Thai Yoga 101: Origins, Benefits, How To

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Yoga takes on many forms. You are probably most familiar with yoga styles that involve physical postures and breathwork that provide a variety of benefits.

There is another style of yoga that includes massage techniques. It is called Thai Yoga. It is a meditative practice that beautifully fuses traditional yoga with the holistic healing powers of bodywork therapy.

In this enlightening article, we will delve into the following to give you a broad yet detailed description of Thai Yoga:

  • Historical Roots of Thai Yoga
  • The Technique & Practice of Thai Yoga Massage
  • The Benefits of Thai Yoga
  • Example of Thai Yoga for a Tight Lower Back
  • Finding a Thai Yoga Class & Therapist
a man and woman wearing beige and white doing thai yoga massage

Historical Roots of Thai Yoga

Rooted in the healing traditions of India, China, and Thailand, Thai Yoga, also known as Thai Yoga Massage, has a rich history dating back over 2,500 years.

Inspired by Ayurvedic practices and Traditional Chinese Medicine, this unique style was first introduced by Shivago Komarpaj, believed to be the personal physician to the Buddha himself.

Over the centuries, Thai Yoga Massage has evolved into a holistic healing technique that incorporates yoga postures, acupressure, and reflexology to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit.

Thai Yoga Massage is where yoga meets massage, creating a distinctive dance between the therapist and the recipient. Unlike typical yoga, where you perform poses yourself, Thai Yoga involves a therapist guiding your body into various yoga postures. Some therapists have described the experience as “yoga for two people.”

Similarly, it differs from standard massage treatments, which often involve oils or lotions and the recipient is undressed. In Thai Yoga Massage, you remain fully clothed, and the massage occurs on a padded mat on the floor, a setting that nurtures comfort and ease.

One aspect that sets Thai Yoga apart is the notion of ‘Metta‘ or loving-kindness. This is the idea that there is a universal love that extends beyond our self-interest and attachment. It encompasses a compassionate warmth and respect toward all living begins.

By using their hands, feet, knees, and elbows, the practitioner creates this “loving-kindness” connection with their client. The Thai Yoga therapist applies gentle pressure, encouraging the body to open up encouraging the release of any tension or blockages.

This connection is an expression of Metta. They are not only working on the client’s body, they are connecting with it, too.

a man and woman wearing beige and white doing thai yoga massage

The Technique & Practice of Thai Yoga Massage

A typical Thai Yoga Massage treatment is a transformative experience. As the therapist maneuvers your body through a series of yoga-like stretches, they simultaneously apply firm rhythmic pressure along your body’s energy lines, or ‘Sen lines.’

Derived from ancient Indian Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine principles, Sen lines run throughout the body. They are essentially the cornerstone of various Asian healing practices, including Thai Massage.

The technique of Thai Massage aims to release tension and allow the life force or ‘Prana‘ to flow freely, enhancing overall health and vitality.

Furthermore, the practitioner’s role in Thai Yoga Massage is essential. They create a safe and nurturing space, guiding the recipient through the practice with mindful touch and loving intention.

This interaction embodies the core principles of yoga: unity, mindfulness, and compassionate understanding.

a man and woman wearing beige and white doing thai yoga massage

Thai Yoga Massage is different from other types of massage techniques because it targets the entire body as a holistic system. In deep tissue massage, for example, the therapist may focus on a primary area of the body that is tight or sore, like tight hamstrings.

Often used for musculoskeletal issues like sports injuries, deep tissue massage techniques use firm and deep pressure to relieve the discomfort.

In Thai Yoga Massage, however, one may arrive with tight hamstrings, but the therapist will still provide a full-body massage. The idea is that everything is connected.

Think of the bodily system as a kinetic chain; if one area is out of alignment, then other parts are, too. The goal is to achieve alignment throughout the entire bodily system.

The systematic approach to Thai Yoga involves releasing tight and bound up fascia, the connective tissue that runs throughout the entire body.

The therapist may not spend significant time on the tight hamstrings. Rather, they would perform a short systematic fascial release technique on that area, then move on to the next body part.

In Thai Yoga Massage, the practitioner is not just using their hands. They use their whole body to guide, stretch, and apply pressure.

