THAI ME UP

Written By: Robert Cocuzzo | Photography By: Lisa Getter

Sandy Walsh reveals the ancient healing art of traditional Thai massage.

How is the experience of a traditional Thai massage (TTM) different than what most people think of as traditional body work?
Today’s more popular modalities tagged Swedish, sports injury, trigger point or reflexology are practices typically provided on a massage table. Thai massage, which over the years has been westernized and marketed into simplified forms known as Thai yoga massage or yoga stretch, is done on a futon on the floor. This would be the most obvious difference.

How did it originate?
TTM originated in Asian monasteries between 800 and 1200 AD as a form of preventive health care and derives from the practices of Theravada Buddhism, Indian and Tibetan Ayurveda and Yoga Vedanta. It’s a spiritual medical practice founded by Buddha’s doctor, fondly known as Shivago, that encompasses our whole being, and all “the bodies” of both the receiver and the practitioner.

What do you mean by “all the bodies”?
What I mean by this is TTM addresses disease or discomfort in the spiritual, emotional and energetic bodies as well as the physical. The focus is not on one system or aspect, but inclusive of the bones, joints, muscles and soft tissue as well as the vital organs and systems via the energetic meridians and the spiritual body. This is a more far-reaching difference than other modalities. For me, TTM is a spiritual practice and I too receive its benefits while giving a session.

What are the benefits of a Thai massage?
As one client succinctly stated, her treatment was “a game-changer.” Most walk away feeling more open, relaxed or rejuvenated. However, due to the holistic nature of traditional Thai massage, the effects—though subtle at times—are often more profound. Depending on the focus of treatment, all ailments can be addressed—morbidities that could turn acute might be minimized or relieved.

Such as?
Upper body, neck and shoulder issues are rampant. Heightened and embodied stress due to individual circumstances and the global state of affairs, an increase in anxiety and depression, and frequent use of technology give rise to this affliction. Carpal tunnel, limb numbness, interrupted sleep and debilitating headaches are common complaints. Depending on the condition of the client, one massage session may alleviate the suffering or regular sessions might be needed.

Do you have any stories that illustrate the power of this practice?
One sixty-five-year-old client who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease gained over 50 percent more upper body flexibility after a series of eight bimonthly sessions and was able to resume daily activities including driving, with more mobility and a lot less pain.

Is there a unique approach to your practice?
My practice encourages a deep level of client awareness regarding their state of well-being; connecting the dots of how restricted breath, repetitive or habitual movements, emotional stress or old injuries might limit or block the flow of vibrant life force energy manifested in the form of headaches, tension, pain, numbness, mental fatigue or depression. The ancient stretching protocols and meridian pressure point therapy of TTM increase blood flow as well as energy levels, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, lubricate the joints and in general allow the body to heal itself and sustain its efficiency. The Thai people believe that wellness and freedom from pain is a result of the unobstructed flow of energy through the body’s tissues.

Sandy Walsh has practiced traditional Thai massage for over fifteen years. She received her certification from Loi Kroh School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. To book a session, visit thaimassagenantucket.com.

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