Thai Massage
translated from Wikipedia DE, with personal additions
Information about massage training in Thailand with classical Thai massage, foot/head & neck massage and oil massage:
  • The Thai masseuse Nicha Reinhard Munguanban, trained and qualified in Wat Pho, is happy to pass on her knowledge in the small farming village of Ban Nonthong in north-eastern Thailand (Isaan).
  • The traditional Thai massage (TTM) is a massage technique known in Thailand under the Thai name Nuad Phaen Boran (นวดแผนโบราณ), which means "ancient healing touch".
  • In Western Europe it is also called Thai-Yoga-Massage. Thai massage consists of passive stretching positions and stretching movements, joint mobilisations and pressure point massages taken from yoga. Ten selected energy lines (สิบเส้น - sip sen), which according to Ayurvedic teachings draw through the body as an energetic net, are worked through gentle stretching and with the rhythmic pressure of the ball of the hand, thumb, knee, elbow and feet.
Isaan-Homestay Father of Medicine Jivago
The Thai Massage takes place dressed on a floor mat. It traditionally lasts 2-2½ hours and is characterized by its dynamic and powerful aspect, which requires a certain "fitness" of the masseuse.
The Thais are used to spending their lives on the floor. Whether eating, in the temple to devotion (Tambun), at work or in the conviviality, everything happens on mats on the ground. We Europeans (Farang) are people sitting and living on chairs. Depending on our physical condition and age, sitting on the floor is unpleasant to arduous. The massage master Nicha naturally takes these circumstances into consideration in the training of Farangs.
History and origin
The yoga elements (fish, plough, bridge, pliers etc.) of the Thai massage and the terminology refer to an Indian origin. In their name and course, the energy lines of Thai massage (เส้น - sen) resemble the energy lines (prana-nadis) commonly used in India:
  • Sen Sumana (เส้นสุมนา) = Sushumna nadi (Sanskrit),
  • Sen Ittha (เส้นอิทา) = Ida nadi (Sanskrit),
  • Sen Pingkhla (เส้นปิงคลา) = Pingala nadi (Sanskrit).
The authorship of the Thai massage is attributed to the North Indian physician Jīvaka-Komārabhacca (also Jivakar Kumar Bhaccha, see picture above). Still today, he is worshipped in Thailand as "father of medicine" and mentioned in a devotion (Wai Khru - ไหว้ครู, bowing to the master) at the beginning of the Thai massage ("Om Namo Jivago...").
Jīvaka-Komārabhacca was a contemporary of The Buddha and lived in India in the 5th century BC. In the Pali canon2), the ancient scriptures of Buddhism of the southern school of Theravada Buddhism 1), he is called Bimbisara as the personal physician of the Indian Magadha King. Bimbisara was attached to the Buddha3) and visited him repeatedly. Jīvaka-Komārabhacca was also in contact with Buddha and cared for him and his monastic community.
The Thai massage must have been handed down in a circle of monks who moved from India to Myanmar (formerly Burma) in Southeast Asia - probably over many centuries, first orally in Buddhist temples. This could have happened at the earliest from the 3rd / 2nd century B.C., since only then the Buddhist teachings began to spread in Southeast Asia.
There is also the assumption that the Buddhist monks themselves developed the Thai massage in order to cure themselves from the consequences of long meditation positions.

The only written remains for the Thai massage are written on palm leaves in Pali language and Khmer script and were engraved 1832 by the Thai king at that time, Nang Klao (Rama III.) in the temple Wat Pho4) in Bangkok in 60 stone plates. (Epigravures can still be seen there today). All other testimonies were already lost in 1767 with the destruction of the old Thai royal city Ayutthaya by Burmese conquerors.
Since the knowledge of this art of massage probably left the Indian continent with Buddhism, it is not practiced in India today. The techniques used there are known as Indian yoga massage or Ayurvedic massage. It is conceivable that in Siam (today Thailand) massage forms already existed which mixed with the new teachings, and it cannot be ruled out that in the course of centuries the traditional Chinese medicine has gained influence on the method through trade relations with China.
Traditional Thai massage is also connected to Buddhism in its current practice. It is used with Metta (a term used in southern Buddhism for loving kindness). The masters are usually deeply religious people who perform the massage in a state of mindfulness, equanimity and compassion.
Isaan-Homestay Thai Massage Inscriptions at Wat Pho
Mode of action
According to traditional Asian Teachings
The Thai massage is based on the Ayurvedic system of 72,000 energy lines (nadis), of which ten (sip sen - สิบเส้น) are processed in the Thai massage. These energy lines, on which the so-called marma points (energy points) lie (known in Japanese Shiatsu as acupressure points), supply the human being with prana (life energy) according to aryurvedic teachings. Prana can be supplied to the body through breathing. In the stretching positions of the Thai massage the muscles consume oxygen and the human being is stimulated to breathe deeper. Intensive pressure massages also cause increased breathing. A deep breath promotes relaxation and regeneration (increased prana). In the teaching of Thai massage, the pressure on certain marma points and energy lines corresponds to the alleviation of, among other things, the following physical ailments:
  • Headache
  • Sickness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoe
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Insomnia
  • Shock
  • Cough
  • Knee pain
  • Backaches
From a scientific point of view
  • Pressure point massages stimulate blood circulation.
