What is thai yoga massage? It’s a lot more than having your body walked on or being twisted and contorted into different positions. In fact it is very peaceful and relaxing in its essence, a sacred meditative dance with an ever-expanding story line between the giver and receiver.
The name thai massage is actually a misnomer. It is not traditional massage in the sense that it is performed on a mat on the ground instead of on a table and the receiver remains fully clothed. The practice actually originated in India as a form of ayurvedic bodywork. Jivaka Kumar Bhacca is credited as the founder of thai massage. Ancient texts proclaim that Jivaka had extraordinary healing knowledge and was the doctor to the Buddha himself.
Nuad Boran, as it is called in the thai language, is a practice designed to allow the receiver to enter a state of relaxation and self-healing.
Thai massage does not focus directly on kneading muscles, connective tissue, or fascia, although they are undoubtedly all involved in and affected by thai massage. Rather, the focus is on combining spiritual, physical, and energetic healing techniques. These involve the use of acupressure, body harmonics (rocking), stimulating energy lines, finding and attempting to dissolve blockages, and stretching and compression. These techniques are designed to create space for the receiver to engage in regeneration and self-healing. Thai massage practitioners are not healing the receiver, but rather creating an environment through which the receiver’s body can heal itself. All true healing comes from within. We are but a conduit for positive intentions and energy to flow into the receiver.
When the giver connects with their breath and the receivers breath, thai massage becomes a moving meditation. It is often referred to as the ‘sacred dance’. Maintaining proper body mechanics makes this dance effortless and more comfortable for both the giver and receiver. As the massage progresses, it evolves in response to the information that the receiver’s body is providing. No two thai yoga massages will be exactly the same as our bodies are ever-changing and thai massage adapts with the body’s needs.
Energy lines play a large role in thai massage, referred to as the ‘Sen Sib’ or ten main energy lines. They are very similar to the meridians in Chinese medicines and the nadis in yogic philosophy. Thai massage aims to promote the free flow of energy throughout the body along the energy lines. Where we feel discomfort or knots in our body is often not where the root cause of the problem resides. For instance, pain in the lower back can be the result of an old ankle injury. Massaging the lower back will hydrdate the overworked tissues that are taking up the slack of the weak ankle and provide temporary relief. Working the ankle and the outside of the legs to stimulate the natural flow of energy along the fascial connections can help promote relief at the root cause of the problem, alleviating pain both in the short and long term.
One of the biggest aspects of thai massage is to transmit positive intentions and vibrations. A common adage states: ‘Treat people, not conditions in people’. Our bodies operate as a whole unit, and respond positively to positive intentions. We are not our back pain, or our tweaky neck. We are human beings, and thai massage aims to help us be human beings filled with free flowing positive energy that we can share with the world.