Awhile back I wrote a note on The Naga Center's Facebook page, in which I created an elevator speech answer to the question of "You do Thai massage huh. What's that?" I'm copying that elevator speech here, as I think is a useful conglomeration of words, and because I hope that it assists in opening our awareness to the vastness of this modality.
While most Thai massage being practiced by non-Thais, and at street shops in Thailand, is simply a combination of compression (palm pressing), Thumbing of lines, and passive stretching, this spiel is designed to encompass the larger potential of Thai bodywork.
Thai bodywork is an entire branch of traditional Thai medicine that consists of a multitude of traditional therapies ranging from bone setting (traditional chiropractics) to use of herbal balms, liniments and hot compresses. In-between is a wide range of bodywork techniques such as Thai deep tissue, passive stretching, and work that focuses on freeing pathways of movement in the body such as tendons, muscles, ligaments and nerves. Thai bodywork can be calming and relaxing, but also holds the potential to be the most physically intensive deep tissue work there is. It employs esoteric folk healing techniques such as Thai fire cupping, Thai scraping, and tok sen.
Being a branch of traditional Thai medicine, Thai bodywork is steeped in traditional Thai medical theory. Like Rolfing® it can restructure our body alignment, and like medical massage it can be used to treat acute traumatic injury. Unlike these western modalities, Thai bodywork integrates a deep spiritual component based on Buddhism as medicine, and the idea that the mental, energetic, emotional and physical bodies are not separate.