Yoga And Thai Massage Share The Same Roots
Thai Massage and yoga are a part of the same family. Over 2000 years ago an Indian physician came to Thailand and brought Thai massage with him. Thanks to him India’s yoga therapy took hold in Thailand and became known as Thai massage. In the West the term Thai Yoga Massage is often used which is actually very appropriate.
The practice of yoga asanas did not make it in Thailand. Thailand does have a version of yoga, but it never became popular and hardly anyone practices it. So the Thai Massage arrived along with the yoga, but the massage flourished and the yoga disappeared into oblivion. In the last decade Westerners have set up many flourishing yoga schools in Thailand, but the students are all from outside of Thailand. It is a very recent phenomenon that the Thais have discovered the benefits of Indian yoga, and now you will find yoga schools for Thais in some big cities.
The Thais and the foreigners don’t usually study in the same yoga schools. Why is that? One reason is the language barrier, and another reason is that the Thais approach yoga as well as life in general in a more relaxed, easy going way, whereas westerners take their yoga practice very seriously. Thais choose to do their yoga practice in a more relaxed and social environment compared to the usually more serious and intense western schools.
Who popularized Thai massage recently? Before the advent of modern medicine, Thais addressed their illnesses for centuries with massage and herbal cures. Then Thai massage lost a lot of its popularity. It was resurrected by foreigners who were fascinated by this unique healing art. They wrote books about it, published videos about Thai massage therapy and established Thai massage schools.
When Thai massage became decoupled from yoga, it resulted in a degeneration of the potential of this healing art. For many centuries it was mainly practiced in the temples by monks. When it moved out into mainstream society in the last few decades, it often turned into a come-on for the sex industry. But this was counteracted to some degree by western therapists who began to take a lot of interest in this new and exotic healing art. They began to re-establish the connection with yoga and generated a huge amount of interest for Thai massage treatments and training in Thailand. Nowadays there are hundreds of Thai massage schools in Thailand, and the students are almost exclusively foreigners.
The newfound popularity of Thai massage benefited the Thai tourism industry, and as a result the government took steps to raise standards, license therapists and schools, and establish training requirements for Thai massage therapists.
Thai massage can be used as a purely physical system of stretches, manipulations and pressure points. But by adding yoga principles to the massage, it can be elevated to a real healing art. Mindfulness, awareness of ones own body and the clients body, engaging from ones hara, the energetic center right behind the navel, awareness of ones breath, conscious channeling of healing energy, and an increased sensitivity of touch all greatly increase the quality and effectiveness of the treatment.
Thai massage can be so much more than a technique. The combination of yoga principles with Thai bodywork is not only an ideal combination, but it brings Thai massage back to its roots of yoga. After all, they are part of the same family.
Shama Kern is a Thai Massage instructor. He created ThaiHealingMassage, a Thai Massage video training school and educational website. For more information you can download a free Thai Massage video course.