Even though it is called Thai Massage, or sometimes Thai Yoga Massage, it is based on Indian Ayurvedic and Yogic systems of healing, and reached Thailand along with the spread of Buddhism, having originally been created by the primary physician in the Buddha's community.
Thai Massage was always seen as a spiritual practice and not just a job. Until recently it was exclusively practiced in temples, and giving a massage is still considered to be a physical application of Metta, or "loving kindness". A good masseur/masseuse performs the art of Thai Massage in a meditative mood, and starts with a meditative prayer to fully center themselves, and the healing they are about to perform.
The theoretical foundation for Thai Massage is partly based on the concept of invisible energy lines running through the body. They form a second skin or second body in addition to the physical body. It is along these lines that life-energy, called "prana" in India, and "chi" in China, flows to provide the energy to all our physiological systems and internal organs for optimum function. Good health is indicated by the free flow of this energy throughout the body. Not only physical well-being, but also mental and emotional well-being are subject to this flow of energy. Blockages in the energy flow develop due to many circumstances, internal and external; posture, diet, toxic environments and products, lack of exercise, and bad emotional and mental habits. Thai Massage works with two techniques, namely energy line (pressure point) massage and stretches. The second aspect is why it is sometimes called Thai Yoga Massage, as it resembles a yoga stretching session, but all the work is done by the therapist. Also called Yoga for Lazy People!
Thai Massage is done on a thin mattress on the floor. As mentioned the method includes pressure point work on energy lines similar to a shiatzu massage, and stretching of the limbs and torso, similar to what is achieved in yoga practice. The person receiving a Thai massage should wear loose fitting clothes with long sleeves. (Thai "fisherman's pants" are ideal). The massage typically last for 90 minutes, but can be anything from 1 to 2 hours or more depending on the need of the client.