By Tallya Llewelyn and Kate Abbott
Thai massages, or Nuad Bo-Rarn in Thai, has been around for thousands of years and is a very important part of health and wellness in Thailand. The massage is based around “sen”, which are energy lines that flow throughout your body. Obviously, this type of massage greatly differs from our normal, western Swedish massages. Nevertheless it has many benefits and is often described “like ten thousand waves washing over your body” (Chongkol Setthakorn).
The history of Thai massage dates back to over 2500 years ago and has origins from India in addition to its Thai background. Thai massage was developed by a man named Shivago Komaparaj who is also credited as the inventor of Thai traditional medicine. The history of Thai massage closely follows the origins of Thai medicine as massage was incorporated with the four basic principles of Thai medicine. The other three principles of Thai medicine include nutrition, herbal medicine and spiritual practice. This traditional style of massage was created as a form of healing based on the yogic principles and Shivago’s own mediative and healing experiences.
Since Thai massage is different than the Swedish massages that most people are familiar with, there are several differences in their principles of massage practice. Thai massage is based on the concept that there is a life force within each body which is referred to as energy flow, chi or prana. This life force flows throughout the whole body and its role is to maintain vitality along with health. The life force that runs through every body is similar to the idea of the meridians of Chinese acupuncture but in Thai massage, they are called Sens and can be felt throughout the body. There are approximately 72,000 Sens that run throughout the body and this is how Thai massage heals your body by working with the Sen lines. When these energy lines are blocked or cannot flow as usual, that is when health problems can occur and one might develop sickness or diseases.
Thai massage clears up the Sen lines by utilizing a variety of methods during the massage. Unlike other massage therapies, there is no use of lotions or oils and the massage is given by using deep compression, pressing in rhythmic motions, and stretching through positions. Manipulation, pressure, adjustments and stretching creates a comprehensive experience for the body and the masseur will usually use various parts of their body to give the massage such as their hands, elbows, feet and knees. After this physical manipulation is completed, the energy pathways should be cleared and the body will feel better as muscles and joints will be elongated and the body should move towards a more balanced state than before the massage.
There are many benefits that one can experience by getting Thai massages. The benefits include but are not limited to:
- Pain relief
- Muscle relaxation
- Increase in muscular flexibility
- Increase in joint mobility
- Improvements in immunity
- Mental relaxation
- Less fatigue within the body
- Better sleep
- Better circulation
What to expect for your massage
If you are expecting to go in and lie on your stomach for an hour, you are about to be extremely surprised during your Thai massage. Thai massages differs in many ways from the normal Swedish massage, which we most commonly use here in America. One way it differs is that you will not just be lying on your stomach the whole time. During a Thai massage one should expect to move through many positions while the therapist applies direct pressure to various muscles all over your body. Common positions include lying on your back, front or sides, and sitting. You will move through these position in a way that will feel similar to a yoga flow.
A few more differences include time and materials used. First, due to moving more and the therapist trying to massage all your muscles, the massage generally lasts for more than one hour. During this time you will not be on a table. While having a Thai massage, you will be on a thick padded mat that is placed on the floor. This is because of all the movements and being on the floor allows for the therapist to accommodate more easily for your needs. The final major difference is there will be no oils or lotions used like in a Swedish massage. No oil is used because pressure is being directly applied and there is very little or no rubbing techniques used.
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