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Thai Massage Quick Answers
You DESERVE a massage
Thai Massage has been called "The Yoga Done For You" for the beneficial stretches and pressing applied to your feet, legs, body, arms, hands, back, shoulders, and head while you rest comfortably on a soft mat on the floor, clothed, except for bare feet. Thai massage is said to be a medical specialty dating from the time of the Buddha.
Singles and couples can receive or learn this delightfully beneficial and physical technique:
- Schedule a private Thai massage: An hour and a half wonderful massage 1. House-call appointments at your downtown Philadelphia location, variable days. 2. At our downtown center, Thursday evenings, from 7:30pm - 9pm (occasional Mondays 8 - 9:30pm), 2100 Chestnut St, map below. 3. Invite me for your cruise or resort location. Includes sports medicine consult and instruction to help you fix injuries if wanted. E-mail to schedule your Thai Massage: ThaiMassage@DrBookspan.com.
- Make it the experience you want - More stretch or more pressure points, more vigorous or less, quiet or instructive style, lights high or low. Bring your own large towel and your own pillow so all is suited to your skin. Bring headphones and your favorite music if you want. Indicate if you want heated surface or cool fan, hot rocks, incense, oils, or not. Make it great and happy - It is up to you.
- Non-painful. Several Asian and other massage specialties have a belief structure that techniques must be painful to work. My work is to stop pain not make it. Have a wonderful, relaxing, exhilarating, beneficial massage - without pain.
- Club Foot!. - Discounts for frequent or regular massage.
- Change or cancel your appointment, no charge with e-mail notice at least one full day ahead.
- Map & Directions to your massage appointments at our martial arts training hall, 2100 Chestnut Street second floor - entrance on 21st between Chestnut and Sansom.
I am Dr. Jolie Bookspan, sports medicine specialist in injury prevention, pain relief, top training methods, and research scientist in extreme physiology around the world (heat, cold, g-Force, hyperbarics, aviation, etc).
I studied Thai Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Tok Sen, and other Thai styles direct from the source in Thailand training schools, hospitals, and monasteries, and in the United States; Sport Massage and Medical Massage courses in India, Cambodia, and Nepal; Shiatsu certification programs in Japan, TuiNa in China -- and bring them all to you
Several Thai massage stretches and movements are used in traditional Western sports medicine to help increase resting muscle length, and find and relieve unhealthy muscle and joint positions. A few massage moves can be unhealthy. I modify or skip them, giving more benefit.
Dr. Bookspan and Senior Monk Lama Tenzin, Principal of the Medical School in Tibet
Classes, Gifts, and Books
- Next Thai massage class with Dr. Bookspan, plus, yoga, martial arts, injury rehab, stretch, and other fun classes: Click for Classes.
- Special Master Classes privately arranged for your group. Ideas on the Projects page. Organize a definite group and e-Mail your scheduling ideas: ThaiMassage@DrBookspan.com.
- Dr. Bookspan's books for healthier stretching, fixing pain, exercise, martial arts, more: Books.
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Photos and Description
There are many claims for massage. I studied around the world to separate good information from wishful thinking, and learn methods that provide real benefit.
I first went to Thailand years ago as a competition boxer and found Thai massage there. As I received massage for martial arts soreness and wounds, I saw many moves were analogues to Western orthopedic pain relief techniques that I already knew from my sports medicine medical training and my years of laboratory research in physiology of injury. I began to study more.
I also developed a style I call RhythmMassage - a percussive blend of Thai massage, TokSen, conventional Tepotement, old fashioned Hambone body percussion, and rhythmic beats.
Thai massage begins in meditative manner
Full foot pressing massage, hand, arm, body, leg, back, front, and neck massage is part of Thai Massage. ("Reflexology massage" if used as a nice foot rub feels great and makes tired feet happy. We do not believe it is an actual correlation with any medical body zones)
Wonderful presses and stretches for limbs and body
Energizing and relaxing at the same time
Thai Massage Short History
Thai massage is called Nuad Thai, which means Thai massage. It is also called Nuad Borarn, which means Ancient Massage.
