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Thai massage the ancient healing of Thailand: explore traditional healing history and practice with Patricia A. Kilpatrick.

Traditional Thai Massage, in and unto itself, has a recorded history of over 2,500 years. However, this Ancient Massage is derived from thousands of years of traditional healing methods before its own beginnings.

Ayurvedic physician Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, also known as Shivago Komparaj, is credited and revered as the originator of Thai medicine. He was a close friend and the doctor of the Buddha and King Bimhisara in India. Legendary tales of Dr. Jivaka are written in ancient texts of Buddhism, and his healing techniques helped to spread the teachings of the Buddha throughout Southeast Asia.

Dr. Jivaka's healing methods are a combination of the ancient Indian medicine of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. The Buddhist monks kept his knowledge alive and recorded, teaching primarily through the healing monasteries in Thailand, the crossroads between India and China. Thailand's location helped to develop the combined cultures of Thai medicine. Ayurveda gave the yogic aspects to Thai massage with the deep stretches and assisted yoga positions as well as the philosophies of healing through marma points. Chinese and Tibetan medicine brought attention to the Sen (energy) Lines and acupressure points. Some of the rocking and percussive techniques are similar to Tui Na, Chinese massage.

These techniques were recorded on palm leaves and housed in the libraries in Ayuthaya, the Siamese royal capital from 1350 until 1767 until it was destroyed by Burmese warriors. The king of Siam, Rama I, moved the capital to Bangkok In 1781, he had the Sixteenth Century Buddhist temple Wat Po rebuilt to house the national education headquarters for Thai Traditional Medicine which includes anual medicine, or bodywork, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, and spiritual practices. In 1832, Rama III had the Buddhist monks of War Po glean what information was left from the Burmese destruction and carve sixty stone epigraphs depicting the Sen (Energy) Lines used in Traditional Thai Massage, thus preserving this ancient knowledge of healing. Wat Po is still, to this day, the primary education center for learning Traditional Thai Medicine and is famous for its Thai Massage School.

On the folk medicine side of this extraordinary history, Thai massage has been handed down through the generations of families by word of mouth. Adults worked long days in the fields, then came home at night, stiff and aching from the hard labor. Their children were trained in the unique methods of Thai massage in order to help restore their parents' energy, preparing them for a good night's sleep and a productive next day. They used steamed herb packs and herbal baths to ease the pain of overworked muscles. They filled the porous bags with healing herbs such as yellow ginger and lemongrass and pressed them into the muscles and joints. They prepared the hot tea bath with the herbs. While the adult was soaking, they would get into the tub with them and pull them around, stretching their muscles and opening their joints so the herbs could do their healing work.

The wonderful, healing aspects of Thai massage are recognized throughout the world today ... still faithful to the ancient traditions built over thousands of years.

Patricia A. Kilpatrick, NUMB, is certified in Thailand by Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical School in Bangkok and by Lek Chaiya Nerve Touch in Chiang Mai. She is co-owner of Harmony Learning Center in Decatur, 6A where she operates her private practice. She offers workshops nationwide with her teaching partner, Ko Tan, in Thai-Yoga Body Therapy. She may be contacted at (404) 315-9000 or through her website:

Thai Massage classes at Wat Po are part of the Thai Traditional Medical School.

For this Seated Torso Twist, the client sits in a crossed legged position on the mat with his hands clasped behind his head. The therapist approaches the client from behind resting her knee on his thigh and intertwining her hands through his bent arms. She holds the client steady and asks him to breathe in deeply. As he exhales, she twists his body around giving him a wonderful stretch from the waist all the way up through his shoulders. Then, she does the same motion in the other direction to give balance to the technique.
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Title Annotation:Breath & Movement
Author:Kilpatrick, Patricia A.
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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