Theory and Principles of Thai Yoga
Both Thai yoga and massage embrace the concept of energy lines throughout the body known as "sen." When the flow of energy through these lines is disturbed, sickness is the result. The practitioner's aim is to heal and preserve health through regulation of this energy flow. Thai Yoga achieves this through solitary practice, hence its Thai name meaning 'auto-cure.' Thai massage involves a masseur acting upon the patient's body.
The goal of Traditional Thai medicine is the absence of illness and the promotion of well-being. This is reached by:
- Balancing and restoring health through proper nutrition and physical exercise, which includes the practice of Thai yoga and the receiving of Thai massage.
- Restoring of the flow of vital energy through the Sen, which promotes health and well-being while curing illness and disease (this is perhaps the biggest benefit of Thai massage).
- Curing of ailments and disease to restore health and balance through the use of traditional Thai medical practices and herbs.
- Observing a balanced spiritual and ethical lifestyle.
At the core of Thai yoga and Thai massage doctrine are three key concepts: the aggregates, the elements and the sen lines.
Buddhism does not recognize the existence of an independent, autonomous being. The human being is considered an aggregate of several components. Buddhist doctrine labels the five aggregates of man as matter, sensation, perception, thought and consciousness. These together create the illusion of a self, an "I."
Traditional Thai medicine further classifies a human being into three essences: body, energy and mind. The body is comprised of the four elements (see below).
Energy is invisible, but it can be influenced by meditation, breathing and massage that targets the energy circuits known as Sen(see further down).
Mind, or chitta is the sum of all the non-physical aspects of a man or woman. Chitta is a Sanskrit term originating in India. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is said: "Yoga is the mastery of the modifications of the mind (chitta)."
Like many other forms of ancient medicine, traditional Thai medicine views the human body as made up of the four elements fire, water, air and earth. Each of the four elements is associated with specific body parts and functions. The fire element rules bodily heat; the water element rules bodily fluids; the air element governs circulation; the earth element rules the organs.
According to Thai medicine theory, an imbalance in the four elements of the body is one of the primary causes of disease. Thai herbal medicine treats each disease with herbs that are appropriate for the element associated with that condition.
Like Thai massage, the practice of Thai yoga has as its aim the balancing and strengthening of vital energy within the body so that an individual can literally heal himself or herself. It is possible for the vital energy to do this because it permeates the body and flows through it what are known as "Sen" lines. The sen lines are similar to the ‘meridians’ in traditional Chinese medicine, and the 'nadis' in Indian ayurveda.
There are ten major sen lines among 72,000 in the human body. Each line has pressure points throughout that respond to massage and stretching. The sen lines are intangible. They are not blood vessels, nerves, muscles or bones. The origin of the doctrine of sen lines is unknown.
One of several books that explain the theory of Thai massage in detail is Thai Massage the Thai Way: Healing Body and Mind.
The importance of balancing the flow of energy within the body cannot be underestimated. This energy is known as "lom pran" in Thai and "chi" in Chinese, and "prana" in Indian. It means "vital breath" or "wind of life." Physcially, it is the air we breathe in. This air mixes with the body and its nutrients, and produces various forms of energy. These different energies then become the foundation of our very being – blood, flesh, bones, organs, et cetera. Therefore, and according to traditional Thai medicine, if the flow of vital force through a sen is slow, sluggish, or stopped altogether, then the onset of pain, disturbances of all kinds, disease, and ultimately death is the result.
Through the regular practice of Thai yoga, one can bring balance to the flow of vital energy in oneself, thus ensuring a healthier body and mind.
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