The person associated with founding or codifying Thai Massage was Shivaga (or Jivaka) Komalaboat. He is reported to have been born in northern India, and became a doctor of traditional medicine. According to some sources, he was a contemporary, even advisor, of The Buddha and great kings. He moved to what is now Tibet. He is considered one of the historically important students of the original master teachers of the Ayurvedic tradition. His teachings came to Thailand and Burma over a thousand years ago. The Father Doctor Jivaka is so important to traditional medicine throughout all these areas that he is also called the "Thrice Crowned King of Tibetan medicine."
A Word on Thai Pronunciation
The Thai word nuat (or nuad), when pronounced with a high tone in the first syllable, means massage. The Thai word nuat (or nuad), when pronounced with a low tone in the first syllable, means mustache. Make sure when you ask for Nuat Boran, you are asking for ancient massage, not ancient mustache.
Honored Pali Prayer
"Pali" is a scriptural and liturgical language of Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism. "Om Namo Shivago" is a Pali prayer, often sung as a mantra before giving Thai massage to invoke and remember the founder. "Om Namo" is a Pali / Sanskrit word meaning "in the name of, or in remembrance of." Many schools of Thai massage and medicine invoke his memory and blessing by reciting his prayer, every day, twice a day.
OM NAMO SHIVAGO SIRASA AHANG KARUNIKO
SAPASATANANG OSATA TIPAMANTANG
PAPASO SURIYA-JANTANG KOMARAPATO PAGASESI WANTAMI BANDITO SUMETASO A-LOKA SUMANAHOMI
PIYO-TEWA MANUSANANG PIYO-PROMA NAMUTAMO
PIYO-NAKA SUPANANANG PINISRIYONG NAMAMIHANG NAMOPUTAYA
A-HIMAMA NAVEAN-NAVE NAPITANG-VEAN NAVEAN-MAHAKO
A-HIMAMA PIYONGMAMA NAMOPUTAYA
NA-A NAVA LOKA PAYATI WINASANTI
We invite the spirit of our founder,
the Father Doctor Jivaka who taught us through his saintly life.
Please bring to us the knowledge of nature,
and show us the true medicine in the universe.
Through this prayer, we request your help, that through our hands,
you will bring wholeness and health to the body of our client.
The god of healing dwells in the heavens high
while mankind remains in the world below.
In the name of the founder, may the heavens be reflected in the earth,
so that this healing medicine may encircle the world.
We pray for the one whom we touch, that he will be happy and all pain will be released from them.
Ideology of Thai Massage
Pressure points are thought to be areas along "energy lines" which some consider as metaphor and others take to be real.
These lines are called "sen" lines in Thai. "Sen" means "lines."
Sen lines correspond to the Meridians of Chinese medicine and the Nadi of Indian yogic tradition.
Thai massage believes there are 72,000 sen lines. Ten (or more) are considered principal.
Stretching is necessary and healthy movement and prayer for the giver and receiver.
'Wai Kru" honoring the teacher, is uppermost and done before and after each session.
Rules for Practitioners
Don't take patients from others
Keep mind and body clean
Don't give certificates to the unqualified
Give thanks every day to the teachers
Principles for Giving Thai Massage
Massage is done for the elevation of the human spirit and approached in friendly manner.
Massage is done fully clothed except for bare feet, on a mat on the floor, rather than a raised table.
Wash hands and feet before massage, yours and theirs.
After Wai Kru, rub your hands together many times to warm them.
Thai massage is done in a meditative manner.
Remove watches and jewelry that can pinch.
Check for contraindications, recent illness, surgery, pregnancy, injuries.
Begin and end with prayer, usually Om Namo. Honor the teacher.
Pressure is variable depending on the needs.
Never hurt the receiver or yourself. Adjust uncomfortable positioning.
Use alternating hand pressing with thumb pressing and palm pressing. Rock your body weight rhythmically.
Don't press on bone. Use thumb circles or finger circles over bony points.
Give energy. Don't cause pain.
Move flowingly and sequentially, rather than jump locations.
Maintain hand contact.
Don't pinch the skin when pulling. Receive massage yourself to know the results of each move.
If we have to tell you never to talk on the phone, text, surf the net, chatter, while giving massage, please stay far away from us and don't call yourself healthy or a massage practitioner.
Energy Line Review for Students
Feet: Six points on the arch. Five lines on the sole, four lines on the instep.
Legs: Start on inside opposite leg. Three lines. Then near leg outside. 3 or 4 lines.
