BhacchaThe origins of Traditional Thai Yoga Massage can be traced back to some 2500 years ago not in Thailand but in India. The founder of this healing art is believed to have been an Ayurvedic Doctor called Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha who was the personal physician to the Magadha King Bimbisara as well as a close friend of the Buddha. Regarded as the “Father of Medicine” in modern Thailand, Bhaccha was also very knowledgeable about the healing powers of herbs and minerals.

It is said that his teachings reached what is now Thailand at the same time as Buddhism, around the II or III Century BC. Unfortunately there isn’t much documentation available to record the evolution of medicine and massage practices over time as these teachings were passed orally to students and apprentices. The earlier written records of Thai Massage date back to the 17th Century. These were medical scriptures written on palm leaves that were regarded the same amount of respect and importance as the Buddhist scriptures. Sadly, most of these old documents were destroyed following the Burmese invasion of the old royal capital Ayutthia and are now lost forever.

Wat Pho Thai Massage Engraving

By Fotograf / Photographer: Heinrich Damm via Wikimedia Commons

The fragments that survived were collated together in the early XIX Century by King Rama III and engraved at the Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok. There are 60 figures in total half of which depict the front of the body and the rest the back of the body. Since anatomy didn’t play a part in Thai medicine until recent times, at a first glance these engravings look a bit odd as instead of showing bones and internal organs they depict invisible energy lines and acupressure points together with explanations of their influence on the body and how they function.

These invisible energy lines said to be running throughout the body form the theoretical foundation of Thai Massage. Similar in concept to the Chinese Meridians, the Japanese system of Shiatsu and the Yoga philosophy the Thai energy lines, called Sen, are believed to be “windows” into the human body through which the practitioner can stimulate the free flow of Prana (energy life) and help restoring wellbeing.

According to the theory there are 72,000 energy lines running along the body, however Thai Massage focuses only on 10 lines (Sib Sen) offering access to the most important acupressure points. Massaging these points allows the practitioner to the treat certain ailments and alleviate pain.

By ryan harvey from Portland, OR - via Wikimedia Commons

By ryan harvey from Portland, OR – via Wikimedia Commons

Thai Massage Statues at Wat Pho, Bangkok

Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok

Thai Massage developed originally as a spiritual practice and as such it was taught and practiced exclusively in temples where people would go in search of physical, emotional and spiritual healing. One of the most important schools for Thai Massage is still at the Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok.

To this day Thai Massage treatments are carried out in a meditative mood and in the spirit of sharing loving kindness and compassion with the patient.

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References: The Art of Traditional Thai Massage by Asokananda (Harald Brust), Editions Duang Kamol ©2002