Dynamic Thai Yoga Bodywork: An Aquatic Massage on Earth

Posted in   The Art and Science of Bodywork   on  October 16, 2023 by  Susan Keogh0

My Journey

My passion for Thai Yoga Bodywork was ignited 20 years ago whilst travelling and studying meditation in a Buddhist monestry in southern Thailand. I received a treatment on the mat that was simultaniously deeply grounding and liberating on a physical level and somehow opened me into the stillness and spaciousness of my heart. Compelled to study more I spent several months in Thailand immersing myself in the study of Thai Yoga Massage, Ayuvedic and Keralite foot massage, yoga, chi gong and meditation, predominantly through the Sunshine Network in northern Thailand under Asokananda.

The principle foundations of Thai Yoga Bodywork and the quality of groundedness and fluidity I felt working on the mat enabled me to access a level of joyful ease, playfulness, skill and connection that I'd never known. For several years I have travelled back and forth to Sunshine House in Greece to expand my repertoire, diving deep into the study of dynamic Thai bodywork with the big hearted Krishnatakis Imbibinghis' incredible synthesis of traditional Chinese medicine and yogic traditions into the practice . I studied the various Osteothai modules with David Lutt which add so much precision and depth to the work. In more recent years the fire for the practice was reignited and a whole new window of possibility in relation to the depth and healing capacity of this work was opened up through the study of wou tai with Roland and Nathalie Combe .

The Dance of Touch

At the core of my approach is listening into the body space with not just hands but with all of my being, taking in the whole. Although there is the appearance of a therapist doing techniques on the body, in reality its all about freedom and flow. My other great passion in life is dance. Somehow it feels that both dance and touch have woven themselves seamlessly into this practice. This is my offering, my soulwork, it brings me back again and again to my heart, jut to feel, listen, touch and flow with another being.

Sen Lines by Sunshine House adapted from Thai Massage by Nicky Smith

What is Thai Massage?

Thai yoga massage forms an integral part of Thai traditional medicine. It is part of a long history of cultural blending by the Thai's themselves which incorporates aspects of Buddhist, Tantric , Ayurvedic, Chinese and indigenous Thai practices. Traditionally practiced in Buddhist monasteries, the massage was originally offered by Buddhist monks as part of their spiritual practice. The masseur practices in a meditative state and develops his sensitivity and compassion to tune into the patient’s needs in order to offer him/her the chance to tap into their own healing journey.

 

The Foundation of the Practice is Presence with Oneself and the Other

With the application of rhythmic pressure on certain energetic points and lines (sen) in the body and the yogic stretching of muscles and joint manipulation, blockages can be released and energy can be restored to its natural flow. The massage is usually on a mat on the floor, fully clothed in loose comfortable clothes, without oils and sometimes looks like applied hatha yoga or yoga for two! In Thai Massage, we use our hands, elbows, knees and feet to find the perfect touch needed for the moment. Because this massage is working on the dffierent body layers (koshas), the release works on an emotional, energetic and physical level.

Sen Lines

There is a certain amount of controversy as to what what sen lines actually are. In the literature and depending on what teacher you are following sen may be described as purely energetic phenomena, or they may be seen as corresponding directly to anatomical structure. There are said to be 72, 000 lines but thankfully we work mostly with the cardinal 10 called the sip sen. Interestingly the cardinal sen lines used correspond very accurately with the networks of myofascial tissue known in the structural integration world as 'Anatomy Trains'. The lines for the most part follow the grooves in muscles connecting important insertion points to one another.

Lom and Blocked Sen

The correct term to use in Thai massage for energy is lom or lom pran. It is similar to the chi or the prana in the yogic system. If the flow of lom is in anyway impeded by blockages or breaks in the sen you will experience less than optimal health. The goal is to correct the lom imbalances by stimulating the sen lines to activate the body's natural healing mechanisms and restore full function and vitality

 

Thai Massage and the Present Day

The form of Thai massage practiced by westerners represents a very recent synthesis dating back no further than the sixties and again revived in the eighties by the Thai government in order to bolster the tourist and spa industry. Already there are many different regional styles of Thai massage and with more and more westerners travelling to study in Thailand, and many different schools proliferating around the world there is a huge smorgasborrd to choose from. The blending of an ancient art with the mordern wisdom of osteopathy, physiotherapy, myofascial release and somatic enquiry is very common.

 

Dynamic Thai Massage

Dynamic Thai Massage works primarily on the mechanical, liquid and fluid level, restoring lost freedom, recovering mobility, improving fluid circulation in the blood vessels, lymphatic systems and has a profound effect on the nervous system.

My practice of thai bodywork unfolds a bit differently than one might have imprinted in their imagination of the "no pain, no gain" approach. Within the traditional framework of the massage, I use gentle breathwork and specialised techniques drawn from the principles of osteopathy and myofascial unwinding (slow spontanious release of tension), which allows for a softer deeper touch and opening. Through rhythmical rocking, oscillatory and harmonic movements of the different body parts, the focus is on finding rhythm and stillness with another and unravelling pathways into playfulness and freedom where the body remembers itself and its full potential once more.

About the Author

Susan Keogh is a holistic physiotherapist, myofascial therapist, movement educator, pilates and yoga instructor and a life long student of meditation and the Eastern healing arts. She received her professional training in UCD school of physiotherapy graduating in 1993 with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree. Susan has undertaken a considerable amount of training over the years in somatic therapies, breathwork, myofascial release and structural integration. She is currently delving deep into the study of visceral osteopathy.

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