Traditional Thai Medicine and Thai Massage | Conceptual Background

Published: Jul 3, 2018 | Updated: Nov 2, 2022

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Fundaments of Traditional Thai Medicine

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In Thailand, Thai Massage is not considered an independent healing method, but an integral part of the Traditional Thai Medicine framework. To understand the place of Traditional Thai Massage we need to have a basic comprehension of the concepts of Traditional Thai Medicine.

In Thai philosophy, human life is holistically viewed as a combination of three essences: Body, Citta, and Energy. The constant interconnection between these three essences is called the Circle of Life.

Body, Citta, and Energy

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Body (the physical body) refers to the substances of which we are made, the combination of atoms that make up our physical self.

Citta (a Thai word), is usually translated as mind/heart, and is understood to be the entire non-physical human being — all of our thoughts, emotions, and spirit that makes up our inner lives, or our inner self. Rooted in Buddhism, which does not recognize the existence of a soul, Thai philosophy states that the Citta is part of our entire being, not a separate entity, but “tied” to the Physical Body.

And Energy, in the Thai system, holds (or connects) Citta and Body together. Energy (Life Energy or Prana) is believed to be absorbed by the air we breathe and the food we digest. Like the Chinese idea of Qi (or Chi) and the Indian concept of Prana, this energy is an intangible flow that runs through the body via specific channels called Nadis or Sen Energy Lines.

Four Elements

Another important concept in Traditional Thai Medicine is the idea that the human body functions through four fundamental body elements: earth, water, wind and fire. Actually, each element refers to the qualities or properties of a body substance, where substances are, for instance, organs, cell tissue, processes, functions, and so on.

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Substances that are solid can be said to have the qualities of the Earth element. Substances that are liquid are of the Water element. Movement is the quality of the Air element, and Heat is the quality of the Fire element.

The constant interaction of the Four Elements creates and sustains the processes of the human body. Therefore, it’s of vital importance to keep them balanced throughout life. When the Four Elements of the body are in equilibrium, a person will be healthy. In contrast, if an imbalance in these elements occurs, that is, if there is a deficit, an excess, or disability in any of the Four Elements, a person will become ill.

More specifically: illness is thought to be caused by an obstruction of the free flow of Life Energy (Prana or Lom Pran), which is typically due to a malfunction in the Physical Body or in the Citta, which is caused by an imbalance in the Four Elements.

Holistic Balance

In the Thai system, the root cause of all disease is the imbalance of the Body, Citta, and Energy. When the three essences are balanced, the human organism enjoys health and well-being.

The imbalance of the three essences causes this natural health and immunity to break down, leaving the organism vulnerable to disease.

Thai Traditional Medicine, like all holistic systems, approaches disease not as a merely physical phenomenon, but as simultaneously a mental, physical, and energetic phenomenon. Thus, in the Thai tradition, all ailments are treated holistically. All parts of the circle are interconnected. Maintaining balance of the three essences is therefore the primary focus of Thai Traditional Medicine and Thai Massage.


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