The influence of Ayurveda on Thai massage accounts for their shared ability to aid in the healing process. Understanding the origins of this relationship will make you a more knowledgeable and understanding therapist.
The origin of Thai medicine is legendary. According to many popular accounts, the practice began over 2,000 years ago with Jivaka Kumarbaccha, also known as Dr. Shivago Komarpaj.
While there is no real evidence that supports the idea that he really founded the art, it is generally agreed that Kumarbaccha, originally from Northern India, was an Ayurvedic doctor. He’s further reputed to have been the physician to the Buddha himself.
When Ayurveda and Buddhism made their way to Thailand, Thai medicine was influenced by it, but developed quite uniquely, introducing different forms of massage (and many other locally defined therapies) as a means to relieve muscles and soothe pain after long hours of meditation or working in the rice fields.
Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals reports that Thai medicine, like Vedic philosophy, starts from a belief that illness and pain are caused by blockages in the vital energy force that runs through the body. Thai massage is one of the most prevalent treatments used to clear this congestion.
Further evidencing a connection, the Thai Healing Alliance International cites a similarity between some of the names of the Thai sen lines and those of a corresponding system in the Ayurvedic methodology.
Both traditions have a basis in element-theory, as many Eastern medicines do — however, they do slightly differ. Thai medicine is most commonly based on a four-element system of earth, water, fire, and wind (sometimes five or six elements are used as well). Ayurvedic medicine, however, follows the Dosha system, which is based on different combinations of five elements, according to The Chopra Center.
Everyone has a unique mix of these forces, which means that what constitutes balance and imbalance differs for each of us. Both Ayurveda and Thai medicine treat imbalances through diet, meditation, massage, and spiritual interventions.
Both systems identify 72,000 channels in the body that can be manipulated in the healing process. Additionally, many of the poses in Thai massage correspond closely to those of Indian yoga postures. Although the methods may be different, the basis for the practices are the same.
Putting it All Together
How can understanding the origins of Thai medicine and its ties to Ayurveda help make you a better therapist?
For starters, it can take your practice deeper. In the same way you want your clients’ bodies to move deeper into their poses over time, delving deeper into the roots of your discipline will bring you to new depths.
This study will help you to find connections you might have missed, and to try treatments you might not have considered, all of which will benefit your patients and enable you to make new recommendations for your patients’ physical, mental, and spiritual needs.
Seeing the two systems as complementary will enrich the services you are able to provide, giving you greater confidence in your practice.