THAI MASSAGE ACADEMY
with Pau Castellsagué
If one traces the evolution of the techniques of healing-massage practiced in Thailand, one discovers the astonishing fact that the earliest roots of Thai massage lie not in Thailand but in India. The legendary founder of the art is believed to have been a doctor from northern India. Known as Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, he was a contemporary of the Buddha and personal physician to the Magadha King Bimbisara over 2,500 years ago. The teachings of Kumar Bhaccha probably reached what is now Thailand at the same time as Buddhism – as early as the 3rd or 2nd century B.C.
The Indian origin and influence is obvious here since the background of this theory clearly lies in Yoga philosophy. Yoga philosophy states that life energy (called Prana) is absorbed with the air we breathe and with the food we eat. Along a network of energy lines, the Prana Nadis, the human being is then supplied with this vital energy. Out of these energy lines Thai massage has selected 10 main lines on which there are especially important acupressure points. Massaging these lines and points makes it possible to treat a whole range of diseases or to relieve pain. The 10 main lines are sufficient to conduct practical treatment for the whole body and its internal organs. Disturbances in the flow of energy result in an insufficient supply of Prana, which will in turn lead to sickness. Working on the energy lines with massage can break the blockades, stimulate the free flow of Prana, and help to restore general wellbeing.
Massage was always considered to be a spiritual practice closely connected with the teachings of the Buddha. Until fairly recently it was the Buddhist temple, where massage was taught and practiced. The establishment of legitimate massage facilities outside of the temples is a recent development.
– and devoted masseurs still work in such a spirit today. A truly good masseur performs his art in a meditative mood. He starts with a Puja, a meditative prayer, to fully center himself on the work, on the healing he is about to perform. And he works with full awareness, mindfulness and concentration. There is a world of a difference between a massage performed in a meditative mood and a massage just done as a job. Only a masseur working in a meditative mood can develop an intuition for the energy flow in the body and for the Prana lines.
The kneading of muscles, which dominates in Western style massage, is absent from Thai massage: energy points are pressed or general pressure is used instead. There is a lot of stretching involved and many exercises might well be described as ‘applied Hatha Yoga’ or ‘applied physical Yoga’. Rather than using the term ‘Thai massage’, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to actually call it ‘Yoga massage’ since that’s what this art essentially is.
When my book The Art of Traditional Thai Massage was published in Bangkok in 1990, Thai massage had just started to emerge from the state of obscurity it had been pushed into by the advance of Western medicine. In the mid 80’s, at the time when I got fascinated by and ‘hooked’ on it, Thai massage had seemed to be a dying art. Chemical drugs more and more had replaced home remedies and traditional cures and the reputation of Thai massage had sunk to the point of being regarded as quack practice. This was not helped by the fact that thinly disguised prostitution in massage parlors was masquerading as ‘Thai massage’. Substandard massages offered at the beaches and in some commercial massage places made matters worse.
The limits of Western style medicine became apparent, bringing about a revival of interest in alternative health care in the West and to a certain extent also in Thailand and other countries of the East.
All of a sudden Westerners in search of traditional ways of treatment discovered Thai massage. Doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and masseurs on one hand, and people with a background in yoga, yoga therapy and meditation on the other hand, came to Thailand to supplement their knowledge with a training in traditional Thai massage.
Increasingly also people in Thailand seem to realize that for certain ailments like asthma, constipation or frozen shoulders and to help recovery after a heart attack or to regain mobility of the limbs after a stroke – to mention only a few – Thai massage treatment is far superior to conventional medicine and therapy.
So within one decade Thai massage has regained the credibility it rightly deserves and not only has Thai massage survived but is more established than ever…
Applying mindful principles at all times during Thai Massage is not only to protect the giver from pain and save energy but it is also what creates the magic…the allowing…the unfolding…the melting…the healing… Understanding these principles is the key to offering the best massage you can possibly give…
Humble yourself and open up for being guided to wherever it is you need to go. Leave your own story at the door. Hold space and be a platform for healing to come like a wave.
Where am I? How do I feel? Am I comfortable? Can i do this for a long time and feel ok? Always scan your body and find ways to nourish yourself in the process of giving. Place special attention to your own lower back and shoulders.
The most powerful force is given to you vertically and unlimited. Will you choose to use it? Can you find the right angle of your body so that Gravity can do the work for you? Find your way, set it up, precise angle, are you sure? YES… so breathe in, and as you exhale… lean, and sink, and Lean again and sink even more.
Move from your center, your HARA. Every movement is born right below your belly button. From there, our body is simply an extension of this movement. Present and aware… with your mind still on this present moment. Now you are fully here. Now you have arrived.
Close your eyes and move like no one is watching you. Dance like a barefooted child. Feel the JOY. Enter the flow. From this point on… Thai Massage is no longer a massage… we are entering a MAGICAL JOURNEY.
Big open hand, big big hand, cover as much surface as you can, feel the different layers, embrace the tissues, listen to the doors as they open in front of you, make half a second transform into eternity… with precision, care, love, sensitivity… and yes… now!… it’s time to sink.
Pau was introduced to the practice of Yoga by the light of his younger brother Wari Om. Meeting his teacher Soma in the Navarra mountains was the start of his spiritual journey. His path is full of joy and gratitude for being influenced by auspicious teachers every step of the way: Jordi, Dolors, Laurino, Takis, Jason, Soma, Dayalu, Goenka, Amma…
Pau spends most of his time traveling around the globe teaching AcroYoga and Thai Yoga Massage.
Since 2011, together with his brother Wari and sister Mireia, they organize the Barcelona Yoga Conference, a huge celebration of Yoga.
Our Thai Massage teaching is inspired by the Dhamma and instruction of two masters Chayuth and Pichest of Northern Thailand, as well as the teachings of Asokananda and the beautiful combination of Yoga, Thai Massage, Vipassana and Metta.
True Thai Massage cannot exist without this melting pot of healing ingredients. Chayuth for his dynamic, unstructured, shamanic approach and Pichest for his devotion, prayer and precision, which have both helped and inspired many seekers along the way.
We are also deeply inspired by the work of Asokananda. Originally from Germany, Asokananda is the founding member of the Sunshine Network, a group of connected friends from around the world who teach and practice a spiritual life by means of Thai massage, Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan and meditation.
He was the first person to write about Thai massage in English in “The Art of Traditional Thai massage” in the 1990s. He came to set up his massage school in the north of Thailand, in a Lahu hill tribe village, close to Chiang Mai.
One of the few great Masters of Thai Massage in the 20th century. His profound understanding of the flow of energy has been an inspiration for many practitioners.
The best known living Thai Massage Master from Thailand. His influence is vast, his radiation intense, and many contemporary Western Thai Massage teachers are or have been influenced by his style, methods, and techniques.
The leading Western teacher of Traditional Thai Yoga Massage. He researched and taught Thai massage, yoga and Vipassana meditation for more than 15 years.
Thai Massage dates back to the time of the Buddha, in the land of India. Dr. Shivago, a hermit and healer, would accompany the Buddha and his Sangha as they would travel throughout the land delivering dharma (teachings). He performed bodywork on the Buddha to help him to stay healthy on his extended travels. He would teach this form of bodywork, along with herbal remedies, proper nutrition and meditation to the monks and nuns.