Thai massage has become increasingly popular over the years. Spas in New York and other parts of the world offer this treatment because of the countless benefits it brings.
But where does Thai massage really come from? In this article, we will trace back the roots of this ancient healing art.
History of Thai Massage
As the name suggests, Thai massage is an ancient healing therapy being practiced in Thailand for many years. It’s progenitor, Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha (Shivagakomarpaj in Thai) dates back over 2,500 years. It is believed that Kumar Bhaccha (Shivago as he is colloquially referred to) was a friend and a personal physician of the Buddha. Shivago had extensive knowledge in the area of herbal medicine, and is known as the Father Doctor of Thai Traditional Medicine (TTM).
Thai healing practitioners pay homage to him in a Wai Khru ritual which is repeated before and after giving the massages. The wai khru ceremony (Thai: พิธีไหว้ครู, pronounced [wâːj kʰrūː]) is a Thai ritual in which students pay respects to teachers in order to express their gratitude. It is regularly held near the beginning of the school year in most schools in Thailand.
Wai khru has long been an important rite in the traditional martial and performing arts, as well as in astrology, Thai Massage and other traditional arts; students and performers of Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong, as well as Thai dance and classical music, will usually perform a wai khru ritual at their initiation as well as before performances to pay respect and homage to both their teachers and the deities who patronize their arts.
According to researchers, Thai medicine has rural and royal traditions. The rural tradition of healing is non-scholarly and is simply passed down to generations through experiential methods of teaching. Meanwhile, the royal tradition of Thai massage had been developed for the royal court and employs a more classic approach, refraining from heavy stretching and deep pressures..
Because Thailand is strategically located between India and China, there has been a constant flow of ideas, culture, and tradition from both countries. Even though the evolution of Thai massage techniques and practices largely occurred in Thailand, this healing art does include influences from India’s Ayurvedic tradition and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The influences of these countries can be seen in many ways. For instance, anyone who is familiar with yoga can easily find the similarity of the movements between yoga and Thai massage. People who have received acupuncture will recognize the way a Thai massage practitioner organizes the therapy along the lines which run along pathways similar to the pulmonary/nervous systems and the myofascial planes.
Eastern Origins of Thai Massage
As Buddhism expanded from northern India into southeast Asia, the practice of manipulating the being as a healing art spread with it. It moved to the southern region of India, and then to Sri Lanka, and eventually made its way to Thailand and several other locations where they continue to practice the art form in a similar way.
Today, Theravada, (Pali: “Way of the Elders”) remains a major form of Buddhism prevalent in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Theravada, like all other Buddhist schools, claims to adhere most closely to the original doctrines and practices taught by the Buddha.
Thai massage is an integral part of Buddhism. And although it took four centuries to spread to Thailand, the massage technique became more popular in this region due to the existing culture of the Mon and Kmer people who had immigrated with their Anamistic beliefs.
Thai massage was created as an act of loving kindness (mettā) and performed for healing purposes. However, many people today get a Thai massage simply for relaxation and enjoyment.
Key Principles of Thai Massage
Ideally your mind and body should be one. The separation between these spheres represents an imbalance. In a nutshell, Thai massage is based on the premise that you need to correct the energy balance throughout your being to ease your pain and discomfort, and more importantly, to achieve optimal health.
The basic principle of Thai massage involves manipulating the extremities of the body, followed by working towards the core, and then going back to the extremities. Doing this is believed to promote the proper flow of energy through the Sen. Sen in Thai = pathways on which the life forces flow in the body
If you’re familiar with Western massage techniques, you’ll immediately notice how different Thai massage is. Unlike other Western types of massage, Thai massage is performed on a comfortable mat on the floor while you’re completely clothed.
Practitioners may not even use oils as the clothing provides the slippage needed to avoid irritation of the skin. Experienced practitioners may use oils and balms for their therapeutic values toward balancing the being through absorption of the properties through the skin and warming the tissues preceding deeper work.
Thai massage is performed mostly through deep compressions and rhythmic manipulation of muscles and bones, as well as some rocking, tapping, twisting and stretching movements. With the application of pressure and motions involved during a Thai massage session, tension and blockage will be released and your condition will improve.
Thai massage practitioners use different body parts in addition to their hands such as forearms, knees, hips, and their feet to perform the massages. Additionally, the therapist will also assist you in performing different stretching positions that may remind you of yoga poses, so you can enjoy their therapeutic effects. You may be placed in prone, supine, side-lying, seated, twisted and inverted positions if you book enough time for a therapist to get to all of them.
Some of the most common benefits of Thai massage include the following:
- Relief from headache
- Reduction of back pain
- Relief from joint stiffness and pain
- Reduction of anxiety
- Invigorated and energized physical and emotional condition.
- Improved flexibility and mobility
Thai massage often gets a reputation for being painful. However, you should always communicate your concerns and preferences with the Thai massage therapist so adjustments can be made. Modern practitioners can perform gentler and more relaxed techniques according to your liking.
Over the years, Thai massage has evolved and practitioners continue to develop techniques to suit the preferences of various types of clients. If you want to explore the different Thai massage techniques available, visit one of the most experienced and trusted Thai massage therapists in New York.
From Traditional Thai Massage to 4-hands Thai and Thai Herbal Compress Massage, we’ve got you covered! Contact us today and let us help you explore the most suitable options for your specific needs.