There are so many things we are thankful for that stem from the Asian community. Their ancient heritage is responsible for a large portion of the healing modalities practiced in the West. The Pacific Island community consists of folks from Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. While this month of May is meant to honor all Asian and Pacific Islanders. So many ethnic groups and tribes are present within this very ambiguous term.
From Asian food, medicines, Indigenous folklore, textiles, pottery, and more we are immensely thankful for all that these sacred souls share with the rest of the world.
While politically there has been so much hurt, trauma, and separation within the context of identification pertaining to land rites, social acceptance, sustainability, and overall tolerance of diversity. The proof is truly in the ancient pudding. The melanin, the stories, the unique features, diverse cultures, and abstract dialects from the Asian community boasts the beauty of diverse creation.
One of our favorite forms of medicine is sacred movement. Our herbal allies can truly only assist us if our bodies are able to receive the nutrients from creating a beneficial terrain.
One of the many ways Asian medicine ways create a colorful and strong terrain is through massage.
Let's look at some of the similarities and differences between Thai massage and Ayurveda....
Thai and Ayurvedic massage are similar in that both Eastern practices seek to restore balance to the body by relieving stress and relaxing tight muscles. Thai fundamentals focus on rhythm, sequences, and body mechanics while Ayurveda’s principle aim of practice is to balance the three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha). Both massage philosophies have similar roots, Ayurveda is over 10,000 years old and Thai massage is thought to have stemmed from the Buddhist originating philosophy of massage which is rooted in Ancient India as old as 2,500 years. Thai massage is a combination of various Eastern thoughts including Buddhism, acupressure, Ayurveda, and yoga . Although both forms of massage are similar, they have vast differences that can allow for clients to distinguish between the two and decide what form of massage is best for their unique needs.
Thai Massage uses deep and rhythmic pressing as well as stretching to relieve pain and address the myofascial. Also known as “lazy-man’s-yoga”, Thai massage tones the muscles, increases range of motion, and balances the energy flow throughout the patient’s body. Traditional to Thailand and originally taught in familial lineages with specific modalities known to be unique to various individual villages, Thai massage combines the knowledge of anatomy and physiology with ancient concepts. There are many styles of Thai massage such as Nuad Boran and Suandok which both address not only the physical body but the spiritual and mental bodies thus treating the patient holistically. Thai massage is intended to stimulate the body’s natural self-healing process and restore energetic balance. In traditional Thai massage the Sen-lines (Ayurvedic Nadis) are pathways that carry subtle energy and the location of those Sen-lines within the body are dependent upon specific traditional lineages. Sessions typically begin at the feet and move to the head using joint mobilization and assisted yogic stretching techniques. The practitioner focuses on the Sen-lines and uses hatha yoga postures to stretch the client which is usually done on a floor mat. No oil is used during Thai yoga massages. In a clinical trial comparing Thai massage, Thai herbal compresses, and ibuprofen application on osteoarthritic subjects researchers found that Thai massage, “mechanisms probably include improving blood flow; promoting venous circulation; increasing lymphatic drainage to remove waste products and reduce edema; improving the mobility of ligaments, tendons, and muscle; as well as relaxing muscle tension”(Chiranthanut, 2014).
Ayurvedic massage uses marma points, which are essentially pressure points that are connected to the subtle body and are found at five organic principle sites within the body. Those principle sites are in the vessels, muscles, ligaments, bones, and joints. There are 107 marma points which translate to “matter” and “consciousness”. During an Ayurvedic massage session, stimulation of marma points are used to release tension in areas where there are blockages. Practitioners use special oils to slide, rub, knead, squeeze, and tap while the techniques used on particular body parts are specific to the lineage in which the practitioner studied with. Ayurvedic massage emphasizes an increase in lymphatic circulation and the promotion of cleaning the blood, relaxing the muscles, improving tissue health, and general relaxation . Ayurvedic massage moves the pranas to restore balance in the three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha). The optimal function of the pranas (vayus) within the body means that the nadi system or energy pathways are activated and open. There are 72,000 nadis that carry consciousness to the chakras and into all parts of the body where the spirit is then cleansed, and purification exists in every cell. Similar to Thai massage, there are many types of Ayurvedic massage including; Abhyanga, Garshana, Vishesh, Udvartana, and more which are given by an Ayurvedic physician during detoxification therapies called panchakarmas. The panchakarmas are a collective series of treatments to address the person on a holistic level, promoting deep rest and balancing the doshas. Staying rested is very important in Ayurvedic principles of life. The goal is to remain sattvic (spiritual clear and pure), which is dependent on the proper amounts of nourishment and rest. In fact, Ayurvedic practitioners are trained to understand the energetic flow within the human body thus using techniques that properly allow the energy (prana) to flow un-obstructed. Ayurvedic massages generally include various herbal oils that are made specific for each individual doshic constitution and will assist in furthering the healing based on the properties of the medicinal herbs and how they are seen in Ayurvedic philosophy. According to Dr. Rajen Coopan, “Ayurvedic herbs such as Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Cyawanprash, by their actions on various organs of the body are able to help the body and mind regain their balance and rest” (Coopan,2009).
We hope you learned something new here.
Here are a few of our favorite Asian herbalists/ healers
Dr. Paige Yang TCM
Michelle Song Yogini trained in the ancient vedic art of yoga
Keitha Young farmer, herbalist, activist, mother