Traditional Thai medicine is a combination of knowledge drawn from Buddhist teachings and knowledge transmitted by ancient Thais of different regions of the country. Thais mostly learned through observing nature. In the ancient times, the theory and application of Thai traditional medicine used to be confined to the Buddhist temples and has since been disseminated to secular communities and villages in a form that appears to have remained unchanged through centuries. Traditional Thai massage techniques have been integrated with modern medicine and today they help improve the Thai public health system. The nationwide practice of Thai massage in hospitals and healthcare centers around the country has brought satisfaction to the public and is widely accepted by public healthcare providers. Massage clinics are now to be found within public health hospitals throughout Thailand. Due to its medical and relaxing effects, Thai massage has gained popularity worldwide.
Main principles of Thai Bodywork
Similarly to Ayurveda or Chinese Medicine, the practice of Thai massage relies on a holistic approach to human health. In this perspective, your psyche does not simply reside in your brain: you are your whole body. Your brain is considered as one of a person’s many organs, and it is given neither more nor less importance than, say – your guts, lungs, heart or liver. Your memories, your experience and emotions are coded and inscribed not only onto your brain but they leave traces in your whole body. Working with your body will allow you to have an impact on specific body parts, bodily systems and organs, as well as on your emotions and your state of mind. Conscious touch is key for maintaining a person’s well-being and for ensuring their proper development at every stage of human life.
One of the core values of my work is sensitivity and respect of other people’s boundaries and needs. Therefore, each session is planned according to my client’s personal needs and bearing in mind their physical boundaries. I perform each massage with intention, focusing my awareness on my client. Being fully present and mindful is crucial in the practice of Thai massage. These two qualities, together with a competent touch and proper medical knowledge can work miracles. Even if technically correct, a session performed mechanically will not have the same effect and will merely constitute some time nicely spent, at best. Other crucial aspects of a well performed Thai Massage are the practitioner’s precision, based on qualified anatomical knowledge, their even flow, as well as their deep intuitive connection to the recipient’s body, based on therapeutical expertise in bodywork.
Thai massage relies on two main theoretical systems: the first one is the 4 elements of Life Theory, where the 4 elements are earth, water, fire and wind. This is the main principle in Thai traditional medicine, of which Thai massage constitutes a branch.
The second and core theory of Thai massage is the Sensib Theory, according to which each pressure applied to the recipient during the session should be done so in accordance with the Sensib channels.
Life energy in Thai massage is called „Prana“, which means „the wind of life“, and is known as „Lom Pran“ in Thai. An obstruction in the flow of Prana can be the cause of discomfort or illness. Sensib are the major energy channels throughout the body and they need regular maintenance to avoid any blocks or stagnation. When applied properly, Thai massage helps removing blocks that could obstruct the energy flow in the channels, and bring balance to body, mind and spirit. There are 10 major paths. „Sen“ means path or line and „Sib“ means ten. All 10 Sen originate approximately two inches below the abdominal surface in the vicinity of the navel. „Wind“ is the the energy force that runs through the path — if the path is blocked, obstruction to the wind can cause illness.
In this respect Thai massage is often compared to Chinese massage. The hand techniques and some of the stretching techniques are similar. Nevertheless, although the main philosophy of both is rooted in the life elements and the energy lines in both theories tend to overlap, the applications are somewhat different. While Thai massage applies life energy to the Sensib pathways and the healing based on free flow of the life energy pathways to achieve the balance of the life force (Prana), Chinese massage tends to apply life energy towards particular organs by applying healing directly on the meridian towards the organ.
The main technique of Thai massage consists of applying pressure in a smooth rhythm onto specific points and along the massage lines with either thumbs or fingers, wrists, palms, forearms, elbows, knees or feet and in the stretching positions — using the whole body’s weight. The pressure on the recipient is applied directly on the muscle, as well as inside the muscle where there are blood vessels, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and nerve fibers.
Stress can cause muscle tension that can lead to the reduction of blood circulation in a certain area. This creates metabolic wastes – toxins, which cause pain. The pain will increase the tension in the muscle and thus create a vicious cycle. Through applying and releasing pressure on these points the toxins are released, the muscle relaxes and the pain stops.
Apart from pressure sequences, Thai massage offers a huge spectrum of dynamic mobilising techniques (rocking, joint mobilisation), stretching and reflex stimulation. Hands, thumbs, forearms, elbows, feet and knees are also used to reach deep into the soft tissue and work on internal organs as needed.
According to the Sensib theory, removing blocks should start from the top and move downward. Therefore, in order to release blocks, I start each session from the head. The massage is then further applied to all the body with the objective to eliminate toxins and tensions in muscles and joints in order to achieve a feeling of deep relaxation.
Benefits of Thai Bodywork
Skeletal system: improves bones mobility, joints, ligaments and connective tissues. Promotes circulation and helps joints to function smoothly
Muscular system and the connective tissue: removes toxins from muscle mass, relaxes the tendons and enhances elasticity, increases joint mobility and flexibility
Circulatory system: improves blood circulation, lowers heart rate, increases lymphatic circulation and reduces edema (swelling).
Nervous System: stimulates and improves activity of the nerves and sensations with the effects of reducing pain, improving the function of the internal organs such as stomach, intestine etc.
Digestive system: increases elasticity of digestive tract and stomach movement, prevents and relieves indigestion
Respiratory system: improves depth of breathing and relaxation
Skin: stimulates circulation to the skin surface and enhances appearance
Mental and emotional effect: the brain is not the only organ to store memories of emotions; emotional memories are also stored in many parts of the body where they receive information from peptides. Peptides receptors are located in organs, endocrine glands, skin, muscle and tissues. For some clients, a massage may release profound emotions. These arise when memory cells are stimulated and awakened. Massage can therefore increase emotional balance and awareness. Further mental and emotional effects are stress relief and relaxation
The general outcome of a massage may be feeling peaceful yet more energetic, with a sensation of balance, relaxation and refreshment.