Definition of Thai Massage
Thai massage, also known as Nuad bo-Rarn in its traditional medical form, is a type of Asian bodywork therapy that is based on the treatment of the human body, mind, and spirit. The therapy includes treating the electromagnetic or energetic field that surrounds, infuses and brings the body to life through pressure and/or manipulative massage.
The origins of traditional Thai massage began over 2,500 years ago along with the introduction of Buddhism. It is one of four branches of traditional medicine in Thailand, the others being herbs, nutrition, and spiritual practice. The legendary historical creator of Thai medicine is Dr. Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, known as Shivaga Komarpai in Thailand. Bhaccha was from the north of India and said to be a close associate of the Buddha and chief to the original community gathered around the Buddha. The movement of medicine into Thailand accompanied a migration of monks from India to Thailand, possibly around the second century B.C.E. Thai medicine developed within the context of Buddhist monasteries and temples, where Thai people have traditionally sought relief from all kinds of suffering.
While the recorded history of Thai massage was lost during the Burmese attack on the royal capital of Ayutthia in 1767, the surviving records are now inscribed in stone and can be found at the Sala Moh Nuat (massage pavilion) within the temple of Pra Chetuphon in Bangkok, known as Wat Po, the temple of the reclining Buddha. Its spiritual aspect also remains as teachers of the therapy begin classes with the practice of Wai-Kru, a series of prayers and recitations dedicated to Shivago Komarpaj, the father of Thai massage and the Goddess of Healing, and teaches of the tradition through the centuries.
The benefits of Thai massage are numerous with the most predominant being the maintenance of good health and its ability to treat a wide spectrum of physical concerns. Traditional Thai massage is also well known for its ability to clear the energy pathways.
The following are some of the benefits of traditional Thai massage.
- increases flexibility and range of movement
- eliminates muscle pain and muscle spasms
- improves postural alignment
- calms the nervous system and promotes a deep sense of relaxation
- increased energy level
- allows for a significant release of deep, emotional distress
- stimulates blood circulation and lymph drainage
- stimulates internal organs
- relieves fatigue, swollen limbs, painful joints, and headaches
Thai massage looks like a cross between acupressure, yoga, and Zen shiatsu and is inspired by Buddhist teachings. The actual massage consists of a technique that uses slow, rhythmic compressions and stretches along the body’s energy lines, also called Sen in Thai. Over 70,000 Sen are said to exist within the body, and Thai massage concentrates on applying pressure along 10 of the most important Sen using the palms of the hands, thumbs, elbows, and feet. The effort from the practitioner works to free tension within the body. Practitioners also position the body into yoga-like poses and gently rock the body to more deeply open joints and facilitate limbering.
A thorough Thai massage includes the following four basic positions:
-from the front with the client lying supine
-from the side with the client alternately lying on either side
-from the back with the client lying prone
-in a sitting position
One of the most important principles of Thai massage is the continuous flow of sequential movements that prepares the client for the next step in the massage. The practitioner is always aware of his position so that an uninterrupted, slow rhythm is maintained. Deep, sustained pressure ensures that the myofascia, or the muscle’s connective tissue, soften and relax in order to release the flow of energy along the Sen, and to prepare the client for the large-scale stretches that follow.
The preparation needed before receiving a Thai massage is minimal. A Thai massage is typically performed on a floor mat enabling practitioners the ability to use their body weight and to incorporate the many movements that would not be possible on a massage table. Normally, the client remains fully clothed, and lubricant for the skin is rarely used. A Thai massage usually lasts one to two hours, but may be three hours or more if needed.
While some of the pressure techniques used in Thai massage may seem too penetrating to many, most can adjust to it quickly. For those who are frail or stiff, a skilled practitioner will be able to adjust all of the soft tissue and manipulation work to their level of comfort.