Nestled in the heart of Coal Harbour, Sabai Thai offers weary city dwellers a haven of relaxation, Southeast Asian style. It's a full service spa offering everything from facials to body wraps, exfoliation, waxing and pedicures. It's also renowned for its massage treatments, which draw on age-old Thai techniques to rid the body of muscle fatigue and tension. It was their 60-minute traditional Thai massage that I was there to try one Tuesday evening.
After filling out the requisite paperwork, my massage therapist Peerapan led me to one of the dimly lit massage rooms where soft music played and a faint scent of essential oils filled the air. I changed into a loose-fitting tunic and Thai-style wraparound pants and settled on the huge bed as instructed while waiting for Peerapan to return.
If the words "Thai massage" conjure up images of lying passively on your stomach while someone else kneads your back like bread dough, think again. Unlike the slow-paced massage practices of other countries, this is a rigorous process with intense pressure point work and stretching. As Peerapan put it, "It's like having someone do yoga for you."
Like yoga, Thai massage goes back thousands of years. With both of us on the bed, she used every part of her body--fingers, elbows, feet, arms--to target tense spots and contort my body. Yoga practitioners would feel right at home. Some of the postures she put me into felt like a wheelbarrow pose or a cobra--except in this case, she was pushing my legs over my head, or pulling on my arms to hold my body upright and yield more intense sensation.
At times I worried she'd push me too far and I'd sprain something, but Peerapan asked regularly if she was using too much pressure or putting too much strain on me. Don't worry if you're not flexible: Sabai Thai is used to working with people with limited flexibility, and their massage therapists will adjust to suit the needs and tastes of clients. Because I'm prone to severe muscle tension and I was curious about how deep the massage could be, I didn't ask Peerapan to lighten up on the pressure.
Some of the pressure point work bordered on uncomfortable, and the next day I had sore toes and glutes. (It's literally an all-over body massage.) On the bright side though, my neck and shoulders felt great. This isn't for everyone, but if you're prone to extreme tension and you've left massages feeling as though your muscles weren't worked hard enough, then perhaps one of Sabai Thai's treatments is for you.
A special thanks to Peerapan and Sabai Thai for letting me try one of their massage treatments. Sabai Thai has locations in Coal Harbour, North Vancouver and West Vancouver. To book an appointment or find out more about their services, visit their website.