She knows your kneads

THEW QUIET, soft-spoken Ilada did not say much beyond “hello”.


Silvia Radan

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sat 28 Jul 2012, 9:23 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:01 PM

She simply nodded her head and smiled to confirm the appointment, then led the way to the candle lit room, where a set of neatly folded appropriate clothing were ready for the next client. The round shaped room was surprisingly large, with neutral coloured tiles all around, a tall treatment bed pretty much in the middle of it and a floor mattress next to it. Subtle scents of jasmine added to the relaxing, somewhat mysterious mood.

“Please lie down over there,” said Ilada, pointing to the mattress.

Within seconds she began kneading my muscles, she knew quite a lot about my lifestyle.

“You didn’t have massage in a long, long time,” she observed.

I asked her how she knew, and I could feel her smile as she continued kneading without an answer.

Ilada Juengcharoen is among the very few, if not the only Thai masseuse in Abu Dhabi, doing Thai massage — and other massages too — at Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort. She used to work for another five-star hotel in Phuket, Thailand, but, when Sheraton Abu Dhabi sent word out there that it needs a professional Thai masseuse, Ilada decided that working oversees would be good change for her. She arrived here 10 months ago.

“It is very different here. The people are different. The city is different. The life is different, but I’m getting used to it,” she said.

Starting from the toes and gradually massaging her way up to the neck by stretching, pulling and pressing all major muscles Ilada admits that Thai massage is a world apart from most other massages.

“First of all, there is no oil used in this massage,” she began explaining.

“And there is a lot of stretching involved, like in yoga. The one who is doing the massage has to have a lot of strength, as we use our fingers a lot, our palms, knees and even the feet.”

Thai massage, known in Thailand as “nuat phaen boran” (literally “ancient manner massage”), is believed to have its origins some 2500 years ago. Myths and legends say that it was Shivago Komarpaj, who was Buddha’s physician, who invented it. Over the centuries, influences of Indian, Chinese and Southeast Asian practices of traditional medicine shaped the art that it has become today.

“There is only one form of Thai massage, but it has over 2,000 steps,” revealed Ilada. “It can take anything from 60 minutes to over two hours to perform one massage, depending on the person’s needs.”

“To start with, we first look at the person’s body, then we decide if a soft, medium or hard massage is needed.”

The massage generally follows the energy lines of the body, known in Thailand as Sen lines. Most Asian massages and physical therapy are based on the concept that there is a system of energy lines in the body. If they are blocked, trapped by muscle tension and stress, health problems develop, so unblocking this energy flow results in improved health.

The Thais, in fact, have long believed that most muscular-skeletal pain and lack of mobility in the joints are caused by muscles shortening because of repetitive strain. The more tense the muscle, the shorter it gets and, as a result, the brain reduces its functions, so in time the muscle becomes weak. This is when Thai massage works its magic, as it has the ability to stretch the muscles to their normal length.

“There are other health benefits of Thai massage, not just freeing the energy flow or relaxing and releasing pain of the muscles,” explained Ilada.

“It is also very good for the mind. When the body is relaxed, the brain too is in a positive mode.”

In Thailand, the Thai massage, along with other forms of traditional medicine, has been recognised by the government as a medical discipline and even prescribed as a treatment for various ailments.

No wonder, having some basic knowledge about the human body is compulsory for any Thai massage practitioner.

“The first lesson I had in Thai massage was to learn anatomy. This helped me to know where to put full pressure and where to put half pressure on the body,” said Ilada, who studied Thai massage at the Banyan Tree in Phuket, five years ago. Of course, practice makes perfect, so she has reached the stage now where she only needs one touch of your muscles to know how to fix them.

“So I’ll see you in a week or two?” she asked as she finished the one-hour massage.

“Your muscles are still too tense, and you need another session in two weeks time, then you should come every month or two, to keep you body free of tension,” she advised.

For me, the massage worked if a positive difference is felt in the body and mind and even though my muscles were not declared 100 per cent better, they felt heavenly, so I agreed to follow Ilada’s advice.

More news from