Yoga and Massage in Chiang Mai, Thailand: An Extensive Breakdown of Different Styles and Modalities
In this post, I will be breaking down two main places of interest by style and technique. I will first go deeply into the different massage modalities that are offered and then give some insights on the Yoga studios that are in the city.
MASSAGE and all of its MAGIC and MOJO
There are as many Thai massage places in Chiang Mai as 7-11’s-which there are at least two on every block. And while there are plentiful massage studios and spas, there are few that rank par for the traveler that is really looking to get transformed through massage.
Braggadocio credibility moment:
I would like to think that I have justifiably high standards as I have studied Thai massage over 2000 hours, and was trained in Sivananda yoga and Ayurveda in Kerala India. I also have studied other practices, which I will mention below when I give further resources on how to get the profound healing experience and services Chiang Mai has to offer.
Touch is the strongest sense of the human body and is our widespread form of honest communication. When you accept touch in any capacity, even a handshake from someone, you can feel giver’s wellbeing of his or her own sense of touch immediately. It doesn’t take a specialist to recognize the peculiar hand shakers hard hand or an overly touchy and intimate grasp.
When you are receiving massage you are literally having a spiritual divine connection to your giver. Because of this, it can be a very vulnerable place for many. Our sensitivity to touch makes it one of the most valuable methods of connection to our own spirit. It allows us to associate with space with no other outward voices other than that of listening and responding. To respect the space and give it the intention it deserves is step one is both receiving and giving an excellent massage.
I receive massage for two main reasons: emotional therapeutic healing and physical wellness.
EMOTIONAL AND SOFT TOUCH HEALING MODALITIES
When you are going for emotional clearing you don’t necessarily need a strong touch, but one with ultimate listening and receptiveness. You also need a sense of your own internal rhythm- your pace. I have learned when I find that right soft comforting massage that is similar to my internal flow I am able to let go completely, almost feeling weightless and lost in time and space. It becomes a spiritual experience and much less of a physical experience.
If you are a musician or artist that loves beats and vibrations, I would recommend trying out Tok Sen. It is a traditional practice that includes a wooden mallet and different pressure point blocks. The practitioner will hammer down all of your Sen lines (energy lines/pathways) in your body to a beat and the rhythm becomes mesmerizing. It is a system to awaken all stuck and unwanted energies to rejuvenate that creative within us all.
The person/practitioner I recommend is Arjarn Sompong on WuLai Rd; this is where the night market is as well. They are both a teacher and practitioner and will rock your world. You will have to set an appointment, as they are popular and amazing.
Here is their Facebook profile:
*Many of the best places to go in Chiang Mai you will not find in trip advisor, yelp, or will they have a site. Asking around and doing your research ahead of time is part of the magic, the other part is stumbling upon it and trusting in the Universe to lead you to exactly what you need at that moment.
Another unique and remarkable moment I would recommend is to receive a massage from the famous blind practitioner, Sinchai. Many people believe the blind have a sixth sense to touch- an awareness that most cannot truly connect to.
To connect to him check out this site:
There is also a massage school for the blind for a cheaper version of a blind massage.
If you have yet to receive Cranial Sacral techniques or any light touch techniques like bioenergetics I highly recommend getting at least three sessions. When you are exposed to something new, it usually takes your body three times to adjust to what is exactly happening as your mind has a way of rejecting new ways of bodywork. We have an idea that the harder the touch the more that someone is going deep and changing things. This is a very common misconception.
Cranial Sacral touch is a light touch that connects to a specific flow in your body that is separate from your pulse and your breath. It is known as the fascia, which is recently found that it is not only connected to your skin but goes throughout all of your body connecting all of your systems in the body. By touching lightly in the areas such as our cranium and the base of our spine we are able to reintegrate blockages in the body and allow the body to self-heal. To many people, this is so hard to imagine that the acceptance of it actualizing can be rejected. So, I recommend going in with an open heart and a readiness to heal.
A place I recommend for this practice (which they also have other modalities) is the Asian Healing Arts Center.
DEEPER PHYSICAL AND DIGESTIVE MASSAGE MODALITIES
Okay, so I bet you are wondering, why has there been nothing about Thai massage yet?! Well, Thai massage is not a light touch.
Thai massage is clothed with a series of stretching and compressions throughout the whole body. Traditionally, it starts at the feet facing upward, goes to side-lying positions, abdominal massages, facing down, then to seated position.
You will get a variant of different styles. Thai massage is a familial taught bodywork modality, unlike Shiatsu (based off of 2000 years of literature), which many people compare it to. Because of this, anywhere you go for Thai massage can be remarkably different as each family has their own style, moves, and preferences.
There is nerve touch Thai massage, which includes a flicking technique, acupressure based massage, ones with more stretching, and ones with more compression.
