Thai Massage and Energy Work

Thai massage or “nuad boran” is a healing tradition from Thailand that is heavily influenced by Ayurveda, yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It employs  yoga-like postures, thus earning itself the name “Thai yoga massage.” But more than just a “yoga for lazy people,”  Thai massage also involves energy channel work. What is energy channel work?  What is this energy?

The Vital Life Force

The energy referred to in traditional Thai massage and other healing practices in Asia such as Shiatsu, Qi Gong and also yoga, is said to be the vital life force that enlivens the whole universe.  You may have heard it called “chi” or “prana.”  It is believed that this energy circulates through the human body via energy pathways.  In Thai, these pathways are known as “Sen lines.”  In all there are said to be a staggering 72,000 sen lines in the body, though some do not take this figure as literally true.

traditional thai massage
Encyclopedia of Thai Massage [Paperback]
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Energy Bodywork

In traditional healing arts such as Thai massage, the healer manipulates the body in order to harmonize the flow of this energy. Thus Thai massage is as much energy channel work as it is bodywork. Thai massage makes use of yoga-like stretching and twisting and pressing of key points (acupressure) to treat these channels.  Masseurs use not only their hands, but also other parts of their body such a the elbows and knees when performing massage.

Ayurvedic Influence

The Thai Sen lines are often compared to the Chinese meridians, but they seem to have more in common with the nadis in Indian yoga and Ayurveda.  Inscriptions and drawings in Wat Pho, a royal monastery in Bangkok, have preserved the knowledge of the Sen lines.  Each Sen line and its pressure points are said to benefit the body in a specific way when treated by Thai massage. The ayurvedic influence can be seen from the fact that the Sen lines have names similar to the nadis in Ayurveda and yoga such as the “ida” and “pinagala” channels.

Yoga and Massage

Although most people in Thailand use massage for their energy and body work, some use the self-healing techniques of Ruesri Dat Ton or Thai yoga instead. Ruesri Dat Ton, in fact, is closer to real yoga than Thai massage, which only imitates yoga exercise. In Ruesri Dat Ton, the practitioner sends the body through a balanced range of poses that encourage the flow of energy via the Sen lines.

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