Who hasn’t stopped to watch with some envy (and desire to be able to do the same!) a cat stretching, writhing and stretching slowly, meticulously and pleasantly?
These cats are true masters in the art of stretching , and that mastery allows them to maintain a state of perfect relaxation, flexibility, alertness, strength and agility. In Thailand there is a therapy that has been used for thousands of years that allows us to experience and enter into this feeling: I refer to Thai massage, also known as “passive yoga” .
This type of massage has its roots in the confluence and fusion of different techniques, all of which come from oriental medicine: the techniques of meditation and serene concentration typical of Buddhist philosophy, the phytotherapy remedies and yoga postures from Indian Ayurvedic medicine, and the acupuncture points practiced in traditional Chinese medicine.
The tradition of Thai massage
The Thai massage is not only a preventive and relaxing technique, but it is really a medical-curative therapy, it could even be considered as a philosophy of life, since it includes all the vital areas of the human being: the physical, the mental and the emotional; worked through the stretching, the feeding, the meditation, the full breathing…
This type of massage is called passive yoga because its origins are linked to a series of beliefs deeply rooted in Asia: Traditionally it has been defined as a series of rhythmic sequences of pressures, twists and stretches that the therapist performs with his hands, feet, knees, elbows and arms; with the aim of harmonizing, restoring and unblocking the flow of energy (or Chi) that runs through 10 main energy channels or Sen meridians that are distributed throughout the body, balancing the 4 basic elements that constitute all living beings , and whose blockage or disharmony is to cause pain and disease.
These elements are:
- Earth : which forms the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments… the solid part of the body.
- Water : which binds fluids, blood and secretions.
- Fire : which regulates body temperature, governs digestion and metabolism.
- Air : which balances breathing and blood circulation, and regulates the vitality of body and mind.
The practice and benefits of passive yoga
To carry out this restoration work, the therapist takes the patient (who, dressed in comfortable clothes, lies pleasantly on a futon), to the limit of his joint mobility to each and every body structure, in order to relax the muscles, recover the interarticular space, and balance the nervous system, mobilize the viscera for its proper functioning, boost the blood to properly irrigate all structures and organs of the body and speed up lymphatic circulation to purify the body, giving a deep sense of relaxation and physical and mental well-being, strength, vitality, flexibility, quietness …
After a session, which lasts between one and two hours, we have the feeling that we are taller, that we breathe better, and that we have improved our body posture. The mind clears, the muscles relax and a smile appears on the face along with a special glow in the eye … just as the cat, after waking up, is fully alert to any stimulus, able to get on the run of a jump, maintaining that elegance and balance in their movements so typically feline!
In the medium term, passive yoga strengthens the immune system, tones up the whole body and relaxes the nervous system , balances emotions, increases respiratory capacity and blood oxygenation, strengthens the ligaments, makes the joints more flexible, and activates the lymphatic and circulatory systems. It helps with problems of insomnia, stress and chronic fatigue, muscular pain, lumbago, sciatica, headaches, constipation…
- Chia, Maneewan and Chia, Max (2008): Nuad Thai: traditional Thai massage, Gaia.
- Plasencia, J.J. (2000): Traditional Thai Massage, RBA Books.
- Avraham, B. (2006): Thai massage: theoretical and practical manual, Obelisk.