Balinese Massage vs Thai Massage

asian spa room with text "balinese vs thai massage"

You may have heard of Thai massage.  It’s popularity has been growing over the recent years because people like the stretching that is included.  Balinese massage is another similar treatment that is not as well know.

If you are wondering weather Thai massage or Balinese massage is better suited for you, read on.  In this post, we will do a comparison of Balinese Massage vs Thai Massage.

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buddha, towels, candles, and flowers

What is Balinese Massage?

Balinese massage mixes Indian, Chinese and Thai techniques to give you a unique full-body treatment.  It uses uses a combination of gentle stretching, kneading, acupressure, reflexology, and aromatherapy to restore your energy, release the tension, and help you relax.

When you blend these massage techniques together, it stimulates the flow of blood, oxygen, and qi energy around the body and helps to release any tension. Your stress levels improve as a Balinese massage is done in a relaxing atmosphere so that it soothes the mind as well as the body.

Some of the strokes during a Balinese massage will be gentle but it does use firm pressure to loosen up the muscle and get rid of knots.  Your therapist can adjust the pressure to meet your needs.

professional massage on the back

Massage oil is used to make the massage strokes more fluid and free of friction so that the treatment is more comfortable. It’s typically a vegetable oil like jojoba, sesame, Tahitian monoi, or coconut. The oil also nourishes and softens the skin.

Essential oils are also used in the massage to sooth your mind and boost your mood.  If you are lucky enough to get your Balinese massage in Bali, they may use an essential oil like frangipani that is rare and exclusively found in Indonesia. In other cases, they may use scented essential oils like ylang-ylang and rose oil.

If you are interested in learning more about Balinese massage, you can check out this instructional DVD. 

What to Expect with a Balinese Massage

The Balinese massage is a full-body treatment that usually lasts around an hour. You are typically asked to remove most or all clothing, and lie down on a mat or massage table.  The body, except for the area that is being massaged, is covered with a cloth so the temperature stays constant.

The therapist will use a combination of gentle stretches, skin rolling, kneading and stroking, and pressure-point stimulation during the treatment. The massage includes a scented oil chosen based on your preferences and skin type.

You lie face down. The Balinese massage starts at your feet and works up. Your therapist will use some foot reflexology techniques to stimulate pressure points on your soles. Then, a gentle stretch for the lower legs and some deep tissue work moving up the back of your thighs.

foot reflexology is an important part of a Balinese massage

Next the focus moves to your back.  Your therapist will target pressure points along the spine while also kneading the area to gently remove knots in your shoulders.

Then you turn over and your therapist starts back at your feet before moving up the body.  The treatment includes work on your thighs and stomach and finishes with a gentle massage of your scalp and forehead.

What is Balinese Massage good for?

Balinese massage is a good treatment if you want a variety of massage techniques, have tight muscles or joint pain, need some help to relax, or want to improve your mood.

It’s ideal for sports injuries because it can soothe damaged tissue, relieve strained muscles and joint pain, and boost circulation.  For those looking for mental benefits, the essential oils can help reduce stress and lift your spirits.

As with all spa treatments, you should tell your therapist if you have any injuries or other medical conditions, are taking medication, or think you might be pregnant.

What is Thai Massage?

Thai massage is a combination of stretching, movement, and pressure.  It actually originated in India over 2,500 years ago as a healing art.

With influences from both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, Thai massage is based on the theory that energy moves through your body along pathways known as sens.  The therapist will move your body to increase the flow of energy along the sens.

woman giving a man a thai massage

You may hear Thai massage referred to as assisted yoga because of the positions that your therapist will move your body into.  Therapists will use fingers, thumbs, elbows, and feet to push, prod and twist you.  It will release the tension in your body and help you relax.

If you want to learn more about Thai massage, you can check out this instructional DVD or this book.

What to Expect With a Thai Massage

Thai massage is a full-body treatment that typically lasts 60 – 90 minutes.  You can wear your own loose-fitting clothes, or they may have a loose cotton top and drawstring pants for you to wear. You keep your clothes on throughout the massage.

While some massage chairs offer a Thai stretching functions, it’s not the same as a real Thai massage experience.   In many instances, they will have you lie on a mat on the floor, but sometimes they will use a massage table.

As you lie on the mat, the therapist will slowly move your body through multiple stretches, using the weight and pressure of their body to assist you.  Some of the stretches may involve going through yoga-like movements with the therapist holding or pulling you to maintain the pose.  It’s not uncommon to feel a slight pain, you can always ask your therapist to reduce the pressure and stretching intensity.

Unlike a Swedish massage, there is no massage oil or kneading. Instead, the therapist uses their hands, thumbs, elbows, knees, and body weight to stretch, pull, and rock different parts of your body. Don’t be alarmed if they sit on you to help you stretch into certain positions.

thai massage

What is Thai Massage good for?

People who don’t mind a bit of pain or being in awkward positions will love Thai massage. It’s a more active type of massage than many people are used to as you won’t just be lying down the whole massage.  At the end of it you will feel fantastic, as it very effective in relieving stress, muscle aches, and tension.

If you have an injury are particularly sensitive to pain, be sure to let the therapist know before the massage starts.  Thai massage is not recommended if you are pregnant.

RELATED: Guide to Thai Foot Massage

sign saying I heart Thai Massage

Balinese and Thai Massage Comparison

Now that we have introduced you to both Thai and Balinese massage, let’s take a look at how the two massage styles compare.   The table below highlights some of the key features of each one.

Balinese Massage

Thai Massage

Full Body







Gentle Stretching

Yes, Can Be Intense

Reflexology/ Acupressure



Massage & Essential Oils



Balinese Massage vs Thai Massage: The Verdict

You can’t go wrong with either a Balinese or Thai massage.  The techniques are effective at reducing stress and helping you relax.  Choosing the best one for you depends on your personal preferences.

Those that like something more relaxed will probably prefer a Balinese Massage, while those that want a stronger massage should go for a Thai Massage.

If you want to learn more about different massage techniques and styles, check out our recommendations for massage books for beginners or Best Essential Oil Books For Your Home Library

Read Next: 11 Tips for What to Do After A MassageBest Home Foot Spa for Large Feet and Best Foot Massager for Large Feet

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Natalie Bell