Nowadays Thai Massage is became a typical proposal of many Spa and wellness centers in the West which want to bring an exotic and elegant touch to their services. But this science is rooted in a very old and deep Tradition and link it only to weird bodily postures is too simplistic.
What is Traditional Thai Massage
When we talk about Traditional Thai Massage we actually refer to a wide group of technics and manoeuvres that make external technics of Traditional Thai Medicine. We talk therefore about technics and manoeuvres which are applied to the body, being instead internal medicine the one which cures internal organs and internal systems through surgery and oral ingestion. Since these technics and manoeuvres are based on the concepts of Traditional Thai Medicine, they turn out to be traditional thai technics and manoeuvres and more important than the technic is the understanding of theory that we apply. Let’s suppose that I’m studying Chinese Medicine, so I study Chinese meridians, Chinese elements and their rules of balance etc. One day I go to Thailand to take part to a Thai Massage course and when back home I start to use the technics I learned, still following my knowledge about Chinese Medicine. In doing so I’m practicing Chinese Massage and not Thai Massage.
With Traditional Thai Massage we try, basically, to open the channels where there are Sen (เสน), inside whom the wind element circulates, or to maintain them well opened. To better clarify, if we talk about blood, earth elements is represented by blood corpuscles, water element is represented by plasma, while the wind element is represented by the circulation. This lead to two different types of Thai Massage, the therapeutic massage and the maintenance massage. In Thai Massage, Mo Nuad (หมอนวด), the traditional doctor, who devotes himself to external therapies (massage), will reopen the space which is closed and limits the wind circulation, creating disturbance in the area. In the maintenance massage he will check that all spaces are open and he will manipulate them so they will keep the state of health already reached. It is not therefore possibile to define Thai Massage only by watching how the masseur moves, by the uses of the feet or because he works on a table.
When Buddhism and its medical knowledge, among which we find the Teachings of Moo Jīvaka (the father of Traditional Thai Medicine) arrived in Thailand, a few centuries after the birth of Buddha Gotama, here there was already an ascetic tradition, Reusi (ฤษี) Tradition, with a developed Medicine. In this system of medicine we find Reusi Dat Ton, known in the West as “Thai Yoga” and which includes breathing practices, visualisations, meditation, self massage, repetition of mantra and postures or exercises.
As far as my understanding and my knowledge of the Tradition is today, I think that what it’s known as Traditional Thai Massage is rooted in this Tradition.
Witten by Enrique Dianti, translation by Lekhā