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One of the major underpinnings of Thai yoga massage is its deep roots in Ayurvedic medicine. This Indian healing practice approaches health from a point of living in harmony with life and what is. The word itself, Ayurveda, is derived from two Sanskrit words meaning life (ayur) and knowledge (veda). By applying this life knowledge we can create harmony and restore optimal health. Ayurvedic principles can be applied to just about all facets of daily living, from diet and exercise to our mental and emotional habits. In Thai yoga massage for example, a person’s dosha (doe-sha) will determine the intensity and speed of their session.

A dosha refers to one of three primary energies that are believed to circulate through the body. We all have all these three energies coursing through our bodies, but one tends to dominate. This dominant energy is our natural, default dosha, which ultimately determines our overall temperament and constitution. According to Ayurvedic tradition, the universe is made up of five elements: earth, fire, water, ether and air. Everything in the universe, including our bodies, is made up of these five elements in various degrees. The tridoshas are the five elements represented in the body. Ether and air combine to create the vatta dosha or air principle. Fire and water form the pitta dosha or fire principle. And finally earth and water come together as the kapha dosha or water principle.

Since these energies are in constant flux, it’s important to understand the general characteristics of each dosha in order to restore balance. Too much of one energy for example, can create a particular set of symptoms while too little of another will create a different set of symptoms. Most of us will recognize elements of each dosha in ourselves but we all tend to lean more towards one.

Vatta: The elements of ether and air form the vatta dosha (air principle). Vatta types are active and energetic. They can lean towards nervousness and generally tend to avoid confrontation. Physically, they’re either short or very tall. Vatta energy creates movement in the body through the nervous system and energetic body. Most western type diseases come form an imbalance in vatta energy. Here are some other general characteristics of vatta types:

  • thin bodies
  • dark complexions
  • dry, rough, cracked skin
  • coarse hair
  • light sleepers
  • get cold easily
  • tire easily
  • quick thinkers
  • sensitive, alert
  • restless minds

Pitta: The elements of earth and water form the pitta dosha (fire principle). Pitta types are passionate and assertive. They can be warm and friendly but can also be very competitive. They tend to be of medium frame and moderate build. Pitta energy is responsible for circulation and relates heavily toward metabolism and digestion in the body. Other characteristics include:

  • medium, muscular bodies
  • reddish complexion
  • thin hair
  • moist skin
  • hot/sweaty body type
  • passionate
  • big appetites
  • detail oriented
  • easily angered
  • short tempered

Kapha: The elements of earth and water form the kapha dosha (water principle). Kapha types are stable and grounded individuals. They are generally calm and consistent and lean towards inactivity. Physically, they have heavyset bodies with a broad chest and shoulders. Kapha energy is very water-like and associated with the lymph, phlegm and moisture in the body. It’s known for binding and holding things together, physically and mentally. Here are some other key characteristics:

  • Strong, stout build
  • fair or pale complexion
  • smoothe or oily skin
  • lush, thick hair
  • slow digestion
  • sound sleepers
  • excellent stamina
  • patient and slow to anger
  • stable body & mind
  • happy & healthy

The doshas are often in one of three states:, balanced, over-active, or depleted. In order to create balance we must first determine which dosha we are and then tailor our lifestyle accordingly. Too much air or vatta energy can lead to mental, nervous or digestive disorders, low energy and weakness. An overabundance of fire or pitta energy can lead to inflammation or infection. An excess of water or kapha energy can lead to an over-production of mucus, edema, and being overweight. Pitta types for example can suffer from heartburn from an over-indulgence of spicy foods. Adding more alkaline-based foods such as broccoli, kale or other leafy greens can create balance. The important thing to remember is that like energies will create excess and opposing energies will restore balance.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

Thai Yoga Massage (TYM) is an ancient form of bodywork that combines elements of yoga, Tai chi, and massage. Its origins are rooted in Ayurvedic medicine and date back 2500 years to India and the Buddhist temples of Thailand. Often referred to as “Assisted Hatha Yoga,” the practice is performed on a mat on the floor with the client wearing loose comfortable clothing to facilitate ease of movement. Practitioners guide the client through various yoga poses and stretches while palming and thumbing the energy lines of the body, known as Sen lines. The slow, rhythmic movements used in TYM create a flow that gently balances the body’s energy lines, while increasing range of motion, improving circulation, and relieving chronic muscular tension.

The founder of Thai Yoga Massage was an Indian, Ayurvedic doctor by the name of Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha. His renown for treating kings and noblemen led him to become the Buddha’s personal physician. The Buddha’s teachings eventually became a huge influence on Jivaka and his work. When Buddhism spread to Thailand, the practice of yoga and Ayurvedic medicine also followed. TYM, also known as Nuad Boran in Thailand, took shape in the Buddhist temples of Thailand and was passed down from master to apprentice through oral tradition. Because Buddhist philosophy is so enmeshed in the practice of TYM, practitioners view it as the physical application of “metta,” which translates into – loving-kindness.

Thai Yoga Massage has since evolved into two main styles, the northern and the southern. The Old Medical Hospital in Chang Mai, Thailand has become the main hub for the northern style and Wat Pho in Bangkok, the center for the southern style. Although the two share a lot in common, they differ in how the energy lines are worked. The northern style involves palming and thumbing of the Sen lines and is generally a bit more active with its stretches and yoga poses. The southern style is more relaxed in its approach and uses a technique known as plucking to stimulate the energy lines via the nerves. These days, more and more practitioners are combining elements of both styles making it harder to distinguish between the two. In addition to these techniques, practitioners of both styles will often use their forearms, elbows, knees and feet to work the body.

There are a few other key distinctions worth noting between the different styles of Thai massage, namely the pacing and amount of pressure used. These elements do have a stylistic component to them but more often than not are influenced by the individual practitioner. Some may choose to use a quick and vigorous pace to work the energy lines of the body, while others will work in a slower, more deliberate manner. The other element is how much pressure is used during a session. Originally, Thai massage was widely administered as a form of medicine for various types of malaise throughout Thailand, so relaxation was not considered its main objective. In the hands of a few master practitioners however, the application of pressure could vary greatly from a light to deep touch depending on the client and the area being worked on. Working in this fashion takes into account both our physical and energetic bodies and becomes meditative in nature.

Traditional TYM focuses a good amount of time on the legs and lower body. The reason for this has to do with how much time Thai people spend on their feet. A majority of them spend their day working on their feet. By contrast, most westerners spend most of their day sitting in a chair in front of a computer. They also tend to be taller and heavier and have more upper body issues. At Brooklyn Reflexology a form of northern Thai massage, which addresses both the lower and upper body is used. An emphasis is placed on flow and fluidity of movement to help create a deeply therapeutic affect on the body, mind and spirit.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

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August 2020
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