Sen lines have been an integral part of Thai massage philosophy for centuries, but did you know about the science behind them? By combining Western research and Eastern practice, you too can use Sen lines to improve your health and well-being.
Even for those who have received Thai massage in the past, the core concepts that inform it can be confusing, especially for Westerners. To truly understand Thai massage theory and the Buddhist practices that inform it, we have to take a look at the science behind Sen lines.
A Little Bit of Background
Before scientists discovered the hundreds of chemical elements that make up human beings, philosophers and doctors were already linking body parts to natural elements.
Most schools of thought broke down the areas of the body and consciousness into sections depending on which of these elements — fire, water, air, ether and earth — had the greatest connection to each part.
Traditional Thai medicine follows this philosophy, with multiple groupings of body parts associated with different elements. The earth element, for example, has 20 body part groupings linked to it.
The parts of our body associated with earth tend to be those that are most palpable, visible, and measurable. Tendons, ligaments, nerves, veins, and arteries are all part of the sixth earth body part grouping, the grouping that’s most important to Thai massage practitioners.
The reason? They involve Sen lines.
Nephyr Jacobsen, director and founder of The Naga Centre, separates Sen lines into two categories — subtle and gross. Subtle Sen lines are linked with the mind and consciousness, while gross Sen lines are found on the physical body. Thai massage practitioners work with the latter, which can be sub-categorized as follows:
Major Sen Lines: Large tendons, ligaments, veins, certain fascial sheaths
Minor Sen Lines: Channels that branch from the major Sen
Invisible Sen Lines: Lines too small to see, such as hormone and nutrient movement lines
What qualifies all of these lines into the gross category is that they are linked not only to the earth element, but also to wind, known as the movement element. What do these parts have to do with movement?
They involve energy transferral of some kind — like the pumping of blood, the contraction of muscles, or the jumping of electrical impulses.
In Jacobsen’s own words, “wind is incredibly important in traditional Thai medicine. When dealing with the channels, the job of the bodyworker is to manipulate the wind, to free up the passageways.” This distinguishes traditional Thai massage from other forms that focus only on the loosening of muscles.
Reasons for using Sen lines and not simply muscles can be spiritual, purely medicinal, or both. Scientific research continues to investigate why Thai massage is so effective, but one thing’s for certain — manipulating Sen lines to work on the free-flow of energy transferral can reduce pain and restore health, according to Thai Massage Zone.
At Navina we take considerable time to examine each Sen line from multiple different angles – inlcuding the traditional contexts for their use, their locations, the structures involved and how they relate to the myofascial system of the body to develop a complex understanding of Sen lines, enabling all of our practitioners and students to work with the Sen holistically.