A History of Thai Massage

Thai massage, is called Traditional Massage or 'Nuat Boran' in Thai. In the West it is often called 'Thai Yoga Massage' because its roots lie in the yoga- and ayurveda-based medicine of Northern India which was carried to Thailand with the spread of Buddhism. Along the way it has gathered elements of acupressure from other eastern traditions and now forms its own unique discipline.

Much of the early documentation relating to Thai massage was destroyed during the Burmese invasion of Thailand in 1767. It therefore continued as an oral tradition. King Rama III had what little could be salvaged used to create the epigraphs, carved into stone, which can be seen at Wat Po temple in Bangkok today.

As Thailand adopted a Western approach to medicine traditional Thai massage was for a period played down. Fortunately in more recent times the complementary nature of Thai massage has been recognised and it is again being taught in temples and dedicated schools.

From a Western perspective an important figure in modern times was Asokananda. He was a German born Buddhist monk who realised the value of this practice. He studied it and wrote the first book on traditional Thai massage in any Western language. He set up a school and encouraged students from all over the world to learn both the massage and associated mindfulness practices. When Asokananda died in 2005 his senior students vowed to keep the school open. Even though they live in different countries around the world they return to teach in Thailand at the Lahu village school. It was my good fortune to study there.