The woman who taught me Thai Yoga Massage is about 9 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than I am and yet, I once watched her lift and balance a heavy, muscle-bound guy who was three times her size on her knees, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
This display of super human strength is what drew me to Thai Massage in the first place.
That and the massages.
But my gluttonous love of massage aside, the idea that I could move, lift and bend people into yoga stretches that they normally couldn’t deepen into on their own appealed to me. For years, I’ve been engaging in a form of dance called Contact Improvisation, one of the aspects of which involves using momentum and the body’s structure to lift and be lifted by another person somewhat effortlessly. It’s a wonderful partnership built on listening, compassion, and surrender. The idea that there was a body therapy that combined this with yoga and massage seemed too good to be true.
Thai Yoga Massage is very much like a partner dance between practitioner and client. The practitioner uses their hands, feet, arms, legs, and body weight, leverage and momentum to gently guide the client into various passive stretches that often resemble yoga postures. A rhythmic, rocking motion is used to fluidly position the client and increase the amount of stretch. The more attuned the practitioner and the more relaxed the client, the more harmonious, healing and beneficial the dance becomes.
My teacher once asked us which we preferred, giving or receiving Thai Massage. None of us had a direct response one way or the other. Both were equally enjoyable, albeit for different reasons. As a practitioner, you create sacred space of all that is within the boundaries of the Thai Massage mat, yourself and your client included. The movements are swift and slow, like Thai Chi. The gentle rocking and sway of your body is akin to floating in a calm ocean. It creates a meditative peace that washes over both you and the client.
The meditative buzz for both the practitioner and client makes sense when you consider that Thai massage was developed by The Buddha’s personal physician, Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, more than 2,500 years ago. From India, the practice traveled to Thailand, where the Ayurvedic techniques implicit in Thai Massage gradually became influenced by traditional Chinese medicine. Drawing from both influences, the philosophy behind Thai Massage is to view physical illness or discomfort as a result of an imbalance in the body, mind, and/or spirit. The practice then is to re-establish harmony through guided manipulation of the body using passive stretching and gentle pressure along Acupressure points and energy lines called Sen lines. There are said to be 72,000 of these lines, however, there are 10 main lines that are sufficient to treat the whole body and its internal organs.
When energy flow is blocked or restricted, the result is physically felt, whether in the form of fatigue, muscle aches, sickness or disease. Thai Massage works to clear these blockages and return stasis to the flow of energy. The result is a seemingly paradoxical sensation of feeling both relaxed and energized at the same time. Added benefits of Thai Massage include reduction in stress, improved flexibility and circulation, and mental clarity. The effects are felt and visible immediately. Recipient and practitioner leave sessions with a glow of peaceful calm.