The healing art known as Nuad Boran (ancient massage) began to evolve well over two thousand years ago in present day Thailand. What is today called Thai Massage or Thai Yoga Massage is an ancient healing system combining acupressure and energy balancing techniques, Indian Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures.
The founding father of Thai massage is an Ayurvedic doctor named Jivaka Kumar Bhacca, who is revered to this day throughout Thailand as the Father of Medicine. Born in India during the time of the Buddha, he is mentioned in a variety of ancient documents for his extraordinary medical skills, for his knowledge of herbal medicine, and for having treated important people of his day, including the Buddha himself.
Among the common people, traditions were passed down orally, but the royal court probably kept ancient reference texts on the subject of traditional Thai medicine. Sadly, most of these were lost when Burmese invaders destroyed the old capital of Ayutthaya in 1767. The remaining fragments, however, were commissioned to be re-drawn as stone etchings by King Rama III in 1832, and today, over sixty such epigraphs displaying treatment points, herbal remedies and energy lines are on public display at the famous Wat Po temple complex in Bangkok.
The theoretical basis for traditional Thai healing is rooted in the belief that all forms of life are sustained by a vital force (lom) that is carried along invisible pathways (sen) that run through our bodies. This force is extracted from air, water and food, and it is believed that disease and dysfunction come about when blockages occur along these pathways. Accordingly, Thai Massage’s intent is to free this trapped energy, stimulate the natural flow of life-force, and maintain a general balance of wellness.
Through assisted yoga, the body is able to be moved in ways that are difficult to attain through normal exercise and individual practice. Relaxed, deep breathing helps to bring about proper balance and a peaceful state of mind. The practice of Thai Massage is also a spiritual discipline since it incorporates the Buddhist principles of mindfulness (breath awareness) and loving kindness (focused compassion). The benefits of all these techniques, when shared by practitioner and client, help to bring the treatment session to a focused and profound level. The result of a full-body Thai session is often an exciting and powerful mind/body experience, bringing both the recipient and the practitioner to greater states of physical and mental well-being.
Over the past fifteen years, traditional Thai massage has begun to spread outside of Thailand and into the West. In many cases it has been represented based on Thai tradition, with intention and techniques befitting traditional Thai healing. In other cases, and especially in recent years, it has been hybridized and fused with other types of therapies, primarily from the West. While there is value in adapting traditional techniques to modern therapies in order to gain wider recognition, the strength of Thai massage lies in its timed-honored history and evolution. Performed within traditional Thai parameters, a properly-administered Thai massage session can be a powerful tool for personal, physical and spiritual maintenance and transformation.