A client recently asked me after a Thai massage session, "what exactly were you doing?" Good question! I answered her as best I could in the moment, but it also got me thinking more deeply about what Thai massage does offer and how it works on many levels, including the physical, but also the energetic. Today I want to talk in a bit more depth about how Thai Massage works with what we call The Winds, or Vayus of the body as well as the Sen lines.
Thai massage's goal is simply to support the body in finding balance. A simple goal, but with potentially profound, and multilevel implications. What happens when not only muscular tension is released, but memories, experiences, and emotions being held in our bodies also are released? What happens when places where energy wasn't flowing well starts to flow more freely? Perhaps we suddenly sleep better, or think clearer, or perhaps a pain or ailment in a completely different part of the body heals itself. The body is a strange and often mysterious thing, but it is all interconnected.
The winds, or Vayus, as they are called, are a way to more deeply understand Prana, or life force. There are five winds: Apana, Udana, Samana, Vyana, and then Prana. Through the movements of Thai massage we work with all five, perhaps emphasizing one more than another for a particular client to help bring them all into balance.
Prana Vayu's energy is inwards and upwards, and particularly supports our brain and our senses, including that of our third eye. Apana Vayu is down and out, nourishing the digestive system and organs. Udana Vayu has a circular upwards motion and supports our ability to express ourselves. Samana Vayu is an energy of contraction in, the exhale that helps us integrate all that we take in, whether that be food, emotions, or experiences. Lastly, we have Vyana Vayu, the energy of expansion out, supporting particularly our heart, lungs and circulation, as it supports the other Vayus.
In simple terms, these energies can be stimulated and supported by the movements of up, down, in, and out, through the inhale and exhale that occurs in our breath but also throughout our whole body's expansion and contraction through different movements. As I give a Thai massage I am looking for where one of these winds may not be flowing freely, and looking to assist them so they can assist you to feel your best.
Along with the Vayu's I am also paying attention to the Sen lines. Sen lines are the Ayurvedic version of meridian lines. There are thousands of them, 72,000 to be exact, but in the Thai bodywork I do I focus primarily on 6 major lines. These lines do not necessarily follow a linear path, and to explain where they go along the whole body would be tricky, but the sole of a foot can be used to explore them all in relatively simple terms. While each line has connections to the physical body, such as particular organs it is supposed to support, each line also has a more esoteric meaning and connection to something beyond the physical.
Sen Kalathari is often called the psychic, or emotional line. On the bottom of your foot, it is like rays of a sun, rising over a horizon, extending from the center of of your heel out to each toe. Working this line can help to move stuck emotions.
Sen Sumana is the line my teacher says connects us to source. It is beyond psychic. One could say it connects us to the cosmos. This line begins at the soles of our feet, running along the inner edge from heel to big toe. This line also runs through all our major chakras, up the center of our core, though our 3rd eye, and out our crown.
The next two lines are often thought of as a pair: Sen Ittha (left side of the body) and Sen Pingkhala (right side of the body). They are connected to the male and female energies within us all, with Ittha, on the left being the feminine; receptive, and cooling in its qualities, and Pingkala, on the right, being the masculine; with an energy of heating and rising. On the feet, these lines runs along the outside of your sole, from the heel to the pinky toe, on the left foot and right foot respectively.
Lastly we have another pair of lines, Sen Sahatsarangski (left) and Sen Thawari (right). These lines are said to have a stabilizing earth energy to them, and support our bones and the structure of our body. On the sole of the foot, if Kalathari was the rays of the rising sun extending out to each toe, Sahatsarangski and Thawari are the line that create the horizon, creating a gentle arc on your heel.
As I move up and down your body, I am putting pressure and massaging along these lines, helping energy to flow smoothly, once again so that your body can heal itself and bring itself into balance. I may pause for a while on what is called a marma point, the Ayurvedic version of acupressure points, or places where the energy may tend to pool or stagnate, helping to get the energy to flow.
If this all sounds like a lot, I understand. It did to me as well. And honestly, I am very much still deepening my knowledge of this complex and ancient system, but even with my limited knowledge I can say that there is definitely a power and wisdom to working the lines and using the winds. My own personal experiences with having someone work the lines on me was to feel more clear headed and energized, and to even have the whites of my eyes become clearer over the next couple days. And I have seen it do some amazing things for my clients as well.
For one client, who has given me permission to share some of her story, she came to me with a strange set of symptoms; pain that had started in her feet, then her hands and had radiated throughout her body. As doctors were still trying to figure out what was going on she was wearing compression socks and stockings to ease the discomfort that seemed to be coming from her veins. My instinct immediately was that something was blocked somewhere and not flowing properly, and although I could not promise anything, I felt that some thorough line work might bring her some relief.
After speaking to her it was clear there was also a lot of emotional and spiritual pain and growth that she had been going through in the last year. As I started to work on her I noticed a lot of tension particularly on the Sen Sumana line on her feet, the line connecting us to cosmos, or source. It made sense considering all the spiritual growth and soul searching she had been doing.
Using the information I got from her feet as a map of how to work on her whole body, when I completed the massage, having worked all the lines, but particularly the Sen Sumana line, we were both amazed to find that her veins, which had appeared enflamed and near the surface, had returned to normal. This, she told me, had not happened since before the symptoms had started! For the next couple days she told me she was able to go without the compression stockings for many hours and have minimal pain. We were both pleased and I was excited to see how the line work had really made a difference for her.
Later that same week I had a chance to work on the lines just in the legs for an elderly gentleman who suffered from restless legs. He also experienced relief, sleeping a full night of sleep for the first time in almost a week.
As I work on more clients and see such shifts and improvements my respect for this modality grows. Have you had an experience with myself or another Thai practitioner where you felt a significant change or difference in how you felt after the work? Please share your experience in the comments below!