Thai Massage

Los Angeles has a large Thai population with Thai restaurants, grocery stores, and spas. When I tell angelinos that I practice Thai massage people usually think about that one experience they had at a Thai spa. I believe the Thai spa experience is more of a cultural experience than a therapeutic one. This more watered down form of Thai massage is a result of standardization and adopting a western model to learning and practicing traditional medicine that occured in Thailand in the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s. Thai massage molded to the Western world’s model, standardizing it as a “sequence” so that it might be taught through mass courses, lost many of its components like individualized treatments and physical therapies that might be considered dangerous or too difficult to learn.

Besides these issues of standardization of traditional medicine, we also see problems arising with foreigners participating in Thai massage workshops and teaching what they’ve learned without knowing enough about the theory. With any traditional medicine, like chinese medicine and ayurveda (Indian medicine), there comes a medical theory of what’s behind the approach and practice. If we look at the non-Thai Thai massage world we see people teaching Thai massage moves and overlaying Ayurveda or Chinese medical theory. There are books and other published material that teach Thai massage in this way. This is largely due to the language barrier and not spending enough time searching for the Thai medical theory. My first exposure to Thai massage was in fact a Thai Yoga version. While this was a great way to spark my interest, I felt like something was not aligning. It became clear to me when I met my Thai massage teacher, Nephyr Jacobsen, why I felt like something was missing.

Traditional Thai medicine has much in common with Indian and Tibetian medicine, and even with ancient Greek medicine, and to a lesser degree, Chinese medicine. This said, one cannot simply insert Indian theory on top of Thai techniques and still call it Thai. Thai medicine does not use the chakra system, doshas are not exactly what is used in Thai element theory, and the stretches of Thai massage are not yoga poses; although some will look like it due to the fact that bodies stretch the same all over the world. The confluence of ideas that permeates medical knowledge across the globe is a sharing that I rejoice in, however it does not mean that we can substitute so easily one theory for another. Thai massage is a component part of the physical/orthopedic medicine root of Thai healing arts, and it is supported by a complex and ancient medical system of its own.
— Nephyr Jacobsen

 I feel grateful to have found a teacher that has spent time searching to find her teacher to learn Thai medical theory. It is from her efforts that my clients and I benefit. Something she frequently reminds me of is "massage on a deeply therapeutic level was a part of the traditional medicine of Thailand and those who practiced it in this manner were considered massage doctors". Remembering this keeps me studying as I wish to practice in this way and know it takes time to learn and apply the knowledge. Studying and applying Thai medical theory is what distinguishes me and the way I practice Thai massage. So you can expect the Thai massage you’ll receive from me to be deeply therapeutic and tailor-made.

Recommended Reads:

http://www.nagacenter.org/naga-blog/2017/3/16/wheres-the-theory

http://www.thaimassageinstitute.org/pdf/traditional_thai_massage.pdf