Thai massage and its history

Thai massage has very spiritual roots. It is linked with Dr. Shivago Komarpaj, who was a physician to the Sangha (a friend and physician of the Buddha).

Originally, the procedures for Thai massage were passed on through word of mouth. These were then written in medical texts on palm leaves. Unfortunately, many of the texts were lost during the 18th century. The only remaining texts are stone engravings found in the wat pho temple in Thailand.

The Buddhist temples traditionally practised Thai massage as a religious rite of passage. It was a way of working towards the four divine states of consciousness which are considered to be essential for complete happiness by Buddhists. From this perspective, the massage should be given with the intention of love, kindness and the full concern for the recipient’s physical and emotional well-being. 

Traditional Thai medicine is a holistic approach to health and well-being. It has been developed over thousands of years and includes: proper nutrition; exercise; medicinal herb use; and therapeutic massage. It’s primary goal is not to heal or cure any ailments but to maintain health and well-being, this is because the ancient Thai’s believed that “the absence of illness is the best blessing”.

Thai massage has been described as ‘having someone do yoga to you’, or ‘lazy man’s yoga’. This is due to the difference in the yoga style massage than other western massages. The techniques used combine rhythmic massage, acupressure, gentle twisting, deep stretching and meditation which create a harmonious flow when used in a full body massage. Through Thai massage muscle tension is released; vitality is increased; and a wholeness of mind, body and spirit is achieved.

A French liaison to the Thai Royal Court in Ayutthia said of Thai massage: “When any person is sick at Siam he begins with causing his whole body to be moulded by one who is skilful herein, who gets upon the body of the sick person and tramples him under his feet”, (Simon de la Loubere, 1690).

The massage works along the SEN lines within the body (also known as meridians or zones), clearing any blockages. This is because one of the fundamental principles of Thai medicine is that energy flows through the body along these channels. If one becomes blocked or obstructed, it is believed that this results in pain or disease. That is why there is a mixture of pressure applied to the SEN lines and stretching of the muscles and joints, to clear any blockages.

Along with SEN lines, marma points are also worked and cleared during a Thai massage. The marma points are found at the junctures of the body, where two (or more) types of tissue meet. These can be muscles, joints, veins, ligaments or bones. They aren’t just a general connection between two tissues though, they are said to be intersections of vital life force and breath or prana. The reason the marma points are massaged is to cleanse the blocked energy or chi within them.

Although it may look like you have to have good flexibility and range of movement to receive a Thai massage, it is suitable for most people. It is varied for each individual and can be changed to suit many physical needs. It can also be used as a form of physical therapy to increase: mobility of the joint; muscle strength; and general flexibility.