Continue rest of Massage of near leg. To start other leg, change sides, and reach over to opposite leg, inside, 3 lines. Then near leg outside 3 or 4 lines.
Forearms: One center line inside and outside. Upper arms two lines outside muscle.
Hands: Six palm press points. Five lines on palm. Four lines on back of hand.
Face: Four main forehead lines, four or three on lower face. Two to three on chin.
Three Point Centers (such as shoulder, low back, thigh ) 1-2-3-2-1.
Thai Massage Benefits
Thai massage has been called "The Yoga Done For You" for the application of pressure points and therapeutic stretching for limbs and body. Many Thai massage stretches and movements are used in traditional Western sports medicine for the real and beneficial ability to reset resting muscle length, and find and relieve unhealthy muscle and joint tensions. There are other claims for the benefits of Thai massage. Some are true and some are things that sound good, but may not be what massage actually does. There are also a few Thai massage moves that can be unhealthy. To gain the benefit of Thai massage, you can respectfully request that your Thai massage practitioner skip these few moves. Then the many beneficial Thai massage moves can help you feel good and be healthy.
Thai Massage Pitfalls
1. Forced Bending Forward
Your discs are tough cushions between each bone of your spine from your neck to low back. When you slouch forward, the front of each vertebrae comes together and the back of each moves further apart, making room for the disc to slide backward.
From slouching, year after year, the front of the disc gets squashed and compressed. But the serious damage occurs toward the back, where the disc can bulge out in back, like a water balloon that is squeezed in front. If you have a disc that is already degenerating from slouching, it often does not take much more force to make it herniate. This can come from bending over one more time, or being bent forward, especially with extra weight as from lifting a backpack, or force from someone pushing you into a forward stretch. The two common places for a disc to herniate are your neck and low back.
This is a side view of two vertebrae with a disc in between. On the left is a normal positioned spine with the healthy disc in between. On the right is what happens after years of bending forward so that the disc becomes pushed to the back. This is a herniation.
One Thai massage position involves having you sit, with the practitioner sitting behind you, putting their arm under your arm then around the back of your neck. In wrestling, this move is called a half-Nelson. This move is used to bend your neck forward. From there, the practitioner may push your back and neck forward, often leaning their weight to assist your forward movement. Don't let people push your back or neck to round forward, whether to stretch or to make a cracking noise. Avoid manipulation to the neck, which has been found to sometimes tear the blood vessels leading to the brain. There have been deaths and even Western chiropractors have been cautioned not to crack the neck.
2. Forced Bending Forward With Twist
A second assisted stretch to avoid is similar to the move above. In a sitting position with the practitioner sitting, behind you or to the side, they may put both arms under your arms then around the back of your neck, in a move that in the West is called a "full-Nelson." From there they may swing you slightly to the side, then again with a wider swing, then a third time with force. This sometimes makes a cracking noise in your back. Anatomically, the greatest force you can put on your discs and low back is bending forward with a twist.
3. Snapping Elbows or Knee Backward.
Sometimes in the course of a massage, the practitioner may bend your elbow or knee, then straighten it too far with a snap. For example, they may bend your knee toward your chest, then hold your heel and let the leg drop straight, letting the force snap the knee. They may even push your elbow or knee backward to assist the overly extended position. The elbow and knee are not shaped to hyper-extend. Hyperextension means to go more than a normally straight position. It can damage the joint and strain the cartilage. No joint should be snapped.
4. Blood Stop
An interesting and thought-provoking maneuver in Thai massage is the "bloodstop." The practitioner may press their palms, knees, elbows, forearms, shins, or feet over the big blood vessels that bring blood to your legs, or over the arteries that conduct blood to your arms. They press enough to slow or stop blood from flowing to your legs or arms as long as 30 seconds, a minute, sometimes more, depending on the style and school where they learned. When they release the pressure that was restricting the blood, blood flows back down the limbs in a warm rush that some people enjoy. Thai massage practitioners are taught to never do the blood stop on anyone with high blood pressure, varicose veins, heart or circulatory problems, or pregnancy. It also turns out that the blood stop maneuver is not healthy for others.
