From the “Land of Smiles” comes one of the most popular forms of massage available today, Thai Massage. This unique style of therapy blends various influences of Asian medicine and the philosophy of Buddhism. While it is best experienced in its country of origin, the beneficial art of Thai Massage is now available worldwide.
What is Thai Massage?
In its native tongue, Thai Massage is called Nuat Phaen Boran, which translates as Ancient Massage or Traditional Massage. Thai Massage is also often referred to as Traditional Thai Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Passive Yoga, or Assisted Yoga. The development of Thai Massage started approximately 2,500 years ago with Shivago Komarpaj, also known as Jivaka Kumarabhacca; a traditional Ayurvedic doctor who was the personal physician to the Buddha. Over time, this system of massage traveled across Asia to Thailand, with the Buddhist religion. Along the way, elements of Chinese Medicine were incorporated into the methods of Thai Massage to expand its healing abilities.
Today, there are several different styles of Thai Massage practiced all over Thailand. The most prominent style of Thai Massage is taught at Wat Pho, a temple in Bangkok, Thailand. Many foreigners travel to the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai to learn from a long-standing branch of the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School.
Please be aware that Traditional Thai Massage has nothing to do with the erotic Asian massage services offered in some hotels and questionable massage parlors in Thailand. The people of Thailand are very sexually conservative by Western standards, and prefer to differentiate their traditional Thai medicine from these sexual practices.
What is a Thai Massage Like?
Thai Massage is often described as a unique blend of acupressure, reflexology, and yoga stretches. Thai Medicine combines both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine theory. A person’s life force circulates their body through energy pathways called sen, similar in layout to Chinese Medicine’s meridians and Ayurveda’s nadi lines. While there are thousands of sen in the body, most Thai Massage focuses on treating specific acupressure points along the 10 most important sen.
Thai Massage is considered a spiritual practice for both the practitioner and patient. Each session is traditionally begun and ended with a prayer, honoring the teacher. Specific precepts are followed by traditional practitioners to maintain Buddhist morality, humility, and cleanliness of mind and body.
When you receive Thai Massage, it is customary to be fully clothed except for your feet and wearing pajamas or other loose clothing. Thai Massage is given on a mat laid upon the floor, with no oils being used during the treatment. In some cases, a steamed herbal liniment may be applied with a towel to the skin; the combination of heat and herbs enhances the healing process.
Thai Massages start with you lying on your back, and with the practitioner beginning by working on your feet. Foot massage, or reflexology, is an important component of Thai Massage and is also practiced independently of full body massages. The practitioner continues by massaging your body through a series of choreographic movements. These movements resemble various yoga postures; however, they do not require any effort by you. This aspect of Thai Massage has lead some to playfully call it “lazy man’s yoga”, since the practitioner does all the work of stretching your body. The practitioner will utilizes both of their hands and feet to position and counter-balance your body into the various stretches. The combination of gentle pressure all over your body and the passive stretching will open the energy lines in your body, improving your health. The coordination of both patient and practitioner moving into these postures can also help you to relax and let go, allowing your body to be moved beneficially.
A full Thai Massage can last over two hours, as ever part of your body is massaged and stretched. While this may seem long to some people, the meditative atmosphere and relaxed state of your body will allow the time to pass quickly.
What are the Benefits of Thai Massage?
Similar to Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, Thai Massage is capable of healing both your mind and body. Thai Massage can be beneficial for both the patient and practitioner. In accordance with Buddhist philosophy, the giving of Thai Massage can cultivate the generosity, compassion, and oneness of the healer.
Combining both the energetic and physical healing of the body, Thai Massage can benefit you in the following ways:
- Thai Massage can relax your body:
By decreasing your muscle tension, Thai Massage can increase your flexibility and strength. This adjustment of your muscle tone can correct your posture and realign your body for better energy flow, relieving pain and nourishing your joints.
- Thai Massage can calm your mind:
The meditative aspect of Thai Massage will help you reconnect your mind and body, allowing emotional balance and mental clarity. This enhanced state of mind will strengthen your spirit and create a more positive outlook on life.
- Thai Massage can improve your health:
When your energy flows correctly, blockages will be resolved. The body will return to balance with a proper functioning nervous system, improved blood circulation, and increased vitality.