pressure what I’ve done is taken the muscles and lengthened them all the way down into their insertion and origin. Tendon is what connects muscle to bone and in Thai we work down to it easily while saving my hands.
Thai massage in this way allows me to use my body more efficiently and accesses that deep spot the client wants worked on. Once you figure out the pattern and unwind it you feel like you’ve done a great job and the clients respond very well to the practice. I’ve had clients tell me repeatedly that they can’t believe they wasted their time and money on those “other” massages.
Like deep tissue? You’ll probably love Thai massage. Leave your clothes on and your preconceived notions at the door.
See you soon for Thai massage in Austin, Texas.