The ancient healing art of Thai massage originated not from Thailand, but from India. In fact, Thai massage, called nuad borarn in the Thai language, comes from the Sanskrit root word purana, which means ancient message. Credit for Thai massage is given to a famous Indian doctor named Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, or Shivago Komarpaj in Thai, who was a friend of the Buddha and personal physician to the Magadha King Bimbisara more than 2,500 years ago.
Yoga enthusiasts will readily identify Thai massage concepts as yogic in origin. Thai massage is based on the nadis, the channels through which life energy, or prana, flows. These nadis form the energy body, the pranamaya kosha. A disturbance in the flow of this energy results in an insufficient supply of prana which in turn leads to illness. By working on these energy lines, blockages are removed, stimulating the free flow of prana, and restoring health. The goal of Thai massage, therefore, is not to massage stiff muscles, but to nourish the organs, eliminate toxins from the tissues, and promote a harmonious state of being.
Although its roots lie in yoga, Thai massage was also influenced by Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Originally, various states of disease and imbalances were recorded. Over time, creative and practical methods of influencing the course of these balances were devised. For someone suffering trauma or injury, massage was the primary method of rehabilitation. Massage could reduce swelling, diminish pain, help manage stress, increase range of motion, detoxify soft tissue as well as bring a feeling of nurturing and general health.
Not only the hands are used, but also elbows and feet to facilitate the opening of the nadis. Stretching and supported yoga poses are part of the process. While working on the client, the practitioner, too, receives benefit. The giving of massage was understood to be a physical application of metta, the Pali (and Thai) word used to denote loving kindness. Devoted masseurs still work in such spirit today.