Historical roots of Thai massage

Traditional Thai massage, or «ancient massage» («Naud Fan Boran», as it is called in Thailand), has a long history of healing implication. But the oldest roots of TM can be found not in Thailand (or Siam), but in India.

Legend says, that it was invented by a doctor from Northern India, called Shivago Kumar Bhashi, contemporary of Buddha (by some information, his friend and follower), a private doctor of one Indian Raja about 2500 years ago.

A lot of things in the roots of TM and traditional Thai medicine still remain unknown. It is believed that the teaching of Kumar Bhashi (or Shivago Komparapat – Father Doctor, how him called in Thailand) reached the territory of modern Thailand at approximately the same time as Buddhism, in the second or third century B.C. It’s unknown, if any other local forms of massage had existed in the region before. We also cannot say, how much Chinese traditional medicine, particularly acupuncture, influenced massage theory and practice in Thailand.

For centuries Thai massage was developing in Buddhist monasteries and Thai temples (Wats). Nowadays the Buddhist temple Wat Pho in Bangkok is one of the centers for studying and keeping traditions of Thai medicine.

By order of the king Rama III (1832) on the stone walls of Wat Pho fragments of ancient manuscript - medical treatise - were engraved, they remained after the city was ruined by Burmans.  These ancient texts are the richest and the only source for researchers of theoretical roots of Thai massage. There are 60 pictures there, 30 of them represent front view, 30 - rear view.

Those drawings mark different energy lines, called «Sen» in Thai, and healing points (Marmas), located in them; these lines are the cornerstone of the Thai massage theory basis. By the way, the location and even names of some of them match with main energy channels used in Indian yoga.

Types in Thai massage

Although Thai massage is an integral part of cultural attitudes of the country, it’s difficult to speak about some standard form, for different masters practice different methods. But there are two fundamental types: Naud Ratchasamnak and Naud Chaleuysak.

The first of them - Naud Ratchasamnak - was mainly practiced by members of the King family and monks. Only hands could be used in this massage.

The second one - Naud Chaleuysak - was practiced by ordinary people. And during this massage one could also use knees, elbows, feet. In this way, Naud Chaleuysak is a type of massage, in which a practitioner can work with a client, who is much bigger by weight and height, without any difficulties.

Naud Chaleuysak is also divided in two schools: Northern and Southern. The main representative of the Southern school is Wat Pho in Bangkok. Center of the Northern school is the Old hospital in Chiang Mai. Every morning there (as in many other schools and centers of studying Thai massage all over Thailand) begins with a prayer mantra for the doctor, father-founder of Thai medicine Shivago Komparapat:

«We invite the spirit of our Founder, the Father Doctor Shivago, who comes to us through his saintly life. Please, bring to us the knowledge of all nature that this prayer (mantra) will show us the true medicine of the Universe. In the name of this mantra, we respect your help and pray that through our bodies you will bring wholeness and health to the body of the one whom we touch.

The Goddess of Healing dwells in the heavens high, while mankind lives in the world below. In the name of the Founder, may the heavens be reflected in the earth below, so that this healing medicine may encircle the world.

We pray for the one whom we touch, that illness will be released and happiness will follow».

Thai massage and Buddhism.

I would also like to tell you that Thai massage practice is deeply connected with Buddhism teaching. Massage was understood as a physical implementation of the «Four divine states of consciousness»:

  1. Metta: desire to make others happy and ability for active love, loving kindness.
  2. Karuna: compassion for all who are suffering and a longing to ease their suffering.
  3. Mudita: joy for those who have good luck, absence of jealousy.
  4. Upekha: accepting people as they are, with no judgment or prejudice.

A really good massage therapist practices his art in a state of meditation. He is fully aware, focused and follows energy flows which move through his body and body of his client. Even in Thailand there are several masters who have comprehended this art. Most of them are deeply religious people who practice buddhist meditation as well. And I should say, there is a huge difference between this massage and usual massage as a set of different techniques and methods (even if they are rather effective).