Here on Samui there’s a myriad of various massages on offer. Some are traditional favourites that you’ll find practiced the world over, whilst others are original fusions of them. And a few are just an attempt to include currently popular buzz words on a spa menu!
Here is some brief background information about the different types of massage that are featured in many of the spas recommended in Samui Health & Spa Guide:
Thai Massage – one of the world’s great massage traditions. A blending of the technique of manipulating the energy which travels throughout your body (meridians in Chinese medicine, sen lines in Thai massage), and the yoga traditions of India. And it’s practiced in different forms reflecting different schools and traditions. Wonderful for the legs and overall balancing of energy, it’s done with the person clothed, without the use of oil. Your energy lines are pressed by the therapist’s thumbs, and then the palms, in a gentle and complete pattern. After your body is loosened up, gentle stretches are done. Different body areas are massaged more than one time, so two hours is not excessively long for a complete treatment. It’s good for tight muscles, low energy levels, and stress. But the stretching involved isn’t good for people with certain back problems, such as herniated disks and fused spinal bones. And if you aren’t flexible, then you may be a little sore the next day. (See ‘The MassageMessage’ article)
Pra Krop – a kind of Thai massage in which herbs are wrapped tightly in cloth, steamed, and the herbal bundles are then touched or pressed to your body. The addition of heat to the technique makes for a more powerfully therapeutic massage. It’s especially good for deep muscle aches and joint pain.
Foot Massage – since the foot is a place rather than a technique, there’s a lot of variety. Foot treatments often include washing and soaking your feet followed by an abrasive scrub to take away any calluses and/or dead skin. The best known foot massage is called reflexology. And, in Thailand, it’s is usually done in the Chinese style. Small tools are often used to rub the sides and tops of your toes, and the massage is very firm. Some people find it too hard and even painful, whilst others love it. This massage was introduced as an official style at the Wat Po massage-teaching temple in Bangkok not so many years ago. Reflexology in Europe and America is different than the Chinese style, where only hands are used to rub your feet. Besides firm pressing, the therapist will pinch the sides of your feet and use their fingertips to work certain areas of your toes, and top and bottom of your feet very thoroughly. This method can also be intense but, without the stick, less people find it painful. (See the ‘Reflexology is Afoot on Samui’ article)
Swedish Massage – called classic massage in Sweden, this massage is the basic oil massage in Europe and North America. Using kneading, gliding, and percussion as the three massage techniques, the classic form has been stretched and altered in innumerable ways. Always using oil, it can be hard or soft, general or specific. Whilst the percussion technique of karate chops on your shoulders (known as ‘hacking’) is always shown in movies and jokes about Swedish massage, the real signature move is a long gliding stroke down your back with the palms of both hands.
Hot Stone Massage – this practice uses warm and smooth volcanic stones as well as the therapist’s hands. Stones are placed on and under your body to let their warmth penetrate deeply. And different stones are held in the therapist’s hands and used to massage the entire body. It’s very relaxing, and people often go into a dreamlike state during the treatment. It’s also believed that the stones absorb negative energy and revitalize the charkas. Hot stone massage, as we know it, came from America about 20 years ago, but some uses of heated stones for massage go back much farther. (See the ‘Getting Stoned on Samui’ article)
Aroma Oil/Aromatherapy Massage – most spas offer an oil massage with essential oils that are usually selected by the customer based either their smell, or their promised effects. Aromatherapy as an esoteric healing practice needs to have a highly-trained practitioner to be really effective, but using it in a more general way it is quite pleasant. The massage part is usually a gentle Swedish massage or some version of a lymphatic-oriented massage. (See the ‘Essential Knowledge’ article)
Cranial Sacral Therapy – is a subtle treatment using very light pressure. It emphasizes the bones of your head and face, but has techniques to release old trauma in other parts of your body too. Developed within the osteopathic tradition, it’s now taught to, and practiced by, a few massage therapists as well as other health professionals. It’s particularly effective for head and facial injuries, dental trauma, balance problems, and for releasing pent-up emotional energy.
These and many other techniques are part of most Samui spa menus. Other types of massage names are generally just descriptions of the hoped-for effects of the massage. Fortunately, most are pleasant at worst, and only a few therapies have any real potential for harm! Still, if ever you have a feeling you shouldn’t let someone continue, it’s best to honour your inner voice.