The Thai That Unbinds

November 27, 2011, Judd

Thai massage is hot on the lips of fitness gurus right now, but in truth it’s been around for ages, and has roots as far back as 2,500 years ago in Asia. It differs from the norm quite drastically, but the end result is, according to many, better than your average table-top rub down.

This ancient healing art, which is offered at many San Diego locations including The Spa at Torrey Pines and Spa at La Costa, combines partner-assisted yoga stretches, joint mobility (picture laying on your back having your hips rotated in the air for you), breath coaching, and, of course, different styles of massage. (,

Unlike traditional massages, where clients lie on tables under a blanket or towel, Thai massage is done fully clothed on a mat to allow for a more complete form of healing; with a standard table massage, it’s impossible for the receiver and giver to get in position to do certain moves. On the mat, a trained therapist manipulates your body into various poses, releasing toxins, improving flexibility, and unkinking knots. Both men and women appreciate the fact that they feel rejuvenated without having to feel uncomfortable being nude with an unfamiliar therapist.

Some in Western society refer to Thai massage as “lazy man’s yoga.” While some Thai massage therapists cringe at that description, it’s easy to see why it’s referred to in that way.

“Thai massage is a benediction for the giver as well as the receiver:· says Kimberly Call, owner of the Center for Thai Massage in San Rafael, California. “There is a beautiful, logical flow to Thai and sometimes it looks as if the giver and receiver are engaged in a graceful dance.”

The person getting treated over the course of the session (typically lasting in the West for 90 or 120 minutes; in Thailand over three hours!) lies on his/her back, stomach, and side, before ending up in a seated position, while the therapist gently puts the client in yoga stretches, rotating and pulling limbs and joints. The therapist’s palm presses sore muscles vvith an intuitive touch.

‘You get more bang for your buck with Thai massage than you de with a normal, 60-minute table massage,” says Fiona Clingerman of Encinitas, who says she gets Thai massage twice a month.

“It feels like a full-body workout, yet it feels so good. You feel like you’re doing something and not just laying down like a sack of potatoes,” adds Clingerman.

A talented Thai therapist creates a quasi-spiritual experience for the client. Muscle fibers get elongated and receive fresh oxygenated blood, while tranquil ambient music plays in a spalike environment or the comfort of your own home, if you’ve ordered a house call.

“The circulation in my legs used to be problematic before I started receiving Thai massage on a regular basis,” says a patient of Solana Beach-based chiropractor Cherie Smith. “I used to have cold feet, but after only one session, I felt a new rush of blood heating up my feet.”

Other benefits of Thai include improved flexibility and range of motion in the joints and less muscle stiffness. If you don’t want to do it alone, most places offer a couples’ Thai massage, the benefits of which go beyond one’s own body.

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.