Back pain is one of the most common ailments in North America. Experts believe that a major factor is the modern tendency to lead a sedentary lifestyle, both at work and home. Spending long stretches of time sitting in one position--often with the back not properly supported--is not good for the spine. The reliance on soft furnishing may seem appealing but often it encourages people to adopt a poor posture. Back pain is less common in Asia, where many more people are used to sitting on the floor, which is thought to allow the back muscles to find their own natural position.
The lower, or lumbar, region of the back is particularly prone to injury. This region bears the entire weight of the upper body and is twisted and bent more than other parts. When you analyze how Thai Yoga Massage works, one could make the argument that it was practically invented to help people release pain and tension from their lower back. With a full-body treatment that focuses on leg work, releasing energy blockages, chopping, twisting, and massaging, it is often just what the doctor ordered. At the same time, it takes a skilled practitioner to apply these amazing tools with great care and awareness while working this particularly sensitive area where the discomfort was often years in the making.
Thai Yoga Massage Treatment
Back Pain Case Study
Recipient: Earl Jones
Weight: 185 lbs
Occupation: Bus driver
Presenting Issues: Nagging lower back pain, sore right knee
History: Drives a regular route from Toronto to Montreal, which is a seven-hour bus commute, four times a week. Back pain began to surface four years ago. Throbbing pain comes and goes throughout the day. Client is aware of the pain but describes it as more of a nuisance than “real pain.” Within the past two weeks it has gotten worse and he is hoping the massage can help relieve the pain. The knee pain is new, not attributed to any particular activity; he just woke up with it a couple of days ago. Client has been a bus driver for thirteen years. Only form of exercise is walking to and from work. Enjoys watching TV to relax most evenings or spending time with his wife and two children. He eats three meals a day; a meat and potatoes man, he is switching more and more to chicken and fish. He drinks three to five cups of coffee a day and sleeps seven hours a day. Has occasional heartburn but overall has good digestion. Generally feels good except for the sore back. This is his first Thai Yoga Massage; he heard about the practice from a friend who had excellent results.
- Client is of medium build, his size relative to yours should be taken into consideration; eliminate any postures that could be a strain for you.
- Focus on movements to help circulate energy, move the trunk and relax the back and hips including the half plough, cobra, mini AG, angel twist, pigeon stretch, north/south stretches such as extended shaking of the legs and a long stretch.
- E Eliminate the sitting positions since he sits for long periods of time everyday and give the back massage from the side as that would be more comfortable than lying prone.
- Kalathari, Ittha, Pingkhala, Thawari, Sahatsarangsi
- Kapha/Pitta build, pitta imbalance
- Pace: Medium
- Pressure: Firm but not too strong
- Postures: Balance gentle spinal twists with articulations and forward bends
- Vayus: Vyana, Samana
- Marma Points: Kukundara, Janu, Gulpha, Basti Nabhi
If you choose to massage the back lying prone, avoid using Sanuk posture. There is a danger of aggravating the lower back when overlifting and sliding into position. Nevertheless a good palming and elbowing on the buttock can be very relieving.
Yoga Routine Recommendations
- Cat stretch
- Side-lying twist
- Forward bend
- Hugging knees to chest
- 3-minute relaxation
- Encourage the switch to more chicken and fish
- Add more Pitta-friendly fruits to diet such as apples, bananas, and berries
- Try to reduce coffee consumption
- Keep good company with people who inspire you.
- Establish a routine exercise practice: join a gym, swim, increase activity without putting a strain on the back.
- Ask the client to further assess standing, sitting, lifting, and sleeping conditions for better posture. If the pain continues, recommend seeing a doctor and osteopath for further examination.
Putting it All together: 60-minute therapeutic back massage
Foot and Ankle Rotation
Foot Spinal Twist
Gulpha Marma - Hold for 30 seconds each foot
Thumbing Sen on Sole: Plantar and Dorsal - Sen Kalathari, Sen Ittha, Pingkhala
Milk the Cow
Single Leg Postures
Palming/Thumbing - SenSen Kalathari, Thawari, Sahatsarangsi
High Heel - Including extended calf massage
Hurricane Kick: Double Foot
Uranus - Size Permitting
Knee to Shoulder
Helicopter - Extended light chopping and sweeping
Side Position Postures
Dragon Twist - Gradual approach
Palming/Thumbing - SenSen Ittha, Pingkhala
Kneeling Leg Fold
Back Walk - Access Janu marma with foot behind the knee
Back Massage - Including Sen Kalathari and Sen Ittha, Pingkhala
Kukundara Marma - Massage for at least 30 seconds
Divine Neck Massage - Finish with extended sweeping
Double Leg Postures
Tortoise Stretch - One leg at a time
Mini AG Pose
Thai Lute - Extended stretch and shaking the legs
Abdomen 1 Massage - Focus on Samana Vayu
Basti Nabhi Marma - Finish massage with extended sweep of the whole body, putting your mind into activating sen lines
For the progress to continue, it is recommended that the client returns for regular massage treatments as often as once a week until the pain subsides and then regular visits every three to four weeks.
A Word of Caution
While this treatment may prove to be effective, it does not replace seeking medical advice from a doctor.
Therapeutic Back Massage Examples
Kneeling Leg Fold
- Place yourself in the Warrior stance over the straight leg.
- With both hands on her foot bring up the leg, bending it and placing her upper leg on your thigh.
- Your right hand is on her knee while you push her leg toward the buttocks.
Variations: For a stronger stretch fix the leg between your thigh and her buttock and use two hands on the knee to pull back. For the strongest version, step out into Open Archer stance to lean back even farther.
- Sit behind the recipient, perpendicular to the back.
- Place your right hand on her wrist and left hand holding the ankle of the extended leg.
- Place your foot above the sacrum and pull on the leg while you walk on the back and the thigh.
Variation: You can hold either of the recipient’s legs or both, depending on your preference.
Postures and Energy Pathways for Healing
Advanced Thai Yoga Massage
Postures and Energy Pathways for Healing
• Includes step-by-step photographs for more than 50 advanced Thai yoga massage postures
• Illustrates in full color the locations of the sen lines and explains their specific therapeutic qualities and connections to ayurveda and the 5 kosha bodies
• Details successful treatment plans for 8 common ailments with custom 60-minute Thai yoga massage posture flows as well as ayurvedic and yoga recommendations for continued healing and prevention at home
In the unique healing system of Thai yoga massage--based on yoga, ayurveda, and the martial arts--the practitioner uses his or her own hands, feet, arms, and legs to gently guide the recipient through a series of yoga postures while palming and thumbing along the body’s energy pathways and pressure points, known in the Thai tradition as sen lines and in ayurveda as marma points.
Providing a way to expand one’s Thai yoga massage practice, this book includes step-by-step photos and guidelines for more than 50 advanced Thai yoga postures as well as successful treatment plans for 8 common ailments: stress, back pain, stiff neck and shoulders, arm and hand exhaustion, headaches, constipation, fibromyalgia, and anxiety/depression. Each treatment plan offers a customized one-hour Thai yoga massage posture flow specific to that ailment along with ayurvedic and yoga recommendations for continued healing and prevention after the massage session. This comprehensive guide also illustrates the exact location of the sen lines and marma points, detailing their therapeutic indications and connections to ayurveda and the five kosha bodies, as well as explaining how to incorporate them into sessions for deeper healing.