Traditional Thai Massage – or, Traditional Thai Yoga Massage, as it is officially called – is a therapeutic treatment method widely practiced in Thailand for healing a number of physical ills and symptoms. It is a recognized form of therapeutic treatment that takes an equal place beside conventional medicine. Buddhist monasteries in Thailand, the “Wats”, preserve and pass on 2,500-year-old wisdom and knowledge of Thai Massage. I had the honor of learning this fascinating art form of healing at Wat Pho, the oldest temple in Bangkok, as well as other traditional training centers.
I would like to begin by explaining what Thai Massage is not: It is not a massage according to Western understanding in which individual muscles are massaged. Not muscles or muscle groups form the focus, but the person as a whole and his or her well-being in the sense of the Far Eastern concept of free-flowing energy in the Sen (energy lines in the body, comparable to Chinese meridians). Traditional Thai Massage is a therapeutic treatment that extends far beyond the classic massage.
Thai massage focuses on the following energy lines:
The massage recipient is clothed – loose, comfortable clothing is recommended – and lies, relaxed, on a mat on the floor. The masseur works with palm- and thumb pressure, the lower arms, elbows, legs and feet, and sometimes “walks” across the back of the recipient. Through light or more powerful pressing, energy points and reflex zones are stimulated. What is so special – and so healing – about Thai Massage are the targeted, sophisticated movements of the masseur with which he or she gently leads the recipient into various yoga positions. The active movements of the masseur harmonize with the passive movements of the recipient in a way that resembles a dance. A master of Thai Massage, Kam Thye Chow, even compares it to a tango and writes: “The guide, the masseur, and the guided, the recipient, are joined together in a graceful dance, taking a number of yoga positions. The masseur leads and guides the massage recipient with the hands, feet, arms and legs into these positions. The more skillful and flowing the movements of the masseur are, the more beautiful and harmonious the dance will be, and thereby more healing and beneficial for the recipient.” Others refer to Thai Massage as “passive-” or “assisted yoga”.