Thai Massage History and Context

Thai Massage History and Context

This is an outline I use in Thai Massage classes to introduce students to the history of Nuad Bo-rarn in Thailand. I have a link for references for more info, and would love to hear your feedback on this history (especially if you are a historian). thanks & enjoy. In the Thai Language: Nuad= massage or body/energy work, Bo-rarn=ancient, classic Beginnings of Thai Massage (Nuad Bo-rarn): Shivaga (Shivaka) Komarapaj is considered the “Father Doctor” of Thai Massage, and even the “father of Thai medicine.” He was a contemporary of the Buddha in northern India (& what is now Nepal), and a doctor to the Buddha and Sangha, the spiritual community of the Buddha. Depending on who you ask, this may have been anytime from around 600-200 B.C. In the practice of Thai bodywork, we honor and give thanks to our lineage, saying a mantra (prayer) including homage to Shivaga Komarapaj, our teachers, and the energies of healing. Early Thai medicine (and it’s histories and stories) was passed down via oral tradition. It has evolved alongside and influenced (and been influenced by) Ayurvedic medicine/theory in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some say it is rooted in the Vedas. By the 1600’s, there were many medical scriptures written on palm leaves in the Pali Sanskrit language (written in Khmer script). Thailand was invaded by Burma in 1767, and the Thai capital of Ayutthaya was sacked and destroyed. Many of these texts were lost at this point. In 1832, King Rama III had epigraphs created from the remaining palm leaf scriptures. These epigraphs were eventually carved into stone and now remain at Wat Po in Bangkok. Historically in Thailand, Thai bodywork was practiced and taught in Wats (temples). More recently, many schools and massage centers have begun teaching and offering bodywork to the general public. When studying in Thailand, it is important to be respectful of this tradition, and consider your place of study a sacred space: remember to take note of and honor local cultural and spiritual practices. “Royal Tradition of Thai Massage” I’m generalizing here, but we typically categorize the styles that evolved through the the Wats and were employed by members of the ruling classes as: Southern-style, or Northern-style. Southern-style is from the Bangkok/Wat Po area. It focuses on acupressure, and uses less stretching than Northern-style. Northern-style has developed in and around the Chiang Mai area. Relative to Southern-style, it incorporates more yoga-like stretching. Both ‘styles’ overlap, and each do use acupressure plus stretching. Northern-style has Burmese, Chinese and Hill-Tribe influences. “Rural Traditions in Thai Massage” As with any human culture, we like to pass our folk medicine & healing traditions on down through the generations. Thailand and southeast...

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When ‘Not Practicing’ Yoga is Practice

When ‘Not Practicing’ Yoga is Practice

A yoga friend asked recently, ‘What poses do you avoid in your yoga practice, and how does that translate into your daily life?” Well… First off: asana practice is only one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and it’s certainly not the only way to practice. Really, everything is practice….but it’s helpful to narrow things down so our minds can explore possibilities. I’m using my asana practice as one lens of observation here. Avoidance or Deep Listening? It’s become clear to me over the past few months that I HATE Virabradasana A & B (Warrior 1 & 2). Loathe. I dread them, which is pretty rotten considering much of my practice over the last ten years has been the Ashtanga Primary Series, sets of poses where those two come up a lot. I could deal with the quick in and out of Warrior 1 in the Surya Namaskara B’s (5 rounds of Sun Salutes including Warrior 1 on both sides), but it was the holding of the poses later in the sequence that would get to me. I’d feel whiny, anxious, bitter, annoyed, agitated, frustrated, angry, sad, unstable; all inside my own head/heart, and I could defend the hell out of myself to avoid them. You know excuses: “My quads are too weak. I’m too tired already from the standing sequence. This one must just not be good for me.  F*%# this. I hate this pose. This pose is stupid. Ashtanga must be dangerous. Yoga must be dangerous. Why am I letting someone tell me what to do!?” Listening to the deepest self? to a teacher? to both? The whole practice of yoga is to get us closer to our own deepest self, our soul. The word Yoga actually means “to yoke or harness the soul.” So, in training to hear and listen to my deepest self, at what point do I surrender to a teacher, to a lineage, to a practice? What if I’m being instructed to do a pose , but MY own inner voice is saying “I f*%#ing hate this pose?” Should I take a break from it? Maybe. It can feel confusing. I practiced various forms of Hatha Yoga for many years before diving into Ashtanga around 2002. Around that same time, I was exploring a very regular home practice. I practiced the full Ashtanga Primary Series in class with a teacher, and at home, my practice might be anything from the full Primary Series to lying on my back in savasana for a half-hour (& typically somewhere in-between). A few years into that, I quit going to classes altogether–I desperately needed a hiatus from external input regarding my yoga. It seemed like suddenly everyone...

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