A couple of my clients have recently asked me what the difference is between traditional massage and Thai Yoga massage. I found this surprising because I assumed they could feel the difference but thought it may be time to explain them in more detail. The three major differences are that it is done on a mat, it is done fully clothed, and it involves a lot of stretching.
Being on a mat on the floor makes a difference because it gives the practitioner better leverage and the ability to use every part of their body to work on you. I can use my knees and feet for several different areas that would not be possible up on a table. It also allows for a greater variety of stretching that cannot be done on a table.
Clothing makes a huge difference. This means your practitioner can't really use oils so there isn't a lot of gliding movements like in an oil massage. Most of the pressure is applied using the palms and thumbs, elbows and knees, and sometimes feet. This also leads to the other major difference because having your clothes on makes it simpler to take you into many different stretches without having to fuss with draping sheets to cover your private areas.
Because Thai Yoga Massage takes you into a wide variety of stretches, the practitioner is able to massage your muscles at a variety of different angles and you get the benefits of stretching at the same time. When you are helped into a stretch the body generally allows you to go deeper than stretching on your own. Combine this with being massaged in the stretch and it becomes a way to increase your flexibility which you cannot get from massage alone. Thai Yoga Massage also involves joint rotation and traction which helps decompress joints and promotes more synovial fluid to lubricate the joints. This makes it wonderful for arthritis.
Other differences include the sen lines and marma points that are used to help with different health problems. This would be similar to acupressure and reflexology which may be included in traditional massage too. This may not be a huge difference but it is definitely an additional benefit!
Practitioners are also taught to meditate upon metta during the massage. Metta translates to loving kindness. This helps them keep their attention focused on you, your body, and the issues they are helping you address. I think most massage therapists are mindful but I have had a few that didn't listen to the areas I wanted to focus on and just gave a cookie cutter massage. This is something we teach not to do in Thai Yoga Massage. We have hours of moves that we can customize to help you best.
Many of my clients mention that they feel the benefits of Thai Yoga Massage last longer than traditional oil massage. They notice a difference in their posture and the way they walk when they leave. Another difference people mention is that they feel balanced after the massage versus tired after an oil massage.
I believe both styles have their benefits but I enjoy Thai Yoga Massage more. I have a hard time relaxing so I find the variety of stretches and positions keeps my mind present. I am very flexible so the stretching doesn't do too much but I love the deep pressure of a massage while in the stretch and enjoy the marma points that help me feel less fatigued. Everyone likes something different so I recommend doing whatever method of self care that resonates with you! Try them both and make an informed decision.