What is Thai Massage? How is it connected to Yoga?
"Thai Massage is the art of giving with two hands and a heart." Thai Proverb
Only a masseur working in a meditative mood can develop an intuition for the energy flow in the body and for the Prana lines. -Asokananda
Prana is the universal principal of energy or force. It is the life-force within us and around us. Prana is what gives life, simply put, what we feed into our bodies via our breath, food and thoughts. When we commonly speak of yoga, we are usually referring to the practice of Asana, or posture as well as Pranayama or breathing exercises. During our practice we are working with our bodies and using or aiming to control our Prana. When Prana is unobstructed and runs freely in our bodies we experience balance, happiness and health. When Prana does not flow freely, we experience malaise, sickness and a general feeling of being unwell.
Movement is expression. When we are joyful, we can almost fly. When we are troubled, our bodies can feel heavy and lifeless. When we are in pain, moving can seem almost impossible. We seek cadence in life, our rhythm, our balance. When we fall out of cadence, we experience blockages both physically and mentally.
Thai Massage is a form of bodywork that dates back thousands of years to the time of the Buddha and has it's roots in Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Thai Medicine. It stemmed out of compassion, or Metta, the Pali and Thai word for 'loving kindness'. This practice grew deep within the walls of Buddhist monastaries to help heal those suffering both mentally and physically. The founder of this healing art is believed to have been a doctor from the north of India, Jivaka Kumar Bhacca. He was a contemporary of the Buddha and physician to the King some 2500 years ago. This practice along with Buddhism made it's way to Thailand where it further grew and developed it's own characteristics.
Thai Massage is practiced with an open heart. It is a physical form of Metta. A session begins with a Puja Prayer, a cleansing meditative prayer so that the giver is centered, focused and the intention to alleviate and heal has been set. Thai Massage is closely intertwined with Yoga and Yogic Philosophy and is based on the concept of invisible energy lines running through the body. Yogic Philosophy states that Prana or life-force energy fuels the body and in Thai Massage we work on the lines, the channels that this energy flows through. There are many many lines or nadis running through the body, in fact thousands, but in Thai Massage we focus on 10 main lines, the Sen Sib Lines. These main lines are especially important acupressure points. During a Thai Massage I may use my thumbs, palms, elbows, forearms, knees and even feet to apply pressure along the lines working to clear any obstructions, helping to relieve tension, pain, fatigue and encourage the free flow of Prana. Deep Yoga Asana like stretches are also applied and movement is matched to the breath much like a yoga practice. In fact this is why some refer to Thai Massage as passive Yoga.
"Yoga is a light which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the light." -B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga is a practice, a way of living and a form of bodywork that with time and dedication can help us connect our body and mind harmoniously. It teaches us awareness, understanding, acceptance, patience and compassion. Compassion for ourselves, others and our Earth, the space we stem from, share and exist in. "We" are after all in this together. With time and openness the lessons expand and we learn so much more.