The Four Principles of Thai Yoga Massage

Thai Massage should always follow these four basic principles

  • Always start from the extremities of the body (laterally), work toward the core of the body (medially), and then back to the extremities. This motion clears stagnated energy from the sen, draining from the extremities to the navel, and back out again.
  • Always start from the lowest part of the body, the feet, and move toward the top, the head. (The only exception to this rule is the front of the torso, which the practitioner drains toward the colon.) The reasons for this principle have to do with the ancient notion, shared in many Asian healing arts, that energy is purified as it moves up through the body.(You may be familiar with the Indian theory of the chakras, which are the quintessential examples of this general rule.)
  • Always perform sen work first, and then joint mobilization, then stretches. This rule is important so that clients are warmed up physically and energetically by the time they are expected to stretch their limbs. If you are short on time or have a client with limited mobility, the full-body stretches should be considered optional. You should never, however, omit sen work or joint mobilization and jump directly into the stretching.
  • Give a balanced massage. Steps performed on one side should by perform on the other. Remember that the entire body should be massaged even if only a short session is given in order to keep the body’s energies balanced. If you are just performing a foot massage, massage the hands, too, in order to bring balance to the body. Or, if you are giving a quick shoulder and neck rub, press a few acupressure points on the feet to even out the energy. The results of energy imbalance can leave your client feeling tired!

Om Namo Shivago

Thai Yoga Massage Class Prayer Translation

I was so delighted when I received the news letter some time back from THAI (Thai Healing Alliance) and found a more clear translation of the prayer, which we chant every day in every class.  As we know that the prayer is in Pali language, which was contemporary to Sanskrit has some Thai language mixed and the pronunciation varied from region to region.

The meaning of many words in the prayer was translated and you can find some of them below

Ahang (Aham) –  I, me, my

Arahato – an arhat, a worthy one

Aroga (arogya) to be free from disease

Chandang (jantan, candam) – moon

Piyo tewa – priya dewa

Dibba (tipa/divya) –  divine

Dibbamantang (tipa mantang / divya mantra)-  divine chanting

Homi  – to me, for me

Karuniko  ( Karunisu ) – compassion, one who has compassion , bless us

Komarabhacco (Gomalapato) –  Jivaka’s second name kru (Guru)  (khru) (Thai) teacher

Manusanang  ( manukula ) – the human race

Naa (nakha) naga –  a deity that takes the shape of a great serpent

Namo – homage

Osadha (osatha / aushada) – medicine

Pabhaso (pabaso, papaso / prakasha) luminous, to give light

Pakasesi  (prakashisi) – to shine

Pandito (bantito )-  pandit, or wise man

Piyinsiang (pininsiang) – one who has clarity of the senses and control of their faculties

Piyo (priya) –  beloved

Proma  – Thai pronunciation for Brahma, of the Indian pantheon

Putaya – Thai pronunciation of Buddhaya or Buddhaaya, which means Buddha

Sapasatanang (sabbasattanam) – all sentient beings

Sirasa (silasa) – The correct meaning of sirasa is “head”

Sumana – healthy, happy

Sumedhaso (sumetasso / medhavi) –  intelligent, wise, accomplished

Supananang – heavenly beings

Suriya –  sun

Vandami (wantami / vandane) to pay respect

So, the prayer after translation would look like below

I pay homage by bowing my head to Jivaka. With compassion for all beings, he has brought us divine medicine. Kumara bhacha shines as brightly as the sun and the moon. I pay respect to the great pandit, to the wise one. May there be happiness and freedom from illness. I revere the one who is adored by deities, by humans, and by Brahma; the one who is adored by nagas and by heavenly beings; the one who is of pure faculties. May all illness and disease be healed.

I thank Mr. Bob Haddad for sharing the translation of the prayer.

How to avoid Fatigue and Injury during Thai Yoga Massage session

Thai Yoga Massage / Bodywork practitioners could be exposed to injuries and fatigue during the bodywork if they don’t pay attention to their own body dynamics and mechanics. This could also deplete the practitioner’s energy and cause exhaustion. Hence awareness of the body and the movement is very important during the bodywork.

