How The West Came To The Rescue Of Yoga And Thai Massage
How the West Came to the Rescue of
Yoga and Thai Massage
Thai massage is often called Thai yoga massage, since it originated in India and parts of it are
basically applied yoga, yoga done to you. Thai massage and yoga are members of the same family,
and both are hugely popular all over the world. But not too long ago the popularity of both of them
was on the decline. So what turned it around?
The story of yoga
Recently I met a woman from India, a journalist in her sixties. She mentioned to me that she still
remembers that when she was a teenager, yoga was not very popular in India. There were not many
yoga schools, not many yoga gurus, and there was just not so much interest.
What happened next? The hippie generation became very interested in anything Indian – Indian
attire, yoga and meditation, Indian gurus and sadhus. Countless Westerners went on pilgrimage to
India to do some soul searching, find a guru, meditate, practice yoga, and smoke dope.
The Beatles did their part with their Transcendental Meditation guru and some India inspired songs.
During the seventies several Indian gurus went to America and developed huge followings. Some of
you might remember the Hare Krishnas, Ananda Marga, Guru Maharaji, TM, Bhagwan Rajneesh
(later Osho) and others. It became very fashionable to have an Indian guru.
Tens of thousands of westerners began to practice yoga and meditate. Yoga schools opened up all
over the west and all over India as well. Most of the Indian schools and Ashrams were set up to
accommodate the crowds of westerners who were attracted to the eastern wisdom. India produced
many teachers and gurus, and their followers often consisted largely of Westerners.
Nowadays there are many yoga books on the market, most of them written by westerners. There are
many yoga styles that were mostly invented by Westerners. 50 years ago there was no Bikram or
Vinyasa or Power yoga. The conclusion of my Indian journalist acquaintance was that today’s
immense popularity of yoga happened largely because of the interest of westerners.
The story of Thai massage
The story of Thai Massage is very similar. Thailand’s population used to depend on Thai massage,
herbal medicine and shamanic practices for their health care. But with the arrival of modern
medicine they gradually abandoned those traditions. A very typical attitude of young Thais is that
Thai massage is something for old people. It is clearly not “cool” anymore, and the young generation
much prefers popping pills.
During the Vietnam war Thailand’s capital Bangkok became the favorite vacation destination for
American soldiers. Thai massage was very popular among them, but the emphasis was often less
on the therapeutic aspects. It was an easy way for the soldiers to socialize with the female massage
therapists, and a great way to relax. But Thai massage as a significant therapeutic system had yet to
be discovered by the West.
Up until about 15 years ago Thai massage seemed destined for gradual oblivion. There were hardly
any Thai massage schools, and the young generation mostly disregarded it as an old-fashioned
remnant of their parent’s traditions. But then the westerners came to the rescue. A German who
went by the name of Asokananda married a Thai woman and set up a Thai massage school in a
village in northern Thailand. He wrote several books about it and his school became well known. His
students, not surprisingly, were all westerners.
That was the turning point for Thai massage. Thailand was developing into a major tourist
destination, and more and more massage schools opened in all the tourist centers to cater to the
thousands of westerners who come to Thailand every year to study Thai massage. With few
exceptions, the students in those schools are all westerners.
Nowadays there are many Thai massage books and DVDs on the market, almost without exception
written or recorded by westerners. Just like all the different yoga styles, now there is Thai massage,
traditional Thai massage, Thai yoga massage, Thai healing massage, Thai-on-the-table, and some
other variations, all created by westerners.
Today most spas in the world are either offering Thai massage or are looking for ways to include it in
their offering. Yoga has become a household word and is practiced all over the world. Both systems
were developed in the East, but the West has to be credited for saving them from a slow fading into
the pages of history and for giving them both worldwide exposure.
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More articles about Thai massage are available at ThaiHealingMassage.