This review is an add on to my Thai Massage Review therefore I haven’t gone into depths about the Thai Massage itself, please click here to see this review.
I had the Herbal Ball Massage at The Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School, which was opened in 1955 and was the first to be approved by the Thai Ministry of Education – in my opinion it really sets the standard for Thai Massages. The Training School follows the strict high standards and the consistency of the massage but as they masseuses are students the prices are half those of within Wat Po, it’s also in the very accessible area of Sukhumvit Soi 39.
I usually go here for a two hour massage, however this time I decided to try a Herbal Ball massage which consists of 75 minutes Thai Massage and 45 minutes Herbal Ball Massage. Thai Massage itself can be quite intense and involves stretching and back cracking, if you’ve never had one before I would recommend trying a one hour session to start off with.
My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.
The Session – Herbal Ball Massage
Usually for a Thai Massage at Wat Po, they ask that the client change into a cotton t-shirt and loose cotton trousers (a bit like pyjamas), however for the Herbal Ball massage I was asked to change into a loose sleeveless top and shorts. The massage room also had a steamer which had the Herbal Balls in and it was occasionally letting off steam which smelt of green tea, lemongrass and something menthol, possible Eucalyptus. When I was changed the Therapist came back into the room and asked me to lie down on my back while she covered my body with a light weight towel.
The Massuse then proceeded to give me a 75 minute Thai Massage, then when I was lying face down she began massaging me with the Herbal Ball. She asked me to remove my loose fitting top while she covered me up with the towel and then began to pad my back with a hot ball of wrapped up herbs. The smell of the steam coming off the ball was very strong, firstly with notes of green tea but instead of the bitterness that usually follows this, I could smell menthol herbs or possibly something similar to Tiger Balm, either way the dynamic smells were very pleasing to me.
She dabbed my upper back and then proceeded to move down my spine and then up again. She then moved over to my arms, pressing firmly on areas such as underneath my armpits and my triceps. At first the ball was very hot so she dabbed very lightly, however as the ball began to lose it’s heat she pressed down harder and for longer periods of time to give my muscles the benefit of the warmth. After my upper body had been worked on, she covered me back up with the towel and asked me to remove my shorts, again covering me with the towel for my modesty. At this point the ball was cooling down, so she swapped it with the other one in the steamer, she proceeded to do this throughout the massage as one ball cooled down to a certain temperature.
The Therapist worked on one leg at a time, leaving the rest of my body covered up with the towel. She applied more firm pressure on the meatier parts of my legs, especially my thighs and also took care to be light on the more delicate areas such as behind my knees. As she dabbed the ball she moved in a rolling motion so as not to shock me by applying the pressure of the whole ball all at once, instead she move it as though she were using an ink stamp. Her movement was also very consistent and predictable which aided to my relaxation. When she reached the soles of my feet she pressed the ball down for a long period of time and the warmth and pressure of the ball felt very soothing.
Then she asked me to turn over while she held the towel up to cover me, once turned she pulled back the towel whilst placing a small light fabric across my breasts to cover them. Then she proceeded to press the ball on the front of my chest, starting at the shoulders, then the armpits and then my breasts, taking care not to be intrusive or actually press the ball on my actual breasts – instead she worked on my pecks where the tendons can be quite tight. She then moved over to my arms, pressing firmly again on the armpit area and as she worked her way down my arms she pressed firmly and for a longer period of time on the palms of my hands. After this she moved to my stomach but again worked lightly. This was a very calming sensation and it made me think that it actually be a very nice delicate kind of massage if I was experiencing period pains. She then moved on to the fronts of my legs, right down to my feet again and then asked me to sit up in a crossed legs position.
Once up, she gave me both of the Herbal Balls to hold on to and motioned to me to dab my own legs while she turned off the steamer and removed it from the room. Once she came back she took the hottest Herbal Ball and worked it on my shoulders very firmly and still in the same rolling motion. She worked again on my upper back, shoulder, triceps and up and down my spine before she tapped the ball lightly on my back and then said that she had finished.
Pre-session sense check (5th March 2016, 6pm – 1 hour before treatment)
Physically – My muscles were tired today (even though I had a two hour massage yesterday). I think that it’s stress from spending two weeks in an emotionally testing state a week earlier, because this week has been spent in a negative mindset with tears. My left side is tight as usual and I generally feel quite lethargic, even though I’ve done nothing tiring all day.
Emotionally – I’ve been feeling a little bit lost and a little bit negative this week and it’s been a challenge to snap out of it – so I’ve spent the week trying to immerse myself in things that make me feel positive. This has left me feeling emotionally exhausted. There’s still a sense of emptiness and general deflated-ness which sometimes finds me in the days since my Dad died.
Post-session sense check (5th March 2016, 10pm – 1 hour after treatment)
Physically – I feel very relaxed and the warmth sensation of the Herbal Ball remains on my skin in memory and it feels really nourishing. It’s a very comforting feeling that I’m trying to hold on to even though the massage has finished, the same way you try to hold on to a hug from a loved one. My muscles feel less tense than they did before the massage and my body generally feels more loose and flexible.
Emotionally – My head seems to be a whole lot clearer now that I’ve had the massage, this could be because I had two hours to lie down and relax or it could be because of the herbs or the massage. Generally my mindset is a lot more positive now and I feel mellow, even rejuvenated – I’m definitely looking at the World through a different lens this evening. I feel calm and collected in myself too, which is refreshing as it’s a rare feeling to have in the days of post trauma.
I found this massage to be very dynamic because it couples together a very interactive stretching and pulling massage which can actually be a little bit hair raising (for those who aren’t used to Thai Massage) with a deeply warming and relaxing massage. Personally I really enjoyed it because even though some parts of the Thai Massage were necessarily uncomfortable as my muscles were stretched I could smell the steam of the Herbal Ball and this presence helped me relax into the intensities of the stretches further.
There is also something deeply therapeutic about the Herbal Ball. At first I wondered if it could just be because of the heat of the ball which in itself is a very nice feeling – the sensation of specific heated attention being given to a secluded place on my body. However after remembering back to a hot stone massage I don’t think it was just the heat, I think it was also the herbs. There’s a lot of research into essential oils and the effect that they have on the body by being absorbed into the blood stream through respiration and the skin and I believe that the infusion of the herbs would have had the same kind of effect. After looking around Bangkok for the Herbal Balls I did actually find a stall that had a variety of different herb concoctions to aid different ailments. After studying Aromatherapy and Reflexology it makes perfect sense to me that herbs can not only be absorbed through this manner but also have beneficial results on the body and mind.