It is often taught in massage schools that the blood stop "helps unclog arteries." The theory is that if there were deposits that block the artery, the rush of blood returning would "unplug" the blockage and carry it away, like cleaning a clogged plumbing pipe. This does not work for several reasons. First, the rise in blood pressure from stopping (or slowing) blood flow is small and not enough to dislodge anything when flow is released. You increase your own blood pressure more from ordinary walking and exercise. Next, most deposits are not like separate pebbles; they are too attached, like paint, to be pushed away with blood pressure. Even if a push could dislodge anything, anything that dislodges from your big blood vessels can travel to a smaller place to become a foreign clog there - in the same way that damage occurs from a brain clot or heart attack or phlebitis.
Another idea taught is that slowing arterial blood helps draw away "stagnant" venous blood from the limbs. This is not how circulation works, even if it sounds good. Even though the blood stop will not help, you can easily do exercise that improves circulation both arterial and venous. When you exercise, the contracting muscles squeeze your limb vessels and push blood that pools in the limbs.
Another of the theories of the blood stop that is sometimes taught in massage schools is that it helps counter the phenomenon of "legs falling asleep" during long sitting or meditation. The belief is that "legs falling asleep" is caused by lack of blood flow, and the blood stop will strengthen or increase circulation to alleviate that problem in the future. A little knowledge of physiology shows why neither is true. Compressing arteries to slow or stop blood does not cause any increase in the number or size of blood vessels, or ability to pump blood, any more than having clogged arteries improves circulation. The blood stop does not reroute the blood or encourage the body to find new pathways which give circulatory benefit. Exercise will increase all these good things, but doing the blood stop does not, even if we wish it does, or were taught that it does. Next, when a limb "falls asleep" it is not lack of blood flow, but nerve compression. There is no reduction in blood flow when you get the tingling and the "pins and needles" feeling of a limb falling asleep. The tingling is called neuropraxia, which just means a temporary interruption of sending nerve signals resulting in pins and needles feeling. During the blood stop maneuver, there is no pins and needles feeling, and when you stand up after your legs "fall asleep" there is no warm rush of blood as after the blood stop. They are two different things.
When you stop blood to an area, it is not healthy for the area. Cells starve. Nerve cells are the most sensitive of all body cells to lack of oxygen. Thai massage practitioners are sometimes taught that it is not stopping blood but "opening the wind" to release stagnant blood or energy. Still, no matter what you call it, lack of blood flow is not great for any body area.
Then the interesting paradox occurs: When blood flow, called perfusion, is restored to any body area that was deprived, oxygen flows back into the area. That would sound helpful, but the oxygen itself causes a second injury. It floods the area with a kind of oxygen that is not healthy called oxygen free radicals, along with other harmful products. A new serious injury occurs called a reperfusion injury. This same kind of injury occurs with heart attack or in a limb that may have been crushed or caught under something, depriving it of blood. First, areas of the heart or the limb that are shut off from oxygen begin to die. When blood flow is restored, oxygen flows back into the area and with it, and the cascade of oxygen free radical damage, plus just too much oxygen which is not good by itself. You may have heard about anti-oxidant vitamins. Your body naturally produces anti-oxidants to stop normal daily damage from oxygen. Many people also take supplementary anti-oxidant vitamins, hoping to stop oxidative damage. It is turning out that anti-oxidant vitamin supplements may not be as helpful as hoped, and do not help in the way the more complete spectrum of anti-oxidant compounds your own body provides. A sudden oxygen reperfusion injury from releasing a blood stopping event is too much for your body's natural defenses and injury occurs. It also turns out that free radicals may not be the main bad guys anyway. Depends on levels. Low levels help vascular tome, cell signaling, muscular activity and more. More oxygen free radicals do not make those functions work more or better, that is key to know. LIke radiation and sunlight, which are beneficial up to an amount, then turn harmful, even deadly, higher radical and reperfusion product levels are associated with atherosclerosis (more blood vessel "plugs" not less) diabetes, some types of arthritis, cancer, and other problems. "Oxygen is a dangerous friend." Much interesting work in high pressure oxygen science deals with trying to understand and avoid the paradox of too much oxygen, free radicals, and oxygen reperfusion injury.
None of this means that Thai massage is not good for other reasons, just that it is best to avoid the blood stop and other moves that harm. It is easy to avoid the pitfalls and hype of massage, and use Thai massage for the benefits. Come and try one, see below.
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