Massage is healing to mind, body and soul. It soothes our aching muscles and eases stress. For these reasons, I’m always looking to experiment with new types of massage. When I heard of the Thai method, I was intrigued.
Thai massage is an ancient ayurvedic healing art believed to have been developed 2,500 years ago in India by Buddha’s own physician. The treatment eventually made its way to Thailand, where it was influenced by Chinese traditional medicine. It differs from all other types of massage because of the interactive bodywork. Also known as Thai yoga massage, you remain passive while the practitioner moves you into yoga poses.
There are not many Thai massage therapists on Long Island, but I found it offered at The Concierge Spa in Kings Park and made an appointment.
The Concierge Spa specializes in difficult-to-find treatments and they offer a wide variety of options, including belly casting for pregnant clients and Brazilians for men, all in a clean, safe and comfortable environment.
The spa also provides in-home services and a separate men’s treatment room that includes a steam room and shower. The ceiling above the massage table has a bar used for balance during Ashiatsu treatments, where the practitioner stands on the client’s back and manipulates the muscles with her feet.
Vanessa Mangan, Master Aesthetician (three years), Licensed Massage Therapist (nine years) and owner of The Concierge Spa, explained what to expect and asked about any physical issues I might have. We then moved into the women’s treatment room, which was elegantly decorated in soft silvers, grays and whites, and had soothing music playing.
Thai massage is particularly comfortable for people who are used to chiropractors and do not like to disrobe. No oils are lotions are used on the body and the client is advised to arrive wearing loose-fitting clothing.
A thick, soft, sheet-covered mat lay on the floor between two treatment tables in the candlelit room, and once I was lying comfortably with a brace under my neck, Vanessa began taking me through a variety of assisted yoga stretches, many of which would have been difficult or impossible to attain on my own. As she worked, I would try to relax and breathe into the stretch for maximum benefit.
Vanessa used her entire body—arms, legs, feet and hands—to manipulate mine into stretching positions, beginning with my feet and working up to the head. She would place my limbs into a particular position and then slowly stretch them, constantly checking to make sure I was comfortable and she wasn’t causing any pain. She also used her feet to knead the knots in my back and other areas.
“I’ve always been intrigued by oriental modalities,” said Vanessa. “I offer Ashiatsu and when I saw the effect it had on my clients, I became more interested in Thai and the ability to create more mobility by manipulation and stretching the muscles and joints.”
Vanessa finished the hour-long session with a relaxing head massage, and when we were through she accurately described which parts of my body were tightest and needed more work.
According to Lauren Fine, Fuel The Soul Yoga Studio in Merrick is Long Island’s first infrared heated yoga studio. In addition to Thai and other massage therapies, they offer GYROTONIC® exercise, hot and standard Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga classes and infrared sauna.
Lauren, a Licensed Massage Therapist and co-owner of Fuel the Soul with her husband Greg, said the benefits of Thai massage are very similar to traditional massage. “It increases flexibility, improves range of motion and circulation, reduces stress, helps with pain relief, releases lactic acid and other toxins and promotes deep relaxation. Some clients feel more energized and uplifted from Thai massage as compared to other types of massages.”
Lauren begins her 90-minute sessions by doing sun salutations with her clients. “I use diffused essential oils and hot towels to bring my clients to their ultimate relaxation. I communicate with my clients to make sure they are comfortable with the level of the stretch.” With her spa background, Lauren ensures her clients have a world-class experience.
Her mission is “to support individuals in achieving life balance through personal wellness.” A firm believer in the connection between body and mind, Lauren said massage relieves both physical and emotional stress, and is “a modality for enhancing overall health and well being.”
While I would highly recommend giving Thai massage a try, there are some contraindications. Lauren said people with certain health problems should avoid this treatment, so it’s best to consult with the spa before booking an appointment.
I walked out of my session with Vanessa feeling relaxed and energized, and my muscles and joints felt significantly looser. Thai is not for everyone, but I found it to be quite healing and something I would absolutely continue.