The holistic approach, combined with an understanding of anatomy and the specific complaints of the client results in a treatment that is both invigorating and deeply relaxing.

a man and woman wearing beige and white doing thai yoga massage

The Benefits of Thai Yoga

Think of Thai Yoga as a fusion of yoga poses, acupressure, and gentle stretching. The therapeutic nature of Thai Yoga offers a host of physical benefits.

Regular sessions can improve flexibility, boost circulation, enhance bodily alignment, and increase range of motion. It can also help to relieve chronic pain conditions, reduce muscle tension, and promote better sleep.

But the rewards of Thai Yoga extend beyond the physical. As a holistic mind-body practice, it can help to quiet the mind, reduce stress, and promote a deep sense of relaxation and well-being. Participants often report feeling more grounded, centered, and in tune with their bodies after a session.

Thai Yoga also encourages a deeper sense of self-awareness. By receiving this form of mindful touch, individuals can become more attuned to their bodies, identifying areas of tension and imbalance.

This heightened body awareness can extend to everyday life, helping people move and respond more mindfully and healthily.

a man and woman wearing beige and white doing thai yoga massage

Example of Thai Yoga for a Tight Lower Back

A common complaint one experiences is a tight lower back. Seeking therapeutic assistance from a Thai Yoga Therapist can be quite beneficial. Here are a few things they may do during the treatment session.

Palming and Thumb Pressure: Before diving into deep stretches, the therapist usually warms up the area using palming techniques. With their palms, they gently press down on the lower back, moving methodically from the spine outward to the hips.

They might also use thumb pressure, walking their thumbs in lines parallel to the spine. This method creates space between the muscle tissues and the bones. This, in turn, opens the energy lines for greater pranic flow.

Gentle Twisting: With the client lying on their back, the therapist will bend one of the client’s knees and guide the foot across the body, creating a spinal twist. This stretch can be modified to be gentle or deep depending on the client’s flexibility and comfort level.

Hip Opening: Tight hip flexors and piriformis muscles can contribute to lower back discomfort.

The therapist might perform the “4-Position” stretch (akin to Reclining Pigeon Pose in yoga) where one ankle is placed over the opposite knee and then gently pressed downwards. This opens the hips and can alleviate associated lower back pain.

Back Presses: With the client lying face down, the therapist might walk their feet along the client’s lower back, using their body weight to apply downward pressure.

Alternatively, they might use their hands, elbows, or knees to apply rhythmic compressions along the lower back muscles and hips.

Guided Breathing: Throughout the session, the therapist often guides the client in deep breathing. This not only promotes relaxation but also helps in releasing muscle tension. When the client exhales, it’s an opportune moment for the therapist to deepen a stretch or apply more pressure.

a man and woman wearing beige and white doing thai yoga massage

Where to Find a Thai Yoga Massage Class or Therapist

If you’re intrigued by the prospect of experiencing Thai Yoga Massage, it’s essential to find a class or therapist that resonates with you. Here are a few tips:

Credentials Matter: Ensure that your prospective therapist has appropriate training and certification in Thai Yoga Massage. Accredited institutions offer courses that cover the practice’s theory and techniques, ensuring practitioners are well-equipped to deliver treatments safely and effectively.

Comfort Is Key: A good therapist should create a comfortable and safe space. They should encourage open communication and be receptive to your needs and feedback.

Ask for Recommendations: Personal recommendations can be valuable. If a trusted friend or family member has had a good experience, it could be a good starting point.

Try a Class: Some yoga studios offer Thai Yoga Massage workshops or classes, providing an excellent opportunity to experience the practice in a group setting.

Remember, everyone’s experience with Thai Yoga Massage will be unique. What works for one person may not work for another, so it’s important to find a therapist or class that feels right for you.


In a society that increasingly recognizes the importance of practicing holistic wellness, Thai Yoga Massage offers a beautifully balanced approach to physical and mental well-being.

With its enriched history, unique combination of yoga and bodywork therapy, and a multitude of health benefits, it’s a practice that truly nurtures the connection between body, mind, and spirit.

Finding the ideal Thai Yoga Massage class or a trained therapist could be a step towards a healthier, more balanced you. It might just be the transformative experience you’ve been looking for on your wellness journey.

For more styles of yoga to experience full-body relief, take a look at our library of yoga styles.

Photo of author
John Cottrell is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Yoga Therapist residing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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