But, the overarching objective throughout all of Thai massage is in its translation. Nuad Boran is the term for Thai massage; many just say Nuad here in Chiang Mai. It roughly translates to compassion in action.
I prefer going to an amazing teacher at Sunshine Massage School and his name is Yan. He is a hardcore body-worker and you will definitely have some screams during the massage. He will rough you up but in the most beautiful way. To contact him you will have to contact the school.
Ask to book a session with Yan, or get his personal contact. It is a bit outside of the main city, but so worth it.
There are other really amazing Thai massage places that are easier to access too.
There are two versions of the Women’s Prisoner Thai massage. Because they believe massage is compassion in action they teach it to women prisoners. They feel that most of the crime is created because there was a misunderstanding of compassion and love. By teaching them this modality it not only reaffirms positive touch and love but also gives the women a profession when they leave prison.
This is a link to the original one in the center of the city. Show up before 10 am, it books up fast.
These are Lila Thai Massage Clinics. They are all over the city and each one has a different group of women. I prefer the one by Tha Pae Gate, but in truth the turnaround changes so often, I cannot promise anything. They also are really reliable for the more affordable basic massage.
Another one in the old town that is easy to get to that is totally awesome for the price. I have always had a great experience here.
Be used to most of the places you go the ladies will talk to each other or even answer phone calls while they are massaging you. I consider it part of the experience and quite hilarious.
Things to avoid:
There are a lot of place with sparkly exteriors-that does not always signify a better massage. In fact, it usually just means more expensive. I would not do spas unless you want to do a scrub and oil massage and you are not allergic to any chemicals. I personally avoid facials and things like that because the type of products they use in Thailand generally are jacked up with a bunch of chemicals I prefer to stay inside the bottle than on my body.
Also if you are looking for digestive work, I recommend going for Chi Nei Tsang, a Chinese abdominal massage. I put this in the category of deep work because it accurately is one of the most intense massages I have ever learned or received. Be ready to detox and give yourself at least three sessions to go through your body.
I recommend OMSALA, in the Old Town. This is where I both studied and received treatments.
Finally, onto the conversation of Yoga schools and practices in Chiang Mai.
There are many yoga schools everywhere in the world at this point and any major city you go to. It is also an entirely personal experience and choice to the styles of Yoga you prefer. I practiced Iyengar and Sivananda for many years now, so that is my preference. I prefer slow and alignment based practices where I am able to stay within my body/breath throughout the whole practice. I understand that yoga has become a bit more Yang than Yin over the years of its popularity and I will do my best to provide places for both styles of Yogi/Yogini.
Classes in Chiang Mai run about 250 Baht per class for drop-ins, but most of these places have a class package deal as well.
The place that I have been finding myself most often as of late is a small studio in Nimmanhaimen called Yoga Ananda. It is located on Soi 8. Most of the classes are taught by a Thai lady named Kru and done with a nice well-rounded background. She has a good variety of slower and faster classes and all are only an hour long. When I can I try to take two classes in a row (one fast paced and one with slower and deeper stretches). I prefer to take slow classes as often as fast ones because both equally push me further than I would if I practiced alone. Kru has a magical way of seemingly counting to 10 and it feeling like forever! This is good for the westerner who is looking for that fast paced class.
If you are looking for more of a retreat space and you are on the other side of town Wild Rose Yoga is worth checking out. They always have deeper courses to take as well, so check their site before you are coming to town and perhaps there will be a course you want to take! They have Ashtanga classes, Vinyasa Flow, Yin classes, and all sorts of unique spins and names on courses. The teachers are predominantly English as their first language so they are able to go deeper than some of the Thai teachers with instruction. If this were your first time doing Yoga I would recommend this place just simply for the reason just aforementioned. I also would recommend coming here if you are looking for retreats to get out of town as Wild Rose has been around for the longest and is connected to a lot of the Retreats all over Thailand.
If you are interested in structural and Aerial techniques there is a small Yoga studio in Santitham, which is close to the Nimmanhamen Area, but more Thai people than Farang (tourists). Satva Yoga is an awesome space that actually teaches therapeutic techniques using props as well as teaches cool flying techniques using specific aerial hanging fabrics. No experience necessary as they provide balls and other elements for you to slowly build your new practice.
Another more spiritual based yoga center is YogaTree. They even have a YogaDanceMandala class! It can get a little too woo-woo for some, but if chanting and meditation is your thing, then this is where you want to be. They also have Qi Gong courses and other classes that may be up your alley.
Try something new in the Old city with the balance ball yoga course. This is an entire sequence learning how to use a balance ball! Definitely, realigns the spine and interacts with the core in every move. 5 courses are 1000 baht.
Well, I hope that was both informative and extensive enough for you to enjoy both your massages and yoga practices when you make your way to Chiang Mai.
Good Luck (Choke Dee!) and may the force be with you!
Infinite love and Gratitude,
The Snarky Spiritualist
a.k.a. Brook Woolf
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