The history of Thai massage

Soul of Thai MassageDr. Jivaka Kumara Phaccha is the legendary founder of Traditional Thai Massage. He not only inspired the art of massage, but he also contributed the “Original Knowledge” about healing herbs and minerals.

These days, one can still find Idian Ayurvedic medicine in Thailand including herbal treatment, massage and steam baths. It is believed that Dr. Jivaka was doctor from northern India. He is known to have loved at the same time as the Buddha, and he was the personal physician to King Phimpisarn over 2,500 years ago. He is honored as the “Father of Traditional Thai Medicine” because Thai massage has roots in ancient India. His teaching on herbal medicine and massage arrived in Thailand along with Buddhist teaching by the first Buddhist monks and Brahmins around the 2nd 0r 3rd century bc. Before starting a massage the masseur always offers a prayer to honor and remember him.

“Nuad Thai” Traditional Thai Massage

Throughout rural Thailand , massage is apart of daily life. Massage are given with friendly abandon among family members and free massage session are available for the elderly at a village temple. Thais treat a leisurely massage among kith and kin as a form of socialising that helps draw people together and strengthen the bonds within community.
What is known as Traditional Thai Massage is a formal healing art with roots in Theravada Buddhism, Thailand’s national region. The philosophy of Traditional Thai Massage originated as a spiritual practice derived from the teachings of Buddha, and in the early day was only taught and practiced in temples. Even today, the most important massage school in Thailand is at “Wat Po” or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Only recently have commercial massage schools begun operations.

Thai massage reached its peak about 200 years ago , then began to fall into a decline. It was received by King Rama III (reigned 1824 – 1851) who had all exciting knowledge about the techniques inscribed in stone tablets and erected at Wat Po in Bangkok, where they remain today. The tablets depict diagrams of the human body showing the body’s key energy lines, where massage is applied to stimulate the circulation and effect healing. The practice began to flag again in the early 20th century , but was revived by king Rama VI (1910 – 1925) , resulting in the establishment of two associations for traditional medicine and massage.

Thai Massage ElsternwickTechnique-wise. Thai massage is based on the concept of invisible energy lines running along the body. This is linked to ancient Indian yoga philosophy, which state that we receive life energy, or prana, via a network of 72,000 energy lines that interconnect along our bodies. Thai massage focuses on ten key lines , known as sip sen (ten lines) in Thai.

The energy along these lines powers all our physical, mental and emotional processes, so when there is an energy imbalance, the body’s harmony is disrupted, causing pain and disease. Massaging along these energy lines can break energy blockages ,stimulate the flow of prana and restore general well-being.
A key difference from western massage is that Thai massage is applied without oils and the recipient remains fully clothed. Unlike the continuous strokes of western massage, the Thai method uses pressure, muscle stretching and compression ,practiced in gentle, rhythmic, rocking movements. All the movements are flowing and smooth. The masseur uses not just the hands, but also the feet, knees and elbows. The massage is usually performed on a mattress on the floor.

Holistic benefits of Thai massage

Thai massage has a number of benefits that can be both short term and long term. It is important to notice that it is primarily a healing massage and you may notice the following:
- Relieves pain and muscle tension
- Strengthens and rejuvenates the body
- Improve blood and lymphatic circulation
- Frees blocked energy flows
- Increases flexibility through passive yoga postures
- Increases ability to absorb food
- Enhances elimination of wastes and toxins
- Invigorates the nervous system
- Facilitates relaxation

Thai massage is especially helpful in relieving certain specific ailment including headaches , migraines, arthritis , whiplash pain, paralysis, numbness, sciatica and back pain. If combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, it can make a real difference to one’s general health, mental attitude and well being.

A word of warning

Thai Hut MassageIt is vital to only have a Thai massage with a masseur who is fully qualified. There are also a few other important things to note.
- People with serious heart conditions , high blood pressure or cancer shouldn’t try Thai massage
- Thai massage is unsuitable for those suffering from brittle bones (osteoporosis), a condition that tends to appear in elderly women.

Foot massage and Reflexology

Foot massage is so popular in Thailand that it seems you can find a foot massage establishment on just about any street corner in any Thai city. While at some you may get at best a relaxing foot massage, at others you may find dedicated, professional reflexology. Most of the major spas in Thailand offer reflexology massage for the feet, a healing massage that can leave not just your feet, but your whole body walking on air.
Reflexology is a holistic therapy that applies pressure to specific of the feet to treat problems in all parts of the body. Similar to the concept of Thai massage therapy, reflexology is based in the flows freely around the body when the person is in good health. The body’s energy flows in zones and is dynamic, balancing itself to meet the individual ‘s needs. With stress, anxiety, poor diet, or lack of exercise, the energy flow becomes disrupted. In reflexology, specific points on the feet and hands are thought to correspond to each part of the body. Applying pressure to points on the foot is supposed to treat the corresponding part of the body.

Though the practice of foot massage has been known to man since the earliest civilizations and is depicted on Egyptian tomb paintings, reflexology as we know it today is a modern therapy developed in the early 20th century. It was an American woman, Eunice Ingham, who identified and mapped out the body’s reflex zones in a form of zone therapy, referring to the method as reflexology.

How can a reflexologies tell when there’s an energy block in your body? One sign of energy imbalance is a gritty feeling, crystal-like in texture, that the reflexologist can detect beneath the skin.

The location of the grittiness indicates the problem are in the body. The reflexologist will try to break down this grittiness in order to restore the energy flow to that part of the body and flush out the toxins. The patient may feel discomfort when pressure is applied to problem spots this helps the therapist identity the origin of the imbalance in the body, and treat that area by releasing the energy block there.

Reference

Nuad Thai “Traditional Thai massage”. Maneewan Chia and Max Chia. 2005

Thai spa book the natural Asian way to health and beauty.Chami Jotisalikorn. 2002.

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