Ever had the feeling you wanted someone to walk on your back? Twist you and squeeze you? Sounds amazing, right? These are some of the sensations you will experience during a Thai yoga session.
Thai yoga bodywork originated in India about 2,500 years ago by Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, Buddha’s physician. Yes, Buddha was a real man—and he had a doctor. During Buddha’s pilgrimages, his legs would become fatigued and his energy would dwindle. Jivaka accompanied him and ensured Buddha was in good health.
So, why isn’t it called Indian bodywork or massage? As Buddha traveled north to Asia, this tradition intertwined with Ayurveda, met traditional Chinese medicine, and morphed into what is now known as Thai massage or Thai yoga bodywork.
The yoga aspect of the name “Thai yoga bodywork” stems from the fact that the receiver is stretched, pulled, twisted, and compressed by the giver. During a session, one might feel as if someone is practicing yoga on their body—hence why Thai massage is also coined “lazy man’s yoga.”
Our bodies are made of physical, mental, and energetic koshas, or sheaths. Think of koshas as layers of an onion. Thai massage goes past the physical and into the subtle energetic body called the pranamaya kosha. Through working the physical aspect of the body and setting an intention based upon metta, or loving kindness, the practitioner can affect deeper levels of emotion and energy.
Imagine our energetic bodies are an electric wire. If this wire has knots or tears, then the movement of energy is interrupted. With practices, such as yoga or Thai massage, we can repair these knots and clear the flow of life currents.
Just as Chinese medicine utilizes a system of energy known as the meridians, Thai massage is based on 10 Sen lines, which naturally follow the body’s physical contours along muscles and bones. When long compressions are performed along these lines, there is a release of the connective tissue that runs through the body. This, in turn, creates a release in overall tension and takes the receiver into a deeper feeling of relaxation.
A Thai yoga session can last up to two hours and is performed on the floor, on a special mat. The receiver is fully clothed. There are typically no oils used, and the receiver will be moved from lying on their back, their side, their belly, and their sitting bones. This allows for deep stretching and movement of the body without the risk of intimacy.
If you are considering Thai massage, talk to your doctor first. Contraindications include: