Awareness Of Thai Yoga Bodywork

Synchronizing Movement and Breath
The stretching and energy line work in Thai massage is important in helping to lengthen muscles and make them more flexible, supple and less prone to injury, while joints benefit from a greater range of motion. Stretching also increases capillary density, thereby helping to address icshemia and promoting the release of lactic acid. This is particularly important in our culture that tends to emphasize more aggressive muscle movements resulting in the production of large quantities of lactic acid in the muscle fibers. In addition, studies have shown that stretching can raise the temperature of a tendon, which can have a protective effect via increased skeletal muscle tensile strength. The stretching in Thai bodywork also releases endorphins, further promoting a relaxation response.

Conscious use of breath has been proven to reduce both physical and emotional tension. In Thai bodywork, practitioners learn how to make clients more aware of how they use their breath and of areas of tension where the breath is impeded. As well, practitioners themselves are trained in how to use their own breath to facilitate transitions between postures, work with different body types, and to calm and synchronize their breath with the client’s for deeper concentration and awareness.

Thai bodywork’s emphasis on body awareness has also helped practitioners avoid many of the injuries common to bodyworkers today. Since the massage focuses on both the practitioner’s and client’s body, it allows for a session that places comfort and safety first. The importance of self-care is emphasized and integrated with the notion of creating a smooth, flowing session incorporating natural transitions that avoid straining either the practitioner’s or the client’s body. These transitions, based on the practice of t’ai chi, are essential to what Chow refers to as the “dance” of Thai massage — the flowing movement and regular breath, the sense of moving from one’s center and using one’s weight vs. strength to avoid joint pain or injury. In this way, Thai bodywork respects the body’s natural rhythms — both external and internal.

The Lotus Palm Tradition
To understand where Thai massage is today, we return once again to its origins — specifically, to the founder of Thai massage, Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, a personal physician of the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. Thai massage, in fact, developed within the environment of Buddhist temples, reflecting the spirit of metta (unconditional love and compassion) and vipassana (moment-to-moment awareness). As a practical application of these two forms of meditation, Thai massage emphasizes that, in its deepest essence, the massage is a meditative healing experience for both the recipient and the practitioner. Sessions in Jivaka’s time were known to last several hours as part of a regular, spiritual practice.


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