To start with, the practitioner’s attitude towards the self is important. Disciplined lifestyle is the secret of successful practitioners. This assists the recipient to achieve a state of balance between body and mind / be in a blissful state / experience the divine and realize their inner mountain of tranquility. The bodywork becomes Meditation in Movement for the practitioner. We also need to develop a regime for ourselves to keep fit, like Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi gong etc.

The posture we choose to sit and apply pressure with thumbs, elbow or knee is important as this determines our leverage and application of the bodyweight to apply pressure on the energy lines or points. The pressure should be just enough for the recipient to handle it well without much discomfort. Applying unnecessary pressure just mechanically is not the way to assist the recipient heal. By doing so we would also end up using a bad posture and also use up more energy than needed.

If the practitioner has to perform 120 minutes of bodywork and has more than 2 appointments for the day, then he/she has to have that kind of stamina and the ergonomics to move through the sessions smoothly without getting tired. It is then; the practitioners will feel the bodywork as ‘Meditation in Movement’ rather than a monotonous routine.

Any posture we choose to work with, be it Supine, side, seated or prone, we as practitioners need to focus on our comfortable and safe position as we may stay in that position for a long time and also it should be easy to access the recipient’s body easily and deliver the pressure as much as it is required by the recipient. Here we could choose from different techniques, which require us to use our thumbs, palms, elbow, knee or the foot and the principle remains same.

At IMOSHA (one of the best school for traditional Thai Massage), We strive to train our students with right body dymanics, ergonomics and much more, which enables them to enjoy each and every session and assist the recipient feel rejuvenated. Our students practicing Thai Yoga Bodywork/Massage and Toksen have been able to successfully achieve this blissful state by touching peoples’ lives positively.

About the Author

Raghu is the Founder / Teacher at IMOSHA (Mysore and Bangalore). Seen through the eyes of his students as a master of his discipline; It is Raghu’s passion for bodywork and focused ability to channel healing energy that makes what he does a form of art. After years of experience in working with the human form, and imparting inexhaustible knowledge onto his many students, he still views himself and nothing more than a devoted student of this practice.

My Thai Yoga Massage Teachers in Chiang Mai

I have been in love with the teachings and learning bestowed upon me in Chiang Mai. I had the privilege of learning from different teachers having different styles of Thai Massage but having the same goal, Wellbeing.

Ms Picnic, Director/Teacher of SMH, is one of the most respected teachers in Chiang Mai. Her School SMH (School of Massage for Health) is one of the first few schools recognized by the Ministry of Education, Thailand. She takes care of her students like a mother taking care of her children. She offers much more than just training, which helps the students to understand the essence of Thai Massage. Ms Picnic has created a beautiful environment for learning, which also has a spacious and lush garden setting.

Mr. Jack Chaiya, Director / Teacher at ‘Jack Chaiya Thai Massage School’, is one of the most amazing teachers in Chiang Mai. Kru Jack has inherited the legacy and great reputation of his mother, Momma lek Chaiya, Her style is called “Nerve Touch” Thai Massage. Kru Jack, is a very friendly natured teacher with whom learning becomes easy. The techniques he practices and teach are highly effective and the feeling after a massage session with him cannot be just put in words.

Ajarn Sinchai Sukparset is a blind practitioner and Teacher of Thai Massage. He is Chiang Mai’s most experienced and competent practitioner of therapeutic Massage. He also specializes in paralysis and stroke rehabilitation. His knowledge in therapeutic massage is simply amazing. He has been an inspiration for me to start Thai Massage classes for the blind community in India.

About the author

Raghu is the Founder / Teacher at IMOSHA. Seen through the eyes of his students as a master of his discipline; It is Raghu’s passion for bodywork and focused ability to channel healing energy that makes what he does a form of art. After years of experience in working with the human form, and imparting inexhaustible knowledge onto his many students, he still views himself and nothing more than a devoted student of this practice.

