Much is said for the healthful benefits of receiving Thai massage, the holistic, healing and often life changing energy based bodywork from Thailand. Its benefits lie in the fact that Thai massage addresses the whole person – body, mind and spirit. Its attention is broad, complete, hopeful, honoring and trusting of each person’s innate ability to heal and become well. It is based on the concept that a life force energy circulates along energy pathways throughout the body, maintaining health and vitality. It works along these energy pathways to correct imbalances and remove any restrictions that can result in pain, tension or dis-ease. By facilitating energy to flow freely and unrestricted, tension eases, pain lessens, flexibility increases, blood and lymph circulation improves, elimination of wastes and toxins is enhanced, body-mind energies come into balance and the person relaxes and experiences an overall sense of well-being. Yes, much is said about the benefits of receiving, but less about the benefits of giving – and Thai massage is beneficial for the giver.
Traditional Thai massage, is the sacred healing bodywork of Thailand, but has influences from other countries, cultures and medical traditions. Its origin is credited to an Indian physician Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, also known as Doctor Shivago Komparaj, who is said to have been the personal physician and friend to the Buddha over 2500 years ago. It’s influences include acupuncture, herbs, and Tui-na massage from China and Ayurvedic massage, yoga asanas (postures) and Buddhism from India.
An important aspect of Thai massage is that it applies the Buddhist teachings of the four divine states of mind – metta (loving kindness ), kuruna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity). Metta is the desire to make others happy and the ability to show loving kindness. Kuruna is having compassion for those who suffer and the desire to ease their suffering. Mudita is rejoicing in sympathetic joy with those who have good fortune and never feeling envy. Upekkha is regarding others with equanimity, having a state of composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment, without preference, prejudice, judgment or criticism. While applying the qualities of metta, kuruna, mudita and upekkha with the desire for the receiver’s well-being, the giver creates a moving meditation, mindfully flowing from one position to the next. This benefits the overall health of not only the receiver, but the giver as well.
Thai massage is also beneficial to the giver, as it encourages him or her to be healthy and balanced – physically, emotionally and spiritually. In order to give an effective and quality Thai massage, one must be in good physical and emotional condition with plenty of energy. Since Thai massage is such a close and intimate form of bodywork, it is important for the giver to feel as healthy, or healthier, than the receiver. Being in good condition makes it easier to focus, tune in to the receiver’s needs and create a circuit of energy between giver and receiver that benefits both.
Thai massage appears more tiring and strenuous than it actually is. By using good body mechanics and leverage, rather than forced muscle strength, it is not straining and takes less effort than is apparent. Often, the giver feels invigorated following a session. When done mindfully and with proper technique it can be quite relaxing. The giver remains in a meditative state of mind while stretching and strengthening his or her own body. During the massage, it is important the giver stay relaxed, mentally scanning his or her body for areas of held tension. By constantly self-correcting, breathing into tight areas and releasing any areas of tension as needed, the giver receives the health giving effects as much as the receiver.
In the West, Thai massage is often called Thai Yoga Bodywork, since giving Thai massage is similar to doing yoga. It shares similar benefits, such as increased flexibility and strength and improved circulation. As in doing yoga, giving Thai massage is also beneficial for internal organs and glands, as well as for all systems of the body including the muscular, vascular, digestive, endocrine and nervous systems. It improves the givers posture, body alignment and body awareness as well as his or her breathing and ability to remain balanced, centered, present and calm. Done regularly, it helps keep the giver healthy and young.
The beauty of Thai massage is that both giver and receiver benefit. There is a circuit of energy that flows between them during their therapeutic dance that is mutually balancing. Giver and receiver become co-facilitators in the practical expression of loving kindness that improves their well-being. Because of this, the giver may continue to practice the health enhancing art of Thai massage for a long time, even into their old age.
Pati Starzynski is an Illinois licensed massage therapist, a registered Thai therapist through THAI (Thai Healing Alliance International), is nationally certified through NCBTMB (National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork) and is a professional member of AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association). She is also a certified yoga teacher through the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA.
Pati is co-owner of One Point Connection where she enjoys the benefits of practicing the healing art of traditional Thai massage.