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It is ironic that in the 21st century, the more we learn about health, the more we are beginning to look at ancient techniques, once disregarded as nonsense. These healing methods from the past are now being rediscovered, and validated through scientific studies. Thai Yoga Massage is just such a phenomenon. It has often been described as assisted Hatha Yoga, and this now well-respected and proven healing art from Thailand is quickly gaining popularity in the West.
What is Thai Yoga Massage?
Thai Yoga Massage can be traced back to both the ancient healing traditions of Ayurveda and Thai Buddhism. It is performed on a floor mat, wearing comfortable clothing, and incorporates rhythmic motion, palming and thumbing along energy lines (sen) and pressure points (marmas,) and incorporates gentle Yoga-like stretching and breath-work. The recipient is guided through a series of Yoga postures, creating a delightfully harmonious and therapeutic "dance."
At one time there were only two basic styles of Thai Yoga Massage. But with more and more westerners traveling to Thailand to study this healing art, a fusion of many new styles are now being practiced worldwide. But whatever style is chosen, Thai Yoga Massage, through its stretching and massaging of the energy lines that run throughout the body, enhances the energy flow, and alleviates many common problems and conditions.
What can Thai Yoga Massage Do?
In his book, Thai Yoga Massage, author and teacher Kam Thye Chow says, "In addition to stretching and tonifying the muscles, Thai Yoga Massage improves circulation, relieves muscular tension and spasm, helps expedite metabolism, boosts the immune system, and balances the body energetically, inducing a calm mental state." It has been reported to help alleviate lower back pain, headaches, arthritis, menstrual problems including cramps, digestive difficulties, and many stress-related conditions. Individuals suffering from chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia can likewise benefit from a Thai Yoga Massage.
A Thai Yoga Massage incorporates all six spinal movements: flexion, extension, left lateral flexion, right lateral flexion, left rotation, and right rotation. These movements produced by your massage relieve excess stress not only in the spine, but in the rest of the skeletal body as well. The stretching action in your spine helps to increase the space between your vertebrae, thus allowing the active circulation of synovial, cerebrospinal, and lymph fluids. Your joint mobility is improved through fluid circulation and movement, thus increasing your range of motion.
In addition to the skeletal system, a Thai Yoga Massage affects the circulatory system by increasing the rate of blood flow; the muscular system by increasing muscular relaxation, allowing more elasticity, and reducing the effects of adhesion; and the nervous system by lowering your pulse, slowing your breath, and stimulating the relaxation response, relaxing all your muscles, as well as your mind.
What is a Thai Yoga Massage like?
A Thai Yoga Massage is done on a floor mat, fully clothed, so please wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Oil is not used, however aromatic oils may be rubbed on the practitioner's wrists for a more enjoyable face massage. Practitioners will use thumbing and palming techniques, as well as elbows, feet, and/or knees to apply a gentle, rhythmic pressure along your energy lines (sens). You will also be assisted into Yoga postures which will stretch your muscles and move your joints.
Expect to come into a deep state of relaxation. Your heart rate may decrease, your blood pressure may lower, your respiration rate will slow down, and within your brain, endorphins (your body's natural pain relievers,) will be released. Since negative emotions can result in muscular tension, the easing of muscle-tightness can sometimes lead to a welcome release of emotions. Sometimes the massage is so relaxing, you may fall asleep.
When your session is over, you will most likely find an increased range of motion throughout your body, and a decrease in aches and pains. With regular sessions, you will begin to note an increase in your overall mental and physical health, and the ability to better deal with stressful situations.
Based on personal preference, or on ancient Ayurvedic principals, an individual may wish their Thai Yoga Massage to be slow and gentle, cooling and firm, or vigorous and intense. Your massage can be easily adapted to suit your desires. Throughout your massage, feel free to give feedback to your practitioner. Let your practitioner know if there is something that makes you feel uncomfortable. With time, as your practitioner learns about you, the massage will become personalized, and your need for feedback will become less and less.
There are a few conditions for which a Thai Yoga Massage is not appropriate, and many conditions which require the modification of some aspects of the massage. Always keep your practitioner informed by filling out the personal health questionnaire at the beginning of each massage.
Thai Yoga Massage and Contemporary Health Care
Today, Western medicine is beginning to accept many ancient forms of bodywork, including Thai Yoga Massage, as an adjunct to healing. Throughout the Western World, doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings--even some of the most respected settings such as Kaiser Permanente--are choosing to make these therapies available to their patients. Studies demonstrating their effectiveness are now being reported in such respected medical journals as the Journal of Gerontology, and the Journal of Clinical Pain.
Thai Yoga Massage. A Luxury or a Necessity?
If a Thai Yoga Massage did nothing more than make you feel good, you would still deserve to have one. You are, after all, worth it!
But it is much more than a simple luxury. A Thai Yoga Massage can relieve the effects of stress, reduce muscle tension, increase the circulation of blood, and restore vitality and energy. Think of it as an investment in yourself. And keeping yourself in a healthy state of being allows you to better care for others, as well as lead a more productive and rewarding life.
The idea that touch can heal is an old one...And science is confirming what we knew in our hearts--that, as psychiatrist James Gordon puts it, "massage is medicine."
--Reader's Digest, February 1998
--Journal of the American Medical