Thai Yoga Bodywork / Yoga Nexus

5 Points in a Thai Yoga Bodywork / Yoga Nexus by Bernie Gourley

It was October of 2013 and I found my way to the Meditation Hall at the Fireflies Ashram off Kanakapura Road outside Bangalore’s southern sprawl. That morning, I’d begin learning the sequence of actions of the Chiang Mai style of Thai Yoga Bodywork (TYB.) I would struggle to remember that sequence as I awkwardly groped about trying not to drive my thumb into the bones or nerve junctions of my fellow students. But over the course of those ten days, I progressed to the point that my awkwardness was less apparent, and I could get through the sequence without forgetting much.

I’d arrived in India with a long list of activities to try and skills to learn as part of a plan of self-betterment. That TYB course was the first item on the list to be scratched off. I’d been in the country a little over a month. The strange thing about that was that TYB was the activity farthest outside my comfort zone. I wasn’t a complete stranger to yoga or meditation when I arrived in India. And while I was new to the martial arts of Kalaripayattu and Muaythai, I’d practiced a Japanese martial art my entire adult life. So while I wasn’t skilled at those arts, I had a level of transferable confidence to counterbalance my lack of skill. The same couldn’t be said TYB. It was all new. But that’s the magic of moving around the world, everything is outside your comfort zone, so you might as well go big or go home.

Small world. A couple years later, I’d be in that same Meditation Hall for the capstone weekend of my 500-hour yoga teacher’s course. I remember lying in that Meditation Hall, resting after having learned the advanced cleansing practices (shatkarma) of hatha yoga. (By then there was an entirely new level outside my “comfort zone” as I’d purged my entire alimentary canal.) At any rate, the Fireflies Meditation Hall was just a piece of geographic connective tissue that linked my yogic and TYB educations. I’d like to discuss five more substantial links.

5.) Anxiety management: Let me begin with a theme that I mentioned in my introduction. It’s an aspect of personal development that I’ve spent a lot of time working on recently, and that’s moving outside one’s comfort zone to dispassionately observe one’s anxieties. Both Yoga and TYB present practitioners with opportunities to observe and tame anxieties in a safe way. In TYB, one’s anxiety might be about injuring the person one is working on, about doing a poor job, or it could even be just about touching strangers. People have various reasons—from various social anxieties to germophobia—for discomfort with physically touching people they don’t know well. (Being an introvert, I have a tinge of this discomfort that would likely be much worse if I hadn’t studied martial arts. But, having studied a grappling-centric martial art for so many years, I’d developed a bit of transferable confidence about being in close physical proximity with people I didn’t necessarily know well.)

Fig 1. Fear of breaking others

In yoga, the sources of anxiety are often gravity related (e.g. inversions and arm balances), but can be quite varied. I mentioned shatkarma as another example. And I’ve found external breath retentions from pranayama to be a potent area in my own personal practice.

Fig. 2 Fear of breaking oneself

At any rate, what both Yoga and TYB do to help one take on one’s anxiety is to insist that one confront it in a mindful way. Just practicing forces one to experience the anxieties, but the crucial second ingredient is that one must keep one’s attention on the action—preventing one’s mind from engaging in the escalatory patterns by which it makes molehills into mountains. While it’s true that there are many other activities that this should be true of, it’s common in many fitness activities to practice distractions. People often blare portable music devices to drown out their body and mind as they exercise and practice other self-betterment activities. Such distractions aren’t an option in [good] TYB or Yoga instruction (Note: I say “good” because one can see a sad wave of distraction yogas out there that bury the sensations of practice in cute animals, alcohol, and—even–frat-house style raves.)

