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Thai Therapy

What is Thai Massage?
Thai massage is an Eastern healing method based on an energetic principle of well being, much like Shiatsu (Japan) or Tui Na (China). This energy has its own pathways flowing through the body as does blood or lymph, along channels called Sen (lines) in Thai. There are ten principle Sen, and poor health is attributed to blocks, restrictions, or stagnation of energy in these lines. So the Thai massage practitioner presses, stretches and pulls these lines in relaxing, rocking motions to stimulate renewed energy flow. The emphasis on working many points along these lines, as well as the dynamic combination with yoga postures makes Thai massage unique. Because of all the stretches incorporated in the work, many people refer to Thai massage as ‘yoga massage’, or ‘Thai yoga massage’, or even ‘lazy mans yoga’.

Thai massage is traditionally done on a mat on the floor and can be done in light comfortable clothing (no undressing is required and oils are not needed). Before starting the practitioner says a few prayers to get relaxed and centered, and might even rub his/her hands together to create warmth and energy.

Thai massage should not be painful, though sometimes-strong work can be effective in relieving symptoms and opening blocks. Every person has a different threshold, and going beyond can be very counterproductive. If you are uncomfortable during a massage you should say something immediately.

There is a word called Meta in Thai that translates to something like ‘loving kindness’. This is a very important concept and the intentions and mind of the practitioner are very important to the therapy. Bodywork is a way of expressing love that ideally allows the receiver the comfort and relaxation to find healing in her/his self. Mind is energy!

The Roots of Thai Massage
Records suggest that the roots of Thai massage go back at least as far as 2500 years to Jivaka Komarpaj, the celebrated “Father of Thai massage”. He is attributed as a personal friend and Physician to the Buddha. His teachings moved east from India and arrived in what is now Thailand sometime during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC along with the spread of Buddhism. His teachings would probably have arrived as an ayurvedic system intrinsically adapted with yogic and Buddhist influences. Further influences by Chinese energetic healing and local customs round out the context of what was to become traditional Thai medicine.

Traditional Thai medicine involved massage, as well as herbal treatment, nutrition and spiritual guidance and probably evolved in the temples (called Wats in Thailand) and filtered out to family practice. The temples still serve as important centers for education and healing in Thailand today.

Thai massage has thus developed over time in the temples and in the homes and has been passed down orally over many generations. The sacking of the old capital Ayutthaya back in 1767 and other factors has left little of recorded history of Thai massage. Half a century after that invasion King Rama III had a series of stone tablets made preserving what was known of the art. The remaining stone tablets now sit at Wat Po, a principle temple in Bangkok and the most respected institution of massage in Thailand (at least among Thai people).

What is commonly called Thai massage today is actually called Nuat (massage) Phaen Boraan (old or ancient) in Thai language. There are a number of regional varieties, which could be roughly broken into North and South. The Northern style has become softer, not as intense, and has a broader influence of yoga stretches in the postures. The Southern style, or Wat Po style, is often associated with stronger pressure and more abrupt engagement.