Traditional Thai Massage Practice
The practice of Thai Massage is said to be thousands of years old but it is still part of Thailand's medical system due to its healing properties at both emotional and physical levels. There are differences in certain practices associated with the massage when performed in the Western and Thai contexts.
Western cultural sensibilities might be hesitant to accept some of the norms of traditional Thai massage, which uses no oils or lotions. However, many of the components of Thai Massage have remained in the non-western context. For example, during Thai Massage there is constant bodily contact between the giver and receiver, rather than simply rubbing of muscles. The body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked. The concept of metta (loving kindness), based on Buddhist teachings, is an integral part of this practice.
The recipient may wear loose, comfortable clothing and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. While in Thailand a dozen or so subjects may receive massages simultaneously in one large room, the true ancient style of the massage requires that art be performed solo, with just the giver and receiver. The receiver will be positioned in a variety of positions during the course of the massage, consisting of deep static and rhythmic pressures.
The massage generally follows designated lines ("sen") in the body. The legs and feet of the giver can be used to position the body or limbs of the recipient. In other positions hands fix the body while the feet do the massaging. A full Thai Massage session may last two hours and includes rhythmic pressing and stretching of the entire body. This may include pulling fingers, toes, ears, cracking knuckles, walking on the recipient's back, palm-press, thumb-press, fingers-press, and forearm-press in many different positions. There is a standard procedure and rhythm to the massage, which the giver will adjust to fit the receiver.