yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Some Yoga teacher training centers have Thai massage sessions within the facility. What is the connection between a unique form of massage and Yogic methodology? Partner Yoga and Thai massage both fall under a category sometimes called “bodywork,” but the relationship between them is more complex than it may initially appear. The Thai variation of massage has been called “lazy man’s Yoga,” as the therapist helps the client into a series similar to Yogic stretching during a session. The session takes place on a mat or on the floor, with the client wearing comfortable clothing for movement.

The relationship between the two methods starts with a common root. Thai massage originated about 2,500 years ago, when an Indian physician, visiting Thailand, brought what is now known as Thai massage with him. According to some sources, the doctor was called Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha.

Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha was a close friend and physician of the Buddha, and was also known in some circles as a “father of medicine.” He spent his life developing the healing powers of herbs and minerals, and had formal training in Ayurvedic medicine.

The similarities between this style of massage and an asana practice for two are obvious. However, in a Thai-based massage session there are a number of differences, which make it unique. Below are three major differences between the Thai massage method and practicing Yoga training in a partner-based asana session.

Thai Massage Guidelines

1. The client is totally passive, and the masseuse manipulates him or her.

2. There is pressure point stimulation, kneading of muscles, and other muscle manipulations.

3. Energy lines and pressure points are the most important feature.

Yoga for two, on the other hand, is participatory for both practitioners and does not involve massaging of muscles. Although a newer phenomenon, Partner Yoga is based in Tantric principles. Far from being about sex, the word “Tantra” means “to weave” and focuses on the interconnectedness of humans, whether they are family, friends, classmates, or romantic partners.

Partner-based sessions practice Hatha Yoga asanas, modified for two people. For example, a back-to-back sitting meditation may be performed. Letting go of the personal feelings, about the nature of your relationship, can help deepen self-awareness. Many of us resist the idea of harnessing ourselves to someone else in our practice.

We feel that it is just easier to do it alone and not deal with the skill set or needs of a partner. According to Elysabeth Williamson, the developer of Principle-based Partner Yoga, this thinking comes from the separate self/ego, “the part of us that suffers the pain of loneliness while clinging to the illusion of independence.” By forcing us to accept our interdependence, we can ultimately understand that it is beautiful and powerful, not a liability.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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