When observing the choreographed movements of a Thai Yoga Massage, it is apparent how different it is from a Western Massage. Western massage is, of course, based on western ideas of anatomy and physiology. Most people turn to Western massage to relieve tension or heal an injury. Five different techniques are used: gliding, friction, tapping, kneading and vibration. Oil is used in order to get deeper into the muscles. A Western massage will focus on the different systems of the body – digestive, nervous, circulatory for example. Clients need to vocalize the level of pressure that the therapist uses in order not to feel discomfort during the massage. The reason the therapist uses deep pressure is to find the source of the pain in order to alleviate the problem area.
Thai Yoga Massage incorporates yoga poses, acupressure, reflexology and breath to create a gentle healing state. The first difference is that Thai Yoga Massage is performed on the floor on a futon mat. The recipient is dressed in loose fitting clothing and no oil is used. In a Thai Yoga Massage, the therapist uses their whole body to perform acupressure by using their hands, thumbs, elbows, feet and knees. An effective therapist knows how to utilize their own body weight to transmit the appropriate amount of pressure and release to allow for blocked energy to move freely. To a yoga practitioner, the poses will look familiar, but the therapist manipulates and adjusts and moves the clients body into the poses. Due to the deep relaxation that comes, clients will often find that they are able to go deeper into a pose with assistance.
Ultimately, the purpose of both styles of massage is the same: to restore the client back to a balanced state.