Traditional Thai Mat Massage
Feb 01, 2013 01:19AM
● By Carla Saylor
Many modern massage practices have evolved from the healing arts that have been traditionally practiced in India, China and Thailand. Doctors of that era referred patients with chronic issues to therapists for treatment. The style from the Northern Chiang Mai region is based on stretching to elongate the muscles. Techniques were passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. Over the past 2,000 years, the techniques have evolved into Thai Mat Massage. Now, Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM) guides the ancient tradition, which is taught in training sessions.
The Traditional or Southern style, from Bangkok, emphasizes opening blocked energy pathways by applying acupressure, known as elephant walking. Skillfully, the therapist applies his or her palms and thumbs along 10 major energy pathways, called Sen lines, which address ailments throughout the entire body. Some yoga based stretches are also incorporated. An underlying foundation of this style is the compassionate intent of the healer.
In a standard session, which can last 60 to 90 minutes, the client dresses in comfortable clothes. After completing an intake form, the client lies supine on a mat. Oils and lotions are not used in Thai Mat Massage, unlike many other forms of table massage. Instead, the practitioner uses his or her hands, feet, arms and legs to press and stretch the body, coaxing the body to release areas of tightness. Deep pressure is applied in order to stimulate reflex points where energy, called prana, can be blocked, starting at the feet in order to activate the wind, or lom. Pressure can be varied according to the client’s comfort level because some areas might be tender. It begins with footwork; then the therapist kneels to rhythmically apply firm pressure on the legs, abdomen and arms.
On the second pass, the tension often releases, and discomfort immediately decreases. The therapist uses his or her feet to stretch the hamstrings and arms. Then the client shifts to side-lying and facedown positions. The final phase involves the client sitting comfortably on the floor for stretching and back-walking, where the therapist again uses the feet to release restrictions on both physical and energetic levels.
Often the client emerges mentally relaxed and refreshed, while physically more energized than at the outset. This style of massage is effective for those with chronic back, hip and leg tension on a musculoskeletal level. Muscle stiffness recedes as joints become more flexible. Repetitive compression provides a soothing pressure that reduces fatigue and nervous tension and relieves stress. Lymph and circulation also improve with ongoing treatments. Energetically, as meridians are unblocked, the body is able to function more optimally on physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
Trained at Wat Po Medical School, in Bangkok, Thailand, Carla Saylor is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist who has been administering massages, including Traditional Thai Massage, since 2001, and owns Mandarin Rose, located on the fifth floor of the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square.