I was leaning against the far wall of a hot and humid room in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The fan in the center of the room did little to cool the oppressive heat outside. I wasn’t worried about the heat. Instead, I was fully engrossed in neatly drawing stick figures on my weathered notepad. In front of me, my Thai massage teacher, Jack, was working on a client, in his usual slow meditative dance. Sometimes, I would forget to draw that special move or technique because I would get so entranced with the expert fluidity of Jack’s movements.
In 2006, I was fortunate to spend three months in Thailand with the sole purpose of mastering the art of Thai massage.
“Sensing, sensing, feeling,” was the comment I heard the most from my other Thai 타이마사지 massage teacher, Koji. “You can touch the inside of the body through the skin. Everything is connected.” Being a massage therapist before studying Thai massage, I knew what he meant. As touch therapists, we touch the emotional and the energetic body through the physical. Traditional Thai massage is that unique tool that carries within it a rare quality of enabling the practitioner to touch through many layers.
Back in the United States, I continue my passion and practice in Newton Center, MA.
When Melanie came in for her appointment, I could tell she was a little skeptical. She’s tried a few other therapies for her back pain. None worked too well. This time, her pain stemmed from a pinched Sciatic Nerve in the lower back (a condition commonly referred to as Sciatica). Luckily for Mel, the impingement of the nerve came from muscle tension and not a bulging disc in the spine. Regardless of the cause, the pain was excruciating and severely limited Mel’s daily life.
I described Thai massage and the combination of therapies I was to apply. She looked at me in disbelief. “Whatever you do,” she asked cautiously, “It’s not going to make it worse, is it?” I ensured that it would only help.
I started at the feet. In Thai massage, the belief is that most problems in the body will also manifest in the feet, and can also be treated by improving circulation and energy flow in the appropriate points on the soles of the feet. I proceeded to work on the outer sides of Mel’s legs and hips. I reasoned that tight hip flexors and abductors (especially the infamous IT band, or the Ilio-Tibial Band) would cause a downward pull on the lower back muscles. Such hip tension could predispose the back to overstrain and discomfort.
Mel’s stiff hip joints proved my theory. I focused on releasing, softening, lengthening, and mobilizing. Slowly, the hip tissues started to give way and melt. Thai massage offers an incredibly wide variety of yoga-like stretches and passive joint movements that focus on loosening up the hips.
It all dates back to the time of the Buddha some 2,500 ago. As an ancient healing system with its roots in yoga, Buddhist spiritual practices, and Traditional Chinese medicine, Thai massage combines elements from all three. It was developed and practiced by Dr. Jivaka Komaraphat, the Buddha’s doctor and contemporary.