Massage is an ancient tradition that can be traced back to the Egyptians in 2000 years BC. The next notable recording of massage was through Buddha’s’ physician, who create a form of massage using yoga, acupressure and reflexology, now seen as being the forefather of Traditional Thai massage. In fact, it is more likely that Thai massage was a combination of massage techniques and influences from all over the continent, as advances in medicine were being made in China, India and other South East Asian countries at the time.
There are two different types of Thai massage, an ancient form and a traditional form. The traditional form you will find practiced in Thailand, whereas the ancient form is more prevalent in Nepal and Northern India. The massages may look similar but there are notable differences, for example Ancient Thai massage always starts with a meditation from both the giver and the receiver. The different styles are thought to have emerged due to the wars between Thailand and Burma, which resulted in the loss of ancient texts.
Today most Thai massages that you will get in the west are Traditional Thai massages. In this massage you keep your clothes on and no oils are used, the body is stretched, rocked, pulled and manipulated. The massage is generally more rigorous and physical that other forms of massage. The person doing the massage will maintain body contact throughout and use feet and legs, as well as hands, to perform stretches. In some cases the person receiving the massage is placed into yoga poses and stretched and pulled from these positions. The massage can last up to two hours and there is no fixed routine or way of massage – it is interpretive, with the masseur tailoring the massage to the person receiving it.
The benefits of Thai massage are numerous; its aids relaxation, reduces stress, improves circulation, increases energy and flexibility, improves the range of motion and centres the mind.
The Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Thailand, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The temple is considered a university in Thailand and in the 1960s opened a school for Traditional medicine and massage. Students of Thai massage from all over the world travel to Thailand to visit the Wat Pho. Courses can last between a few weeks and a year and for many is a pilgrimage to this ancient form of medicine, as much as a learning experience. Of course, you don’t need to fork out for a trip to Thailand to learn Thai massage, the massage is popular worldwide and training courses in the art form are readily available.
Thai massage is also available in many places in the West. A lot of regular massage parlours will offer a Traditional Thai massage or you may find it preferable to visit a specialized Thai masseur. If you have never tried this ancient and proven form of massage then you should give it a go. Often described as yoga without having to do any work, it can only do you good.