When I first began to study Thai Massage in the late 1990s, I had a magical experience which is still as clear in my mind as if it had been yesterday.
I was a student at Chiang Mai’s Old Medicine Hospital, the original and first Thai Massage school in the north of Thailand. At that time I had been studying and practicing for a few weeks, but I had never done any real massage work on clients.
Thailand is famous for its unique Thai Massage therapy system. Every year many thousands of people travel to Thailand to study there. Countless Thai Massage schools have sprung up all over the country in the last 15 years.
Most people assume that Thai Massage education must be best in its home country. The question is if this is really true.
Is “traditional” better than “non-traditional”?
Thais like to use the term “Thai Traditional Massage”, and it has become somewhat of a brand name. The idea is that ‘traditional’ is better than ‘non-traditional’.
At this point we need to take a closer look at the mentality of the Thai people. Thailand is a developing nation and few people have the means to travel to other countries.
The vast majority of Thai Massage practitioners and teachers here have had no exposure to any other therapy system than Thai Massage, and therefore no way of comparing it to anything else.
Thai Massage differs from western massage in its approach. In the West massage is highly regulated, and a lot of emphasis is placed on anatomy and physiology, scientific studies, observable effects on the body, research, and clinical data.
In the East, Thai Massage is based on an energy model like most Asian therapeutic systems. There is little interest in clinical data or documented research regarding its effects. If people like how it feels and if it helps them, that’s good enough for them.
Thai Massage and yoga are part of the same family. Thai Massage originated in India’s yoga system and made its way to Thailand in a modified version. That’s why western therapists often refer to it as Thai yoga massage. The similarity between yoga stretches and Thai Massage stretches is quite obvious.
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