Thai Massage Art
I grew up in a Thai/French family, where massage was a normal way to relax tired muscles and to give and receive metta; meaning compassion in Thai. Then I got into researching on Thai Massage. These are the things I learned:
The foundation of Thai Massage begins with mindfulness; the seed of beginning and being.
The importance of mindfulness allows one to bring awareness of what they are giving and receiving in the world. Compassion is the ultimate goal in Thai Massage. To give without judgement - in the end we are all human souls who need to heal. Good, bad, guilty, innocent, spontaneous, or addicted; we all need each other to heal.
From this basis, we move into the 5 precepts or “training rules” of the Thai Massage Practitioner, taken from Thai Yoga Massage Lotus Palm, Kam Thye Chow, ppg. 31-36, 2009:
1. “To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings.” This means recognizing all beings have a right to life and respect.
2. “To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given.” The practitioner deals with this through observing their daily actions, whether through interacting with others or what they eat.
3. “To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct.” This not only covers any misconduct of a sexual nature, but any over indulgence to the senses such as gluttony.
4. “To undertake the training to refrain from false speech.” This means honoring our spiritual growth and to always be engaged in actions that promote metta.
5. “To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness.” This means to not indulge in substances that can cause one to the break the other precepts.
A Thai Massage Practitioner not only tries to embody these precepts through daily observations but also through physical training, such as daily yoga, meditation, tai chi and exercise. The physical health is important because the quality of energy comes from the practitioner and if one doesn't uphold their health and intentions, the person receiving bodywork may not get the utmost good energy. The practitioner also has to be aware of the energy they give and take. This is why yoga, meditation and Tai Chi are really important training tools. It helps develop mindfulness.
What one eats is also important because it has a direct effect on how we process life and energy. The precepts and physical activity are the roots to a healthy mind of metta.
“In Buddhism, there is much talk of a skilled mind. A mind that is skilful avoids actions that are likely to cause suffering or remorse.” Kam Thye Chow, founder of Lotus Palm
Wat Pho - Bangkok, Thailand
Would you believe me if I told you a form of Thai massage has existed since the beginning of the Hindu culture? It has been documented in ancient script as old as the Rig Vedas (“rig”praise, verse; “Vedas” knowledge). This text was composed around 1700-1100 BC.
It wasn’t until the time of the famous Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, yogic massage became known as Thai massage. It was the Buddha’s most revered physician, Jivaka Kumarbhaccha, who blended the simplistic Ayurvedic science (see Metabodyworks: Thai Massage and Ayurvedic Medicine- June 2013) with yoga and massage.
The Ayurvedic system uses body types to diagnose conditions, whereby they would prescribe a self-care plan. Its main focus is preventative care. Massage became the main healing tool in these traditional “clinics”, where there was no need to cut through skin, allowing the body to heal naturally rather than aggressively.
The Thai Buddhist temples (wat) plays a major role in the development of Thai Massage. It became the central healing center for Thais. The most famous institution today is in Bangkok, Wat Pho, it is the leading researcher and practice of Thai massage.
There are 2 schools of Thai massage in Thailand: the North (The Old Medical Hospital- Chiang Mai) and the South (Wat Pho- Bangkok). They can be seen as the Yang and the Yin. The north school is more dynamic using mainly palming and thumbing techniques, where the practitioner’s bodyweight moves through the arms and gradually the weight goes into the recipient. This detoxifies the recipient’s energy lines (nerve pathways).
The south’s yin style uses a plucking motion. The fingers are used in a strumming fashion to stimulate the nerves along the energy lines. Today, you can find many schools teaching a combination of both styles.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”