What is Thai Yoga Massage?


Thai Yoga Massage is an ancient healing art, believed to date back over 2,000 years. It is a wonderful combination of acupressure, massage and gently applied yoga stretches. Sometimes called ‘yoga for lazy people’, Thai massage is the ultimate way of getting all the benefits of yoga and more without having to do it yourself!

Thai Yoga Massage is different to most other forms of massage. The treatment is carried out without oils or lotions on a comfortable floor mat and you remain fully clothed throughout. Your body is guided through a series of assisted stretches using hands, feet, forearms and elbows in a flowing series of moves to help free the tension trapped within the body. Energy lines, acupressure points, muscles, ligaments and joints are stretched and opened, stimulating flow and encouraging more freedom of movement.


The founding father of Thai Yoga Massage (known in Thai as nuad boran or “traditional massage”) was an Ayurvedic doctor named Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha. Born in India during the time of the Buddha, he is noted in ancient documents for his extraordinary medical skills, and for having treated important people of his day, including the Buddha himself. His work still forms the basis of traditional Thai massage as practised in Thailand today in the main teaching centres of Chiang Mai and Wat Pho.

Thai massage was introduced to the Western world in the 1970s by a German named Harald Brust (1955-2005), known as Asokananda, who devoted much of his life to researching and teaching yoga, Buddhist meditation and traditional Thai Yoga Massage. His book, The Art of Traditional Thai Massage, was the first publication on the subject in any Western language.

Thai massage is now becoming more popular, more widely taught and practised across the world. Its development is supported by organisations such as the Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI), an independent association which aims to protect the integrity of the practice by setting required standards for practitioners and teachers.


Thai Yoga Massage treatments typically last from one to two hours, and are tailored to the individual client.

There are four main positions: with the client lying on their back (supine), on their front (prone), side-lying, or seated. The treatment begins at the feet and works up through the body, finishing with the shoulders, neck and head. This follows the flow of energy through the body.

A skilled practitioner uses fingers, thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to apply a combination of acupressure, gentle rocking and twisting, joint and spine mobilisations and assisted yoga stretches. With the therapist using their bodyweight instead of strength in a steady, meditative rhythm, Thai yoga massage looks and feels like a graceful dance between giver and receiver.

The treatment is given in silence and can either be a wonderful opportunity to switch off, or used as a form of meditation.


Thai Yoga Massage can relieve general muscle tightness and reverse the loss of flexibility that is often regarded as the inevitable result of the ageing process. It can relieve tense, tight muscles resulting either from overworking them (e.g. in sport or repetitive physical work) or not using them enough (e.g. from long hours sitting at a desk or driving).

It can bring relief from aches, pains and stiffness, particularly in any tight joints – knees, ankles, wrists, hips, shoulders and neck. It can also relieve chronic tension such as back pain and some type of headaches.

Thai massage helps to increase flexibility, suppleness and range of movement. It can also aid the restoration of balance within and between the major muscle groups, easing pain and improving posture, thus helping to prevent injury.

Who can study Thai Yoga Massage?

We typically see three different types of student who come and learn Thai Yoga Massage at Central School.

Yoga teachers

Yoga teachers are often very interested in developing new skills to complement their existing yoga teaching practice. Of course they already have the ability to move gracefully around the mat on the floor, which makes learning TYM somewhat easier for them. And because Thai Yoga Massage has the “yoga” in its name, it’s easier for their students to understand that it’s a complementary practice to what they’re already doing. 

Often yoga teachers are able to add TYM to their existing insurance, so they don’t usually have to study further anatomy and physiology – although that’s always useful if you’re interested in that aspect of massage.

Existing massage therapists

The second type of student we often teach on our courses is massage therapists who may have only ever worked on the couch, having specialised up to now in Swedish massage, sports massage or similar. They want to mix up their practice a little. Obviously they’re already set up as massage therapists and have the relevant insurance and anatomy training, so they are able to qualify quickly and with no need for them to study further.

TYM not only helps them to offer a wider range of services to their clients – and attract new clients – but also to extend their working day without damaging their body because they’re using their body in a different way.

Newcomers to massage

Then we have a few people who are completely new to any form of body work or movement. Perhaps they have been keen yoga practitioners or Pilates students, or just someone with a broader interest in health and fitness. They are interested in helping others but also in looking after themselves with a form of bodywork which is also kind to their own body.

Next steps

Before signing up for one of our Thai Yoga Massage courses, why not try out a Thai Massage from your Tutor or a previous graduate of the Diploma course.

To find out more about our Diploma and Certificate courses in Thai Yoga Massage, and forthcoming one-day workshops, please visit our Courses page.

Not sure which Thai Yoga Massage course is right for you?

Use our Thai Yoga Massage course finder to work out which course is best suited to you based on your objectives and previous experience,

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