The Ancient Art Of Thai Massage: A Healing Tradition

Published on: 12/22/23 | Category: 
the ancient art of thai massage a healing tradition

The art of Thai massage combines thousands of years of ancient healing wisdom from China and India. The result is a massage modality that combines techniques to unblock stagnant energy, increase blood flow, and release tense muscles or nerve bundles. It also supports the body’s natural detoxification processes, boosting immune system function.

Like other forms of massage, the ancient art of Thai massage can:

  • Relieve back, neck, and shoulder pain.
  • Reduce or eliminate chronic pain.
  • Support disease management.
  • Promote relaxation.
  • Improve sleep cycles.
  • Restore energy.
  • Relieve and reduce incidences of headaches and migraines.
  • And so much more.

History Of The Art Of Thai Massage Practices

The ancient Thai massage art dates back more than five thousand years ago. It combines healing wisdom and art from both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine practices from India. Historians believe that a famous physician and healer, Jivaka Komarabhacca (sometimes noted in ancient Buddhist texts as Jivaka Komara Bhacca or Shivago Kompara).

In Thailand, this type of massage is called Nuad Phaen Boran and is held as much more than “just a massage” or relaxing muscle rub. The art of Thai massage marries the parts of the traditional massage style we’re used to here in the West (Swedish massage), which releases pressure points and uses alternating pressure to rub muscles and connective tissue with stretches and manipulations of the musculoskeletal system. 

Also, unlike Swedish massage techniques, traditional Thai massages are considered spiritually beneficial as they are physically healing. 

Integrating Energetic And Spiritual Awareness Into Massage

For example, just as ancient Ayurvedic healers relied on the breathing, stretching, and postural techniques that we enjoy in a Yoga class, your Thai massage practitioner will manipulate your body in various stretches for added movement, flexibility, and activity along nerve pathways, connective ligaments/joints, and to increase energetic flow.

And, just like TCM focuses on the balance and movement of lifeforce - called Qi (pronounced chee) and that Ayurvedic medicine refers to as Prana, Thai massage acknowledges and honors the same force, which they call sen. These three ancient healing forms also recognize the same energy pathways and centers in the body, referred to as Meridians in TCM, Prana Nadis in Ayurveda, and sen sib lines in Thai massage spas.

So, all of these aspects are included in a Thai massage session, with the goal being to create more balanced and fluid sen lines and for clients to feel refreshed, relaxed, and comfortable when they leave our massage rooms.

What Can I Expect During A Thai Massage?

If you’ve had a Swedish massage, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced variations of Thai massage because more and more masseuses implement Thai massage techniques into their “traditional” massages.

Some of the things you may notice that are different include:

You’ll be fully clothed the whole time - and there’s no oil involved

Because of the nature of the process, which requires postural changes that make it impossible to keep the body covered, clients receiving a Thai massage keep their clothes on. That said, we ask that you wear very comfortable clothes, similar to what you’d wear for a Yoga or pilates class. You’re also welcome to wear a tank top and workout shorts or sweat pants and a t-shirt. 

This makes Thai massage a favorite for modest people or those who feel uncomfortable being undressed during a massage session or who have sensitivities to massage oil. These massages are considered “dry massages” because we do not use oils.

Vocabulary relating to your energy flow, pressure points, or chakras

Where a traditional masseuse may use more clinical terms to describe what they feel (tension, knots, or inflexible joints), your Thai masseuse may talk to you about energy flow and balance and may provide recommendations around how those imbalances or blocked energy lines can affect your overall life. 

Your practitioner may also say a small prayer of thanks to the original lineage holder, Jivaka Komarabhacca, and their own teacher(s). Depending on their preference and yours, they may also have a short moment for quiet meditation and say a short prayer (the Puja) before the session begins.

The use of the masseuse’s full body & tools

Again, as Western massage techniques continue to be influenced by Eastern modalities, more Swedish massage practitioners are integrating Thai massage techniques. In addition to using the masseuse's open hands, palms, fists, or fingers, your Thai masseuse may also use their hands, forearms, and feet to add pressure and warmth or to help gently stretch and palpate your body.

Additionally, your Thai massage may include using specialized tools you haven’t seen before, such as:

  • A Thai massage stick.
  • Face rollers.
  • Rollers that access deeper muscle fascia.
  • Hand and foot reflexology tools.
  • Pronged massage tools.

Some of these tools can be purchased by you to continue using Thai self-massage at home and increase its benefits between professional sessions.

Manipulation of your body parts

Thai massage uses passive stretching and postures - primarily using pulling, stretching, and rocking motions - in addition to applying static and rhythmic pressures using their hands and fingers. 

This combination of massage techniques allows you to relax fully. In the meantime, the practitioner manipulates your body to access muscles, joints, and sen lines, to elongate tight connective tissue, to open the hips and shoulder joints, or gently twist the neck, back, and hips. These passive postures may resemble some of the same postures you’ve done before in a yoga class, only now you’re lying down. 

More changes in positions

In addition to lying on your back or stomach, a Thai massage will also include changes in postures so that you might stand, sit, or even lie on your side during a single massage session - in addition to being on your back and front.

Interested In Experiencing The Healing Benefits Of Thai Massage?

Would you like to experience a Thai massage first-hand? Schedule an appointment with Chetawan Thai Therapeutic Massage. Our experienced and licensed Thai massage therapists hold this space as an Oasis from the hectic pace of normal life. Using the ancient art of Thai massage, we’ll teach you what it’s like to live more comfortably and peacefully in your own body.