Have you seen what a Thai Massage looks like? Have you received a Thai Massage?
Below is a breakdown of how to do each of these stretches.
Please be cautious if you are new to bodywork and communicate with your receiver to make sure you don’t overstretch and strain her muscles.
For the hamstring stretch, make sure to move slowly, progressively with the stretch.
Start by bringing the leg (straight) to about a 45-degree angle. See how this feels for your recipient. You will be able to feel tension and resistance from the leg when it’s too much of a stretch. 90 degrees is an ideal stretching distance for the hamstring stretch. Go through the stretch at least 3 times, the 3rd time being close to the receiver’s edge. If the receiver’s knee bends, that is okay because it’s the person’s body trying to protect an overstretching of the hamstring. Take the leg down to a lesser degree to allow the leg to comfortably be straight.
As you take the leg across the body to stretch the lateral hamstrings, be careful again not to overstretch (which would cause pain for the receiver behind the knee at the hamstring attachments.) Talk with the receiver to make sure she is feeling the stretch along the outside of her hamstring and even into her hip.
The 3rd stretch is called “Figure 4” or “Assisted Pigeon Pose”. This stretch is a hip opener–it should specifically target the piriformis muscle (deep gluteal muscle). This is a VERY important stretch, especially for anyone with low back pain, tight hip flexors, and sciatica problems. Those that run, cycle, or dance especially need this stretch. Make sure to pull the bent leg towards you as the giver to create space around the hip crease–then lean into the person’s leg to create a deeper stretch, keeping the bent leg pulled towards you. The best way to know if you’re doing it correctly is to ask if the receiver is feeling the stretch in her glute.
Take a look at a picture of the Piriformis muscle and it’s location:
Again with this Figure 4 stretch, go progressively and slowly into the stretch, the 1st time being the least intense and the 3rd stretch getting to the patient’s edge.
And for the final stretch on this video, Supine Side Twist, mainly be careful that you don’t rock too fast or too hard into this stretch–make sure the receiver doesn’t feel a painful pull along her hip or low back region. If the receiver is tight, she will feel a pull there, just make sure it’s not painful or beyond her edge. The 1st thing to do is bend the leg and place the foot on the outside of the opposite leg. Hold at the receiver’s ankle to stabilize her and place your other thumb under the bent knee. Begin to rock the bent leg across the body–some people call this a “washing machine” movement. On the 3rd rock lift yourself up so your leg weaves through the space between the bent leg and the straight leg so that your leg can bring the receiver’s leg into a 90-degree angle along the ground. Position your opposite leg close to the receiver’s sacral area to stabilize her. On an inhale take a rest and on the exhale (for both receiver and giver) gently press on both the receiver’s opposite pec and the receiver’s bent leg, along the IT Band. Repeat at least 3 times, always moving with the breath.
The breath is and should be key with giving and receiving a Thai Massage, especially for areas of tightness and stagnation. The receiver should cue the breath, “Alright, when you’re ready, take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out (and on the exhale is when deeper pressure and deeper stretches should be done)”.
These stretches look very easy but once you start doing them, you will realize that it’s best to learn these techniques in a classroom setting–especially to make sure you know how to work with different types of bodies and injuries. If you’re interested to learn more–either to work professionally or with your family and friends, please think about taking one of our Thai massage classes–we offer weekend intro workshops, Thai for the Table classes, as well as more professional/certificate training courses, from 16 to 180 hours of training.