Stay in Touch With ... Swe-thai: A magical massage for both client and therapist

By Margie Meshew
May 29, 2009

Stay in Touch With ... Swe-thai: A magical massage for both client and therapist

By Margie Meshew
May 29, 2009

"Stay in Touch With" is a periodic column designed to provide an overview of a particular technique or modality. If you would like to contribute to this column, please email

Hands on therapies are the wave of the future. Business is booming and Massage Therapists are busier than ever. Trying to keep up with the demand is a wonderful problem to have, but it's becoming increasingly apparent that massage therapists are in need of a massage as much or more than their clients.

Massage Therapist injuries are on the rise. Some might even say it's becoming an epidemic. Unfortunately, most practitioners will look for ways to alleviate pain and exhaustion after the fact instead of finding ways to prevent it from the beginning. We teach our clients this known fact and yet we as professionals don't necessarily adhere to it ourselves. In essence, we are athletes and just as preparation, form and style are crucial to an athlete's performance and longevity, the same applies to any hands-on practitioner. For that reason, it would only make sense for us to examine our performance the same way any professional athlete would. We need to do all we can to reduce the strain on our bodies enabling us to work longer and more effectively without sacrificing the client's treatment. Let's start by examining the same three principles and how they pertain to Massage Therapists: Preparation (Stretching, Center Ourselves, Breathe Control); Form (Posture, Alignment); and Style (Combining Forces, Using Slower Movements).

Although these crucial points might seem basic to most practitioners, what we know and what we do often are two entirely different things. Western practitioners can benefit tremendously by incorporating eastern philosophies into their daily routine. This is what inspired the creation of Swe-Thai Massage.

Swe-Thai is a unique style of massage that magically blends the ancient Eastern knowledge of a highly revered form of medical massage with specific, advanced soft tissue therapies. Swe-Thai is not just performing Thai massage on the table, but blending many of its techniques and theories with proven and highly effective Western treatments. The Swe-Thai routine was designed specifically to treat general neck and back conditions. When utilized properly, the biomechanically correct techniques allow the therapist to perform much more concentrated work without sacrificing their palpatory integrity. While other types of massage therapy might use similar techniques, the magic found in Swe-Thai massage is not just in the techniques but more so in the unique marriage of eastern and western hands-on therapies.

The ancient healing art of Traditional Thai Massage dates back over 2,500 years and was considered a spiritual practice connected directly to the teachings of Buddha. Its earliest roots lie not in Thailand, but in India. Thai Massage was traditionally performed with a mat on the floor in many of the temples of Thailand. The client would remain fully clothed except for the feet. Clothing needed to be loose enough to allow for flexible movement. Typically, no lubrication is used in this 2 to 2 1/2 hour routine. The techniques commonly used in Traditional Thai Massage consist of pressure being applied to energy lines, the treatment of acupressure points and passive yoga style stretching. The energy lines in Traditional Thai Massage are referred to as sen lines. It's within those lines that the acupressure points are found and treated. In theory, over 72,000 of these lines exist in a person's body, although only the 10 main lines typically are treated. Because Thai Massage works with the energy body, the sen lines are the basis for this form of medical massage.

Traditional Thai Massage often is referred to as Yoga Massage. There is a distinct connection between Hatha Yoga and Traditional Thai Massage. Many of the postures found in Thai Massage have an undeniable similarity to Hatha Yoga. This beneficial style of stretching is a large part of Thai Massage.

The giving of a Thai Massage is understood to be the physical application of loving kindness known as "Metta." It should be performed in a meditative state of mind, which eventually will enable the Thai Massage Practitioner to develop an innate intuition to better treat the specific needs of each individual person. The master teachers of Thailand continually reinforce this method of working slowly and in a meditative state of mind. Also, extremely important is the use of proper body mechanics which consist of working always with a straight spine, straight arms and using the weight of your body to press down.

Practitioners at work in Thailand make it quite apparent that size and strength have little to do with their ability to apply the correct pressure. At first glance, it might even appear as if they are performing an effortless meditative dance rather than a highly effective therapeutic massage.

With this in mind, let's look at how the marriage of Western and Eastern philosophies applies to the three principals mentioned earlier and how they are incorporated into the Swe-Thai Massage routine.

Preparation: At ITM (Institute of Thai Massage) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, it's customary for the Thai Practitioner to warm up for the day with an hour Yoga/ Tai Chi routine. Stretching and meditation is beneficial not just to warm up and prepare the body, but also the mind. Even as little as 15 minutes of stretching will help prepare you for your days work and minimize the chance of injury or strain to your body. Some Swe-Thai Massage techniques require a moderate amount of flexibility, so some type of warm up is essential.

To center and ground one's self, proper breathing is essential. It's believed that a deep controlled breath in through the nose and out through the nose is considered not only cleansing, but also creates power, endurance and relaxation for the practitioner. In order to perform the Swe-Thai Massage effectively and induce a meditative state of mind, the therapist needs to work slowly and methodically.

Form: By incorporating these new postural habits into your hands-on therapy, your body will experience an amazing supply of energy and resilience. 1. Always try to position your body over your working hand. 2. Maintain a stable and comfortable base for yourself by trying to keep your pelvis aligned with your shoulders and your spine straight. 3. Bracing your body against the table aids in the protection of your lower back.

Style: Combining two forces allows for optimal movement and strength. For example, taking a client into a stretch in and of itself could be strenuous on your body, depending on the client's flexibility and size. By applying a popular Thai Massage technique known as a forearm roll with that stretch, the client receives two techniques in one, flowing movement and the strain to your body has been diminished. This technique is just one example of many that make Swe-Thai Massage so unique. Slower movements require the therapist to focus on the area being treated and the client. This simple process is the core of Swe-Thai Massage.

In conclusion, regardless of what path you've chosen to walk as a Therapist, remember your body is your primary tool. If you treat it well and use it correctly, you will have a long and prosperous career.