4.) Anatomical intuition: Both TYB and Yoga expand one’s understanding of the human body. A great feature for those who practice both systems is that the two systems are complementary. They present both overlapping and non-overlapping means to insight into the body. Yoga provides insight through all of one’s senses—not just the five we think of, but including proprioception (the sense by which a person is aware of the position of his or her own body parts and their movement) and balance. In other words, yoga allows one to see inside one’s own body as fully as possible. On the other hand, TYB offers the opportunity to learn about the wide range of variance in human bodies—feeling all their varied characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.

Fig 3. Finding their limits

I think a yoga teacher can learn a great deal by practicing TYB. It encourages a greater understanding of the strengths and limitations of others. At the same time, TYB practitioners benefit from yoga’s high degree of intra-bodily awareness because the Thai style involves many assisted stretches that require strength, balance, and awareness.

Fig. 4 Discovering your own limits
3.) Appreciating the Slow: Modern life shouts at one to do everything faster. Yoga and TYB are two activities in which there isn’t any payoff for being faster, and, in fact, there are costs. In TYB, the massaged individual will find a fast tempo massage less relaxing. If one has ever been handled by a masseuse or masseur like a baker making bread, one knows exactly what I’m talking about. Hatha Yoga also emphasizes slow movement. Even when one is doing an active style like Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, there’s an emphasis on maintaining control of the body throughout, and that requires engaging musculature to counter the forces of gravity and momentum.

Fig 5. Graceful manipulation attempted; This was that first course in October of

Fig. 6 Control throughout motion
2.) Core stability and muscular endurance: Both TYB and Yoga build and require core strength and muscular endurance. Bodywork is a physically demanding job. When one learns TYB, a great deal of attention goes into the minutiae of handling the client so as to minimize the stress and strain on one’s body. Still, there’s no way around the fact that one is manipulating another person’s body and one has to bear that weight so that the client can be relaxed as one stretches them out or turns them over. Commonly, those people will be larger and heavier than the person delivering the massage. Even if one isn’t doing TYB all day, one will likely feel it—perhaps all the more because one hasn’t developed that core strength and muscular endurance. Yoga can also help the TYB practitioner to keep supple in a job that can easily make a person sinewy.
On the other hand, yogis and yoginis can learn a thing or two about balance and control of the core from the challenging act of manipulating another person through their stretches.
1.) Attentiveness to Subtle Sensations: In yoga teacher training, one is often shown Wilder Penfield’s homunculus. Penfield was a doctor who studied the functional organization of the brain, and particularly the sensory and motor cortexes (the parts that process sensations and commands to move body parts.) He was eager to map the motor cortex so that he’d know what portions of damaged or cancerous tissue could be removed without causing paralysis or the like. At any rate, you’ve probably seen either a flat or 3-D version of the homunculus. It’s notable for its huge lips and hands and comparatively tiny chest and thighs. That’s because the size of a body part on the model doesn’t represent its anatomical size but rather its size in the brain, and our hands have a truly astounding piece of cerebral real estate.
What’s fascinating is that for all this capacity for feeling through our fingers, one has to practice to get the fullest out of that ability. In the beginning, it can be quite different to feel huge knots in the muscle during TYB sessions—even though our ability to differentiate tiny tactile differences is tremendous. In yoga one isn’t so much engaged in feeling with one’s fingertips as one is with one’s internal sensory suite, but the point remains that we have a great deal of capacity that most people leave unused.
I suspect there are many more points of confluence between TYB and Yoga that haven’t occurred to me. If you’ve got one, feel free to comment below.
About Bernie Gourley
An American writer and martial artist living Bangalore, India. A desk life and workday stressors once made him doughy and left him with an accumulation of minor health problems. As a result he begun an intense practice of yoga, started teaching yoga, learned the basics of Thai yoga bodywork (TYB) at the Inner Mountain School of Healing Arts and the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School, and have continued to build a challenging martial arts practice. He has 500 hour yoga teacher certification (RYT500) and Children’s Yoga Teacher certification (RCYT) from the Yoga Alliance through a1000. His formal educational background is in the social sciences. He has two Master of Science degrees, one in International Affairs and the other in Economics. The former is from Georgia Tech and the latter is from Georgia State University.