Monday, October 1, 2012

Compassion in Action - Thai Bodywork Weekend One

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
(Thinking of the song "One Night in Bangkok"?  Yeah, me too.)

Tom Dee, Dai Dee
Tom Chua, Dai Chua

Do Good, Get Good
Do Bad, Get Bad

~ Ancient Thai saying

Sawadee ka!  Hello!  (for the guys out there, it's "Sawadee krup!")  Sorry for the absence in blog posting, it is my intention to post at least once a week.  The previous weekend I began a six month training in Thai Bodywork, and I was occupied Thursday evening (after teaching yoga twice and a full day at the office), all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  In between I was trying to do all the usual stuff weekend stuff.  This past weekend I was a busy little harvest squirrel, but more on that another time.

So, what is Thai Bodywork?  You may have heard of Thai Massage or Thai Yoga Massage.  All are likely referring to the same thing.  In the U.S., "massage" is practiced by a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT).  So, unless you're a LMT, another term should be used.  Thai bodywork is sometimes "called 'lazy person's yoga' because the receiver can simply relax while someone else puts them through various postures." (Thai Massage Sacred Bodywork by Ananda Apfelbaum)  A more restorative one-on-one yoga session and Thai bodywork do share some outward appearances, but Thai bodywork is more involved than assisted asana.

Me, Bangkok, Fall 1999
The Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI) describes it in the following manner:

What is known in the West as Thai massage is not massage at all, but rather an ancient energy-based healing system that combines acupressure, reflexology, and assisted yoga postures. Treatment effects are enhanced when the patient is fully relaxed and breathing deeply. This traditional healing practice, called Nuad or Nuad Boran in the Thai language, stands in sharp contrast to western massage therapies.

Traditional Thai massage uses no oils or lotions, and the recipient remains clothed during a treatment. There is constant body contact between the practitioner and client, but rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked in order to clear energy blockages and relieve tension. The practitioner uses thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to create a dance of movement on the body of the recipient. In this process, joints are opened, muscles and tendons are stretched, internal organs are toned, and energy is balanced. The overall effect is one of deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and physical and mental well being.

Nuad Boran (known in various forms as Thai massage, Thai Yoga Massage, and other terms) began to evolve in Thailand over 2,000 years ago. Based on healing principles similar to those utilized in other non-western healing therapies, the Thai system focuses on circulation of vital energy in major pathways called sen. The major energy lines are manipulated, and important pressure points along these pathways are stimulated to help break down blockages, stimulate energy flow and restore balance and harmony.

In general, aside from clothes on and how the body is manipulated, I would say the biggest difference between Eastern and Western bodywork is the awareness of internal energy flow.  Thai bodywork is not a Buddhist practice, but it is highly informed by the four Buddhist states of mind:  Metta (goodwill, lovingkindness), Karuna (compassion, the desire to help others), Mudita (sympathetic joy), Upekkaha (impartiality or equanimity).  The "godfather" of Thai bodywork is actually an Indian doctor, Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha.  He was the personal physician of the Buddha.  Through the Silk Road and other early Asian trading routes, Thai healing practices were highly informed by Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho (What Phra Chetuphon) is a repository for information on traditional Thai culture.  Many of the written documents on ancient Thai medicine were destroyed during a seige by the Burmese.  King Rama III directed the best of the historical information to be gathered and inscribed right on the walls of the temple.  Wat Pho is not a single building, but a large complex.  It includes a school for study of Thai bodywork.  I can't believe I visited there, and didn't get a Thai massage!  I guess all the more reason to return to Thailand.  :-)  

On my next trip to Thailand, a trip to the north is in order.  The visit in 1999 took me to Bangkok (at the southern end of the non-peninsula mainland portion), the island of Phuket (mid-way down the peninsula, off the west side), and some locations in Vietnam and Hong Kong.  I am studying with Paul Fowler of Blue Lotus Thai Healing Studies .  His primary teacher, Ajahn Pichest Boonthumme (known as "Pichest"), resides and instructs near Chiang Mai (in the northern part of the mainland portion, towards Myanmar ("But it will always be Burma to me.") and Laos).  We begin each class with Wai Khru, honoring the teacher.  Not only the direct instructors, but the ancient lineage of all who have come before.  

I have a lot more to share on the topic of Thai bodywork, and I'm only one weekend in! I'll bring you along on the other five weekends.  To wrap up, a few photos of the first weekend, and some others of the trip to Asia in Fall 1999.


The agenda for Saturday's class.

The mats all ready for practice.

Tammy (one of the assistants) gives feedback to Cathie.

Larry and Natasha practicing.

How Thai bodywork students spend the last bit of lunch break.

I think this is in Ha Noi, but not positive.
I am wearing my hair almost exactly the same way at this moment.
Not sure if I'm aging gracefully or need a hair update!


Hiking near Sa Pa, Vietnam

Hiking near Sa Pa, Vietnam.
The local girls all approach with their wares.
"Buy me, buy me!  I bought the bracelet in my hand.

Hiking near Sa Pa, Vietnam.
I love those sandals, still have them and are in great shape. 
Teva 'Terradactyl' have carried me all over the world.  

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
The boat broke down while out on tour, oh boy!



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