Major compartments of the body
There are many different kinds of Chi, but simply, it is Breath.
Think of your body as a series of bicycle tubes of different sizes, making up compartments and meridian ways throughout. When we breathe with our abdomens (Diaphragmatic Breathing), it is like the pumping action of a bicycle pump; breathing in fills the chamber (lungs) with air, breathing out sends the air into the tubes (organs and meridians). Naturally the tubes lose air and need to be pumped up again (most of us are not doing Diaphragmatic Breathing 24/7).
Anxiety, hypertension and high blood pressure, is like having tires with pressure that is too high for it's design. The internal pressure presses up against the confines of the compartments effected and POP ! Other conditions of over inflation are: over-sensitivity, poor circulation, pain, increased body temperature, skin problems, etc.
If our meridians are not filled enough, you probably experience fatigue, low blood pressure, numbness, poor nerve conduction, decreased immunity, and hormone irregularities, for starters.
Most of us have an imbalance in the system - some are overfilled and some are under filled. One of the reasons being is that most people are in their heads and that's where the breath goes. In Chinese Medicine, the Yi (intent) , leads the Chi (breath), and the Chi leads the Li (gross physical body - muscle power). So, where we put our intent, is where the Breath goes; if we are breathing in one area/ compartment most of the time, the others will suffer with no nourishing Chi.
Another major reason for imbalance is the tire tubes/meridians in the body can accumulate debris inside causing bottle necks in the flow of Chi (air). Again, if the vital breath that keeps us healthy, alive, and aware is slowed down or cut off completely, major pathological conditions can manifest.
You might say: "but the lungs are in the chest and that's where I'm breathing."
This is true, but looking at babies who are natural belly breathers; their Mind/Body connection is unbroken, and vitality strong. They haven't been conditioned out of their natural state -yet. If they are upset, the breath is quick and shallow - Wah ! When relaxed they are truly 'resting and digesting'. Think of when you first wake up from sleep - slow even breaths can be noticed, a sense of calm also. As soon as the first thought about what you have to do that day arises, the nervous system reverts to 'fight or flight'.
Breath control is Chi control. The main muscle in respiration in the body is the Abdominal diaphragm - without this being engaged we end up overusing the muscles of the neck and chest, resulting in neck and chest tension. If we are engaging the pelvic diaphragm when we breath the power of our breath capacity is exponentially improved ( a technique taught in Qi Gong or can spontaneously happen in meditation.) If the breath can deepen and sink lower in your body, your organs get toned, more oxygen can reach your every cell, and emotions become grounded. This is how regulation of breath is the key to regulating the mind and body!
In Bodywork we seek to improve diaphragmatic breathing because healing cannot happen without Cellular Respiration ( Oxygen metabolized by cells to create energy!! ). This is the action of Chi.
What is Ayurvedic medicine? It is a medical system that has been practiced in India for several centuries. It dates back as far as 3000 BCE and found in the Rig Veda (old Hindu Scripture). “Ayur” means life, and “veda” means science. Therefore, Ayurveda means “the science of life”. In India, it is considered a preventative health practice and long-term wellness based on different body types. Ayurveda has evolved today in Thailand as a distinctive folk medicine.
The relationship between Ayurveda and Thai Massage goes as far back to Buddha’s time. Jivaka Kumarbhaccha, the founding father of Thai massage, was a revered physician to the Buddha. He combined the Ayurvedic system with Thai massage allowing him to perform medical feats and cures that can be read about in all Buddhist scripture.
We never think about the different ways we self-medicate ourselves. We plow through life without thinking about how our lifestyle, food and exercise affect our body, mind and soul. It is important that we acknowledge the imbalances that influence us, only then can we see how the integration of Thai massage and Ayurveda can help us achieve a higher state of harmony.
Since we are all different, we cannot apply the same conditions on everyone; we have an individual freedom of choice. In Ayurvedic theory, the elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) combine in our bodies to create our unique Ayurvedic “fingerprint”. They are seen as the human tendencies in our body and nature. Together, the elements mingle to form the three vital forces which exist in everything. In Sanskrit, they are called the “tridoshas”, meaning: the three doshas; vata, pitta, and kapha.
Each dosha has a combination of primary and secondary elements; it is analogous to a clay pot. The primary element is the content within the pot, and the secondary element is the container itself.
Vata (air + ether) = nervousness
Pitta (fire + water) = passion
Kapha (water + earth) = inactivity
Therefore, someone who is a “kapha” body type would generally have a large frame, stocky, with well-developed muscles, soft skin and wavy hair, and tend to be overweight. Their primary element is water which is reflected in their easygoing and fun loving personality. While their secondary element, earth is reflected in their heavy build relating to food and they also tend to be heavy sleepers (another earthy quality!).
Vata types air element is reflected in their physical thin, light frame and wiry build. Due to the lack of water in their constitution, they tend to have erratic appetites and irritable bowel syndrome. Vata are also sensitive in nature; they are prone to anxiety and emotional insecurity.
Pitta types are governed by fire. They have a fiery and passionate temperament. Professional athletes are great examples of pitta people. They can be aggressive and competitive, which can drive them to become workaholics and be overly ambitious. They are also prone to burnouts if they are not careful and can be easily angered.
How does this relate to Thai massage? Because of our different body types, we hold different forms of tension and it begins to accumulate in different areas of the body. Therefore, each type has a different massage “touch” approach and stretching.
Vata people would be approached with a light and gentle massage, with less pressure. Since they have a sensitive nature, a light touch helps to ground, calm and balance the body. Forward bends, inwardly directed postures and breathing exercises are best suited for this type.
Pitta people need moderate pressure. Because of their fire nature, they need something penetrating and cooling. Sitting and lying postures, squatting, and downward movement of the abdomen are best suited for this type.
Kapha people need strong pressure because of their “stuck” to earth nature. They would need something heavy, deep and fast. Opening and clearing of the energy is the main focus. Dynamic movements of raised hands/legs, and inverted poses are best suited for this type.
With this knowledge, a Thai Massage Practitioner can customize a massage routine based on your individual body type; making the healing process effective and balanced.
“You are not the elements that make up the body, you are that which makes use of the elements.” Buddha