Thai yoga massage
The history of Thai Yoga massage
Thai yoga massage was born about 2,500 years ago, following the arrival in Thailand of Buddhist doctors and monks from India. Traditionally, the art of Thai massage has been passed down orally, from teacher to student, in Buddhist temples and in families. Some precursors made it known in Europe from the 1960s. It was towards the end of the 1980s, with the resurgence of traditional approaches, and the publication, in 1990, of the first work written in English on the subject, that Thai massage has spread in the West. An increasing number of medical professionals have traveled to Thailand to study it and have subsequently founded various schools. In Thailand, massage is considered a therapeutic treatment and is practiced, among others, in hospitals.
In the West, several terms are used to refer to Thai yoga massage, including, Nuad Bo’Rarn, Nuat, Nuad Phaen, Thai massage and massage-yoga.
It is also called yoga or traditional lazy man massage. Thai yoga massage is an Asian ground massage technique. Incorporating stretching and fluid massage movements, it stimulates circulation and flexibility. The client wears loose, comfortable clothing and the masseur uses pillows to support the client during the Thai massage session.
This style of massage became more and more popular in the West in the 20th century because it offers real work on the joints and joint flexibility, without straining the client.
When Westerners began to travel to Thailand more often, many became interested in Thai techniques. By studying and practicing it in Thailand, they then incorporated it into massage practices back in the West.
What is a Thai yoga massage?
Coming from India, influenced by Buddhism, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Thai massage or Thai yoga massage fits into the big family of massage therapy.
Thai massage or Thai yoga massage is a holistic massage based on an energetic vision of health. It is inspired by yoga and meditation, and is characterized by three main elements:
• Stretching exercises that are both dynamic and fluid: they are done in duet with the speaker, in a continuous back and forth rhythm, a bit like a tango. These exercises are generally based on yoga postures, but no prior knowledge of this discipline is required.
• “Energy” work: it consists in exerting maneuvers, massages and pressure on specific regions or points along the energy lines of the body called sen. These lines are similar to the meridians in acupuncture. The therapist exerts pressure with his palms and thumbs or taps the energy lines with his fingers. He can also use his arms, forearms, elbows and feet.
• An attitude of meditation and recollection during the massage: this would allow the therapist to be intuitively in contact with his client.
According to practitioners, manipulations, stretching exercises and special attention to breathing promote blood and lymphatic circulation and the elimination of toxins. Massage also helps to release muscle tension and energy blockages, and gives the body flexibility and mobility. The relaxing effect of Thai massage calms the mind and induces a general state of well-being, both physical and spiritual.
The main principles of Thai massage yoga
Inspired by Ayurvedic philosophy, the Thai system considers that all life is animated by an invisible energy, prana. According to Indian tradition, prana circulates in the body through the nadis, a network of 72,000 energy channels. When energy is blocked or restricted, an imbalance ensues and leads to health problems. To treat the entire body, including internal organs, Thai massage focuses on 10 of the nadis, which are called sen.
Before the treatment, the practitioner performs an assessment based on the tridosha, the 3 principles or dosha present in all forms of life:
• Dosha vata, the principle of air and ether, governs everything that is in motion in the body (circulation, respiration, heartbeat);
• Dosha pitta, the fire principle, controls metabolism and digestion;
• Dosha kapha, earth and water, controls lymph, phlegm and hydration.
Thus, a slow and gentle work reduces the vata, a work done with calm rebalances the pitta, and a work done with ardor decreases the kapha.
Thai yoga massage what to expect?
There are very few clinical trials that have specifically evaluated the effectiveness of Thai massage.
The benefits of Thai yoga massage are numerous:
– Ideal for recharging your batteries
– Allows to relax the muscles
– To gain in flexibility, and to benefit from a better amplitude in the movements
– The pressures and stretches practiced during a massage session relieve nervous tension and sleep disorders
Decrease back pain
Authors of a randomized clinical trial compared the effectiveness of traditional Thai massage and Swedish massage in reducing back pain associated with myofascial pain syndrome. One hundred and eighty patients received 6 half-hour massages (Thai or Swedish) over a period of 3 to 4 weeks. Three weeks later, the pain intensity in both groups had decreased by more than 50%. However, the results of this study do not allow us to know whether these massages are more effective or less than standard treatments. In addition, the follow-up was too short to be able to determine the long-term effects.
In 2007, another randomized clinical study compared the effectiveness of Thai massage and a joint mobilization (movement) technique in 67 patients with chronic low back pain. The results show that the patients in the massage group reported, after treatment, a lower degree of pain than in the mobilization group. The authors mention that the patients in the massage group seemed more relaxed and calm after the sessions, which could explain the results observed.
Thai yoga massage in practice
Many healthcare professionals (massage therapists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, nurses, yoga and meditation instructors) use Thai yoga massage as a complementary approach. In the West, therapists practice in private practice, in massage schools, health centers and beauty treatments.
Course of a session
Although in Thailand a massage session can last over 2 ½ hours, in the West it usually lasts 1 hour to 1 ½ hour. The massage is performed on a mattress placed on the floor, on a person dressed in loose and comfortable clothes. At the first meeting, after having made a health check-up, the therapist questions the person about their lifestyle in order to determine their “Ayurvedic” constitution. Depending on the dominant of each person, the therapist suggests the postures as well as the pace and intensity of the maneuvers to be exercised to rebalance the tridosha.
Traditionally respected therapists begin and end their massage session by taking a few minutes to focus, so that they are fully attuned to the needs of the person receiving the massage. Some say a prayer or a mantra, others sing, to focus their whole being on the present moment. Treatment normally ends with a soothing massage of the abdomen, chest, arms, hands and face.
When to receive a Thai yoga massage?
Like other forms of massage, Thai massage or Thai yoga massage is recommended at least once a month to be effective, although a frequency greater than once a week may be contraindicated in some cases.
Who is Thai yoga massage for?
Thai yoga massage is suitable for a wide range of clients, including the disabled and the elderly, due to its gentle nature and non-invasive techniques.
Before starting sessions, however, clients should consult their attending physician to ensure that massages are not contraindicated for them. There are some medical conditions for which massage is not recommended.
Become a practitioner to perform Thai yoga massage
No official body regulates the standards of practice and training of Thai massage. Each school sets its own curriculum, even in Thailand. Before registering for a session, one must check whether the practitioner is part of a professional association (massage therapy or Thai massage), what his training is, and ask for references. The International Thai Therapists Association unites many therapists practicing Thai yoga massage around the world. The organization has developed a code of ethics and disseminates information related to training offered in Thailand.
Thai yoga massage is contraindicated in cases of phlebitis, in pregnant women, and in individuals suffering from joint disorders.