Long before paper was invented, the Chinese recorded their history on thin slivers of bamboo. In fact, the material was used in a multitude of ways, ranging from musical instruments to elaborate decorations, artwork, and even agricultural tools. Since bamboo was incorporated into so much of daily life, it wasn’t long before it was used as a form of creative and spiritual expression, which quickly took on ritual and healing connotations.
Thai Healing Alliance is Born
Traditional Thai massage is quite new in the West, 15 to 20 years old at best. Yet in the past few years, it has become increasingly popular. It has been showcased on magazine covers and in newspaper articles and is now considered one of the fastest growing healing modalities in the United States. But there is no bona fide certification process for Thai massage that is legally acknowledged and administered anywhere outside of Thailand.
Previously, we examined the American Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia’s (AOBTA) definition of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) using three styles of bodywork — amma, shiatsu, and Jin Shin Jyutsu (October/November 2004, page 114).
The healing art known as Nuad Boran (meaning “ancient massage”) began to evolve more than 2,000 years ago in present-day Thailand. What is today called Thai massage or Thai yoga massage is an ancient healing system combining acupressure, energy balancing techniques, Indian ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures.
Recent studies show consumers visit massage therapists 114 million times each year, spending $4 billion to $6 billion annually, thereby making massage one of the fastest-growing segments of holistic healthcare in America today. It can be found everywhere from day spas and chiropractic offices, to health clubs and employee break rooms. The massage explosion can be attributed partly to the growing population of tired and aging baby boomers, and partly to an increased awareness of the effects of stress and how massage can help.
Energy healing is often discussed as a new, somewhat unexplainable therapy. Truth is, energy work is an effective bodywork that is as ancient as healing itself.
Bangkok, Thailand, a city famous for its exotic offerings, is also the site of Wat Pho’s Traditional Medical and Massage School — a center for the teaching, research and practice of the Thai healing tradition. It is a school unlike those seen in North America. At Wat Pho, massage and medicine are taught in a Buddhist temple — the “wat” — adorned with filigreed designs and garden statues of figures in various postures dating back to the 16th century. It is here, in these forms and in this temple, that we find both an ancient art and an age-old philosophy.