  • During stretching, the muscles can relax.
  • Yoga positions influence the skeletomuscular system and affect posture.
  • Twists, bending and stretching of the spine can be intensified by traction and have an effect on physical mobility.
  • Positions in which the legs are lifted promote blood circulation and lymph flow.
  • The rotation of the joints contributes to the production of synovial fluid and thus to physical suppleness.
  • During deep relaxation, the parasympathetic system is activated so that the blood supply to the internal organs increases and the metabolism is stimulated.
  • Mindful touch can trigger physical well-being, and lifting techniques can lead to a feeling of security.
In Thailand, Thai massage is a natural part of everyday life:
It is practiced in the family environment or by local masters for health care. Here in the farming village of Ban Nonthong, Nicha regularly treats the diseases and remains of the farmers, who are often marked by the arduous work in the fields.
For regeneration it is used in hospitals.
The term "modified form" refers to the foot and oil massage. These are "newer" forms of massage adapted to the needs of western tourists, whereby the preparation and completion of the traditional Thai massage also corresponds. Like the traditional massage, the oil massage is a full body massage and has a "softer" character. The foot massage usually ends with the treatment of shoulders, neck and head in the traditional Thai massage style.
Isaan-Homestay Thai Massage Techniques
1) The Theravada (Pali: school of the elders, also called Hinayana Buddhism or small chariot) is the oldest still existing school tradition of Buddhism. He attributes his ancestry to the monastic community that was one of the first followers of Buddha. The Theravada is today spread mainly in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and partly also in Vietnam and the People's Republic of China (in Yunnan).
2) The Pali Canon is the oldest coherent collection of teachings of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, written in the language Pali. The term is used to distinguish it from other canonical collections of Buddhist writings, such as the "Sanskrit Canon" or the "Chinese Canon".
3) The Buddha (Sanskrit, m., बुद्ध, buddha, literally "awakener") in Buddhism refers to a person who has experienced Bodhi (literally "awakening") and is the honorary name of the Indian founder of religion Siddhartha Gautama, also called "Buddha", whose teachings are the basis of the world religion of Buddhism.
4) Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์) is a Royal First Class Temple, a Buddhist temple (Wat) located in the centre of the historic old town of Bangkok, just south of the Royal Palace. His official name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan (วัดพระเชตุพนวิมลมังคลารามราชวรมหาวิหาร), but locals still call him Wat Pho after his historical name Wat Photharam, which is supposed to remind of the monastery of the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya.
Open University: King Rama III established a "democratic, open university" in Wat Pho, for everybody regardless of his origin or his status. Numerous textbooks were engraved in marble plates and exhibited in the temple. Especially the traditional Thai art of healing is spread further here, for example the famous Thai massage.
5) As already described above, the traditional Thai massage belongs to the health care of the Thai people. In rural areas, for example, you will find many such massage places in the small farming villages. The tradition of massage is passed on here from the master to the student, often it is uncertain from where the "master" has her knowledge. It happens that the tradition is passed on in a family over generations. Of great importance here is the experience of the practicing masseuse.
There are now two recognized training centers in Thailand, the oldest and most traditional is undisputedly the Wat Pho in Bangkok. A second, also recognized school is in Chiang Mai. A profound education at these two schools takes months and is expensive for the locals by Thai standards. That wants to say, that only a few massage ladies are in possession of a diploma of one of these schools, most are "semi-skilled", which in principle is not to be evaluated negatively.
Tourism has drastically changed the importance of traditional Thai massage in the country, which has an effect on the range of quality. Many large hotel chains and resorts have acquired so-called SPA areas, especially in recent years, where TTM is offered as a "traditional hook", but only plays a minor role in the range of wellness treatments. This is in itself correct, because the TTM can be experienced at most as an "exotic experience" during a three-week holiday stay , but is of course always very relaxing.
TTM only fulfils the purpose of preventive health care when administered regularly on a weekly basis.
The TTM is much longer known in the countless massage shops / salons in tourist centres such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Hua Hin etc.. Sex tourism in particular has created a grey area between "serious" and yet more "prostitution-oriented" establishments in these places. Here the quality of the TTM can be far away from its origin, the intentions of the mostly very young masseuses are understandably different. Of course, this should only be a relativizing evaluation with regard to the quality of TTM, because this whole development is clearly and hard connected with the social situation of women from the rural "underclass" of a third world country.
Last but not least, let's have a look at the masseuses on the beach, who delight tourists everywhere. Mostly older ladies, they offer their traditional Thai massage, enriched with coconut oil, on a mat on the beach. Also here the quality of the massage can be very variable, more important is probably the very sympathetic meeting between a native and the guest. The sand mostly involved in the massage is a free skin peeling addition, and the sea is a few steps away to wash it off again after the treatment.