The Compassionate Touch

Today I will talk to you about an ancient Healing Art that no many people know has its origins in Yoga… Thai Massage, the incredible art of touch!
In a search to enrich and broaden my perception of the human body from a Yogic perspective, I decided to embark into an amazing trip to mythical Bangkok.  This was going to be a full immersion in the fascinating world of historical palaces and temples where people from all over the globe go looking for different ways to comfort body and soul; me, I went looking for the ancestral teachings of Thai Massage Masters!
Thai Massage tradition is said to have its origins in India about 2500 years ago with Jivaka Kumarbhaccha, a renowned Yogi and doctor in Ayurveda who is believed to have been the head physician of Buddha; then it spread through Buddhism by the Ayurvedic doctors that went along with the monks as they moved around with their teachings, and it is still taught and practiced today in the exuberance of Wat Po Temple in Bangkok, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
And that’s exactly where I went, to the Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical School, to learn this fascinating discipline that Cam Thye Chow (Thai Yoga Massage Teacher from the Lotus Palm School) brilliantly describes as a Tango dance, where the practitioner becomes the leading dancer and the recipient becomes the follower engaging in a graceful dance of Yoga postures.
I totally love this description as it surely is a rhythmic symphony of movements, stretching and breathing that stimulates the energy lines in the body, giving the recipient all the healing benefits that you can get from the practice of Yoga.
Thai Massage is also defined by many as assisted Hatha Yoga; it brings balance to the body energy making you feel relaxed and centered, improving blood circulation and lymphatic systems, accelerating the metabolism, alleviating muscular tension, and strengthening the immune system.
It was such an amazing opportunity to plunge myself into this learning process in a place where you study together with the local people, and even if you don’t speak the same language, you end up communicating through the technique, and a gesture is enough to lead the counterpart through the right order, nodding when it feels right or making a funny face when it feels wrong.  With my classmates, this became the way of helping each other to improve our ability to perform the massage, always with the supervision of an amazing group of teachers.  During seven hours a day (for five consecutive days) we were continuously giving and receiving massage; going over and over each single step until it came all together.  At the end, what seemed impossible to memorize when we first started, began flowing effortlessly through our hands like magic.
Even if the schedule was quite tight and the work was really demanding during the day I couldn’t resist finding the time and energy to do some… “extracurricular activities”:  visit some temples in the first hours of the day, which gave me the chance to take some priceless shots without the touristic crowds; join the early morning practice of Thai Yoga at Wat Po Temple, which is an interesting mix of Tai Chi like movements and Yoga postures where the hand gestures resemble a beautiful Thai dance; have amazing food in surreal and busy China Town; go for a walk around the psychedelic flower market; and even enjoy simple dinners at crazy and intense backpacker’s street Kao San.
This experience not only developed a new sensibility and awareness that I’m sure will improve my ability to adjust my students during the practice of asanas, but it also helped me discover a complete new Bangkok that I loved!
Well, what else can I say… I totally admire and respect our soft, well mannered, and beautiful teacher Teep who guided us step by step giving us a helping hand when needed! And, if you are a big fan of Thai Massage and you happen to be in hectic Bangkok, I highly recommend you to try the master’s “compassionate touch” at the Wat Po Temple!


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