Working the Face in Traditional Thai Massage

Perhaps nowhere is it more relaxing to be touched than the face. A face massage, when sensitively administered, can be a time for the receiver to completely let go. Thai massage is an active type of healing, and the receiver often participates in the dynamics by holding the practitioner’s hands, twisting and turning, breathing and moving in coordinated patterns, etc. But it is at the end of the session, when all the movement has ceased, when we traditionally work the face and the head. At this point, the client is ready and able to fall into deep relaxation, and to achieve a state of body and spirit which is very suitable for the closing of a Thai session. Always work sensitively and gently, and be aware of the flow of your movements.

Sit behind the patient in a comfortable posture. Your client’s head may be resting on a thin pillow on the floor. If you haven’t checked before, ask if the patient is wearing contact lenses, and if so, omit touching the eyelids. If your hands are cold, rub them together to warm them up before touching your client’s face. You may use a very lightly scented lotion or essential oil on your fingers, but check first with the client to make sure it will be appreciated.

Specific acupressure points may be pressed during the course of a face massage to bring about relief to specific areas. If you’re aware of the traditional pressure points in Thai or Chinese medicine, you may incorporate them into your routine. And if not, your fingers will naturally find an number of acupressure points and small hollows on the face and skull that may be gently held and depressed with light pressure and small finger circle movements. Use your intuition and best judgment, but always work gently, slowly and reassuringly.

You might start by gently pulling and holding the base of the skull, so as to stretch the head and relax it into a resting position. Proceed with caressing finger movements on the whole face. When working the forehead and eyebrows, use your thumbs, and always remember to move from the center of the head toward the temples.

Move with your thumbs around the eyes. Cover the tear ducts with light pressure using your thumbs or index fingers and hold for a few seconds. Work along the upper and lower jaw with gentle pressure and stroking and rubbing movements. Play with the ears, press and pull on them gently. (The ears contain 115 acupressure points for the entire body.) Cover the ears by cupping them for 15-20 seconds, which is very relaxing. Don’t allow the center of your palms to make contact with the ear itself, as this will create an unsettling noise for the client. Make caressing movements and finger circles on and around the temples. Hold the sinus ridge with two or three fingers of each hand and gently pull back toward the patient’s forehead.

You may repeat parts of the face massage as often as you like. Just use your imagination, stay in tune with your client, and follow your intuition.

A nice final touch for a face massage is to hold the ‘third eye’ point for at least one minute with very gentle pressure.

You will be surprised how easy it is to lull your partner into a deep state of relaxation. A little bit of sensitivity goes a very long way in working the face in traditional Thai massage.

This article (c) 2006 Thai Healing Alliance International. For more information, visit

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