During my studies in massage therapy, I was required to take an elective course in other styles of massage. Since I had an interest in yoga, I decided to take a course on becoming a Thai yoga massage practitioner. After my first day on the course, my initial impression of Thai yoga massage was that this was yoga for the lazy person. However, as I continued to learn more about this art form, I discovered that, not only does Thai yoga massage combine elements of yoga and massage, but it also incorporates philosophies from Ayurvedic medicine and meditation.
A quick history…Thai yoga massage grew out of traditional Thai massage that developed in Thailand’s Buddhist Wats (temples). Today, traditional Thai massage is still an integral part of Thai culture, and its origins can be traced back to India, and the spread of Buddhism – more specifically to Jivaka Kumarbhacha, who was a famous yogi and Ayurvedic doctor. He introduced yoga and Ayurvedic practices to Thailand, which over the centuries became an integral part of Thai yoga massage. Due to his immense skills, Jivaka was often called on to treat royalty, and has also been credited for attending to the Buddha.
That was 2,500 years ago. Fast forward to the present day, and you’ll find that Thai yoga massage has been gaining in popularity in the West over the past decade. In fact, this art form has become so prevalent here that it has inevitably adapted to Western culture. Traditionally, a majority of Thais work in the fields, and as a result, Thai massage evolved to focus mainly on the lower body. However, the Lotus Palm method (a school of thought within Thai yoga massage) focuses equally on the upper and lower body. It is considered more beneficial to Westerners because of the tendency to sit for long periods at a desk, usually in front of a computer.
Thai yoga massage is essentially assisted Hatha yoga, and as such, the client is also receiving the benefits of yoga. It is performed on the floor with the client clothed in loose and comfortable garments. The client is encouraged to remain relaxed and limp – there should be no effort exerted. During the treatment, the practitioner massages and moves the client into the various postures for stretching. A Thai yoga massage incorporates hatha yoga poses, rhythmic motion, massaging along energy (sen) lines, and gentle stretching. I’ve always thought that watching a practitioner providing Thai yoga massage was a little hypnotic because of the smoothness and variety of his (or her) movements.
During my studies, I also learned that there are numerous benefits associated from receiving Thai yoga massage. These benefits include:
- Stretching and toning muscles;
- Improving circulation;
- Relieving muscular tension; and
- Easing muscle spasms.
Many practitioners and recipients claim that Thai yoga massage increases metabolism, boosts immunity, balances the body energetically, and calms the mind (incidentally, these are all benefits that can also be attributed to the regular practice of Hatha yoga).
So, for all you yogis out there, the next time you want to try something that is both familiar and different, book an appointment with a Thai yoga massage practitioner.
By Almira Haupt
Chow, Kam Thye. Thai Yoga Massage: A Dynamic Therapy for Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Energy. 2004.
Almira is a recent graduate of the Feel Good Yoga Teacher Training program. For training in all things related to yoga, join us for our next Yoga Teacher Training program.”>yoga teacher training program. Sign up today and receive a 400 color discount.