*This post was originally written on September 27th, 2011 on amywarcup.com*
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
I pondered on the mystical 13th century Persian poet’s quote today. Though I love reading quotes and poetry from many of the prophetic sages of the east, Rumi has always been one of my favorites. I enjoy reading his whimsical passages that shun the dogma of guilt-based religions in favor of celebrating life as a journey based on love and kindness.
But…there is a more personal reason that I read this quote. I depart solo for Thailand in just six days, and I will be leaving for over nine weeks. Although I have explored some other Asian countries in the past, this is my first visit to Thailand.
So…you may ask: Why Thailand?
Well, hmmm…let’s see… there is the temperate climate, of course, and the smiling faces of the people who may have all but invented the word “hospitality,” the beauty of the southern coastline and tropical beaches, the lush green mountains of the north, the easy-going pace of the culture, the lovely and peaceful Buddhist temples, the delectable food…the list goes on. Perhaps a better question may be “why not Thailand?”
My primary reason for visiting is to study traditional Thai massage, which I began learning and practicing in the states in early 2008. My intention is to bring what I learn back home with me to share, and eventually, to bring students with me to Thailand. I am fortunate to be on sabbatical leave this semester from my full-time job to study Thai massage more in-depth. Perhaps more importantly, I am going to Thailand to be immersed in the culture and to learn about Thailand’s people, and what Thai massage means to them. The knowledge gained by such experiences can indeed, I believe, bring much power and love into one’s life, perhaps in ways unimaginable unless experienced personally.
What is Thai Massage?
In short, a Thai massage session (Nuad Phaen Boran) incorporates a combination of yoga-like stretches, pressure point holds, and energy channel (Sen line) work. Benefits include noticeable relief of stress and tension in the body, increased openness in the body’s joints and muscle tissue, and an overall feeling of more balance for the receiver. Sessions are given with the client dressed in comfortable, flexible clothing. The client remains passive during the session to relax and enjoy while being stretched and massaged.
There is not any documented evidence of Thai massage being practiced as it is today that is more than 70 years old. Research amongst Thai communities, however, shows that the roots of its development were created between 800-1200 ACE. Though Thai massage is uniquely Thai in its practice, there are traditional practices from other Asian cultures that have influenced the healing art. These influences include Theravada Buddhism, Ayurveda, Hatha Yoga, Chinese meridian channels, and Animism.
This, however, barely touches the surface of what Thai massage comprises, but it is a start. This is a topic that shall I shall revisit many times, I’m sure, during my travels.