Original Health and Healing
by Jules Kay
With spa culture gripping the globe, there are now so many health and wellness centres offering modern massage and indulgent body treatments that it is sometimes easy to forget the original healing powers of more traditional techniques. Even in small villages, massage is still widely applied as a health treatment in Thailand and families pass the techniques down through the generations with dedicated schools and training academies also teaching this ancient skill.
Authentic Thai massage is actually akin to yoga in many ways. Experts believe the method was introduced to Thailand from India over 2000 years ago and unlike some other classic approaches like Swedish or Shiatsu, it is a dynamic approach that sees the therapist using his or her hands, legs, knees and feet, while easing the subject into a variety of yoga-like positions.
Also called Nuad Boran, the benefits of Thai Yoga Massage are manifold. The practitioner manipulates the recipient's body through a series of postures, while applying various degrees of pressure along the body's energy lines and pressure points. In combination, the movement and pressure results in a comprehensive full body treatment that can be used to ease muscular tension, improve circulation, boosts the immune system and balance energy flow.
Thai Yoga Massage is generally performed on a thin mattress on the floor or in a specially designed massage 'sala'. Both the recipient and practitioner dress in comfortable, loose fitted clothing to allow for ease of movement and maximum flexibility. No oils or creams are used and the massage lasts between one and two hours with the focus beginning at the feet before gradually moving up the body towards the head. At different stages of a Thai yoga massage, the subject will be asked to lie face-down, on their back, on their side and even to sit up straight. In addition to dealing with specific muscle issues such as knots or strains, the aim is to align the body's energies in order to achieve a balanced state. This is done by elongating the muscles, mobilising joints and focusing on pressure points that link to specific nerve regions.
For some people, Thai massage is an enlightening experience. The different movements have been likened to a dance and professional practitioners expend a lot of energy moving around the body in a continuous flow. An intense sense of connection with the practitioner is also common and the postures can be quite intimate as they stretch, press, twist and pull their subject, guiding the energy and releasing stress.
A series of Thai yoga massages over time can heal long term injuries and many recipients report feelings of euphoria both during and after the session. A skilled therapist will apply more or less pressure as needed, and although there may be light pain in sensitive areas, the benefits certainly outweigh any discomfort.