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BBC: The birthplace of traditional Thai massage

Claire Turrell

While the practice of Nuad Thai can now be found in spas throughout the world, the soul of the humble therapy hasn’t changed much in the place where it was born.

Among the towering spires and ceramic inlaid stupas of Bangkok’s Wat Pho temple are a group of inscriptions from the 19th Century. Shaded by the wooden eaves, these large marble plaques, known as the Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho, divulge the secrets of the Thai way of life and are one of the earliest recordings of the techniques of one of Thailand’s most revered therapies: Nuad Thai (Thai massage).

Added to Unesco’s Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity list in 2019, this ancient healing method practised by Buddhist monks at the temple uses a blend of stretching, yoga and acupressure techniques to relax the body. Unlike Swedish massage or Hawaiian lomi lomi massage, where the patient is a passive participant, in Thai massage, the patient – who remains fully clothed – bends, stretches and moves their limbs with the help of the therapist to boost flexibility. Some therapists in Thailand will even step on the patient’s back to more deeply massage the muscles, although it’s not a technique used by all.

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