History of Thai Massage
There is a commonly held theory which traces the ancient tradition of Thai Massage, or ‘nuad Thai bo-ran (now more commonly referred to as “Thai Yoga Massage” because of the similarities between the massage positions and yoga positions) to the practice of one man in India some 2500 years ago.
Jivaka Kumara Phaccha (another variant is Shivaka Komarpaj), a doctor who practiced within the royal ‘house’ of the Magadha King Bimbisara as a personal physician, was a contemporary of the Buddha and is generally credited with developing an approach to medicine which in today’s terms would be considered ‘holistic’. As practiced (and taught) by Khun Paschal, this therapeutic massage emphasized balancing and strengthening and is based on the concept of a vital life force energy. This energy flows along channels in the body, called “sen”. “Sen” lines correspond to the meridians of Chinese medicine and the “nadi” of Indian yogic tradition, and pass through specific energy points. These points are addressed specifically by the therapist during the massage, and are pressured, rubbed, and stretched through manipulations by the therapists’ feet, knees, elbows and hands.
Khun Phaccha’s approach to medicine and healing was eventually codified and studied by a growing number of followers, who, in turn, influenced generations of practitioners to follow.
As a healer, Khun Phaccha’s social role was closer to a religious figure than to a medicinal doctor in today’s terms. As such, the ancient texts which describe his teachings, as well as the followers who continued in his path were closely associated with life within the temples and centers of Buddhist life.
As the teachings of the Buddha traveled from India, so did the writings (and illustrations) of Jivaka Kumarbhaccha.
A combination of economic, political and spiritual forces shaped the relationship between India in the age of the Buddha and the Kingdom of Siam. One result was the introduction of Buddhism as a guiding spiritual force among the general population. Concomitant with the spread of Buddhism were the teachings of Khun Phaccha as a therapeutic or ‘holistic’ approach to preventive medicine. Evidence of this influence was the many texts inscribed (originally on palm leaves) and housed at the temples of the ancient capital of Siam, Ayutthaya.
After the invading armies of Burma destroyed Ayutthaya, the capital was moved further South to Bangkok. As soon as the Royal Family was ensconced in the new Grand Palace, all surviving text and inscriptions referring to the ancient art of massage were summoned and brought to the neighboring Temple, Wat Po. There they were transcribed to stone tablets, where they remain to this day.
Wat Po continues to serve as a link to the rich history of Thai Massage. A very active school located within the temple grounds serves as a training center for many massage therapists in Thailand. Part of the school is a typical (open air) ‘massage house’ that has become a popular stop for Thais as well as tourists in search of a traditional (yet inexpensive) massage from students-in-training.
Many of our therapists were professionally trained at Wat Po, and they continue the centuries-old tradition of Thai massage here at Lamai Thai Massage.