We spend a lot of time getting massages. It is one of the prime benefits of living in Southeast Asia, and one of the things we miss when we are eating our way around Europe. We’ve enjoyed half-day couples spa treatments at our favorite Bangkok spa. But, more than anything, we are popping into Dahra in Bangkok, Thailand, for a foot massage, or often a Thai massage. We rarely, though, go for a Thai yoga massage.
What Is a Thai Massage
The massages that most people are used to experiencing in the Western world include oil and long, strong strokes. That is certainly not a Thai massage. Thai massage is more, well, interactive. When I receive a Thai massage, first they offer me an outfit to change into. Eric often leaves his own t-shirt on as the massage shirts are usually way too small. We lay down on cushions on the floor, and the Thai massage begins. There is a lot of squeezing and kneading, along with a lot of interactive stretching and pulling. It is not uncommon to feel like a pretzel. The Thai massage therapist ends up straddling, or sometimes even standing, on top of the guest.
A well-trained Thai massage therapist will ask whether the guest wants their massage soft, medium, or hard. I used to always ask for hard. Perhaps I thought that if I asked for anything less than a hard massage I would not be getting my money’s worth. After several really good Thai massages at Dahra Spa in Bangkok, though, I realized it was time to start requesting medium.
Either way, at the end of a Thai massage, I feel, remarkably, relaxed. Shockingly so, because a Thai massage is not as inherently relaxing as a western oil massage. Yet, despite that, I do always feel better after. There is something about the Thai massage therapists attention to trigger points that just releases the tension.
Breathing Through a Thai Yoga Massage
When we visited Amatara Wellness Resort in Phuket, Thailand, for our luxury wellness retreat, we experienced a series of unique treatments. One I was most interested in was the Thai yoga massage. I wanted to see how much it differed from a typical Thai massage.
This wasn’t exactly my first experience with Thai yoga massage. When learning how to teach yoga in Ubud, I took a couple of classes on Thai yoga massage at the Yoga Barn. What I found was that the combination of Thai massage and yoga means that the therapist uses a person’s breath to deepen the experience.
That is just what happened during our 90-minute Thai yoga massage at Amatara. I wore the same little massage outfit, laid on the same type of cushion, and much of the treatment was similar to a traditional Thai massage. The main difference involved the incorporation of breath. My therapist continued through much of the treatment to encourage me to inhale and exhale as she manipulated my body into various positions. She also ran through each movement three times, each time getting a little deeper than the last.
By the end of the treatment, I was wiped out. Certainly relaxed. By the next morning, I woke a little sore. I think this Thai yoga massage woke up some of my muscles that have not been worked on since I stopped practicing yoga almost 2 years ago.
The good news was that this was only the first of my wellness treatments at Amatara Phuket. I had several days of relaxation left to go. The other treatments worked on all of those sore muscles!
Heading to Phuket?
What to do in Phuket: Go for a Thai hammam treatment!
Find more Thai food tips in our Southeast Asia food travel guide.
We were supported by Amatara Phuket during our wellness retreat, but all opinions are, as always, my own. Room rates start at $230 a night and luxury wellness retreats start at $645 a night. A 90 minute Thai yoga massage at the Amatara Spa costs $100.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.