Nickelle Dirette | Thai Bodywork Therapist and Yoga Teacher
“Thai yoga massage? Is that a real thing?”
In my travels as a yoga teacher and Thai bodywork practitioner I get that question a lot. People are familiar with traditional forms of massage therapy (Deep Tissue, Swedish, Prenatal, Hot Stone, etc.) but haven’t heard of “Thai yoga massage”, so they tend to be skeptical. A few minutes into their first Thai massage, their skepticism — along with a whole lot of stress! — just fades away.
A Little History, A Little Mystery
Nuad Bo Rarn is the name given to traditional Thai yoga massage in Thailand. It means “ancient healing” or “sacred medicine”. This type of therapy begins with the Eastern belief that in order to treat an illness one must involve the whole body, not just a specific part. This holistic approach involves a network of energy lines called “Sen”. Sen lines are subtle energy pathways that extend throughout the entire body.
In Eastern philosophy, it is believed that optimal health results when these energies are aligned — in other words, when the body and the soul are in harmony with each other. If these energies are imbalanced, ill health is the result. The goal of Thai massage is to bring harmony to the body, mind and spirit. Using conscious touch, the therapist works to remove blockages that prevent energy from flowing freely in the body; to relieve tension settled around joints; and to lengthen and soothe muscles.
It’s All About YOU
Thai Yoga Massage is customized according to the recipient’s body type based on Ayurvedic principals. No two sessions will be the same because your body’s needs change from day to day. In Ayurvedic medicine, your body type is called a dosha. There are three main doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha and each dosha has specific characteristics associated with it. Vata is energetic and creative; always on the go; lively and enthusiastic; loves movement; lean body type; Pitta is high energy; strong appetite; perfect digestion; medium body size and weight; and Kapha is calm and thoughtful; strong build; patient; and heavy or overweight body size.
Most people are a combination of all three doshas with one dosha being especially dominant. When our doshas are in balance, we feel solid, capable, vibrant and strong — “at our best”. When our doshas are out of balance, we’re susceptible to illness, both physical and mental.
Thai Yoga Massage
Thai Yoga Massage was founded by Jivaka Kumara Bhaccha, physician to Guatama Buddha around 2,500 years ago. Unlike many massage treatments, Thai massage does not focus on the physical body but works with the energy body to restore health and balance. This is done by using gentle pressure along the recipient’s energy lines and uses yoga asanas, stretching, acupressure and gentle twisting to relieve energy blockages.
Thai Yoga Massage typically begins with your feet. Gravity negatively impacts the flow of energy in your body, directing it steadily downward. Starting the massage at your feet encourages that energy to move upward, and simple yoga inversions such as lifting one or both feet up are also used to increase the circulation of energy.
To Bare or Not To Bare
This is a concern most people have, especially if they’ve never had any type of massage treatment. Will I have to take my clothes off? Relax! Clothes are kept on during a Thai Yoga Massage by both the therapist and the recipient. It’s important that your clothing is loose-fitting (think soft, comfortable pajamas) to allow the fullest range of movement your body can achieve without constriction. The goal is to encourage a calm meditative state, with both body and mind receptive to the flow of energy in each motion.
There are countless scientific studies on the benefits of therapeutic touch in relieving tension, stress and anxiety. Thai Yoga Massage takes these benefits a step further, tapping into our divine life force and deepening our sacred connecting between body, mind and spirit. This experience is often quite powerful, even for those receiving these techniques for the first time.
Once your massage concludes, you should rest as long as you feel you should. Remember, there is no hurry. When you feel ready, you will want to begin with gentle movements, allowing awareness of your new relaxed state of being to guide you. It is suggested that you do not eat a heavy meal or consume alcohol for a few hours following your massage (heavy foods stimulate digestion, pulling energy away from your body’s relaxed state; alcohol can stimulate a similar response). If you are hungry, have a light meal of vegetable broth, followed by a cup of chamomile tea or room-temperature (not cold; no ice) water.
I hope you’ll enjoy your experience with Thai Yoga Massage, and that you will continue to explore the many benefits this sacred gift will bring. Namaste!