Serenity in Motion: Exploring the Dance of Thai Yoga and Thai Massage

Jun 26, 2023

For years, I've been searching for the perfect words to capture the distinction between 'Thai Yoga' and 'Thai Massage,' despite both being based on the same sequence and technique. While Thai Yoga emphasizes the importance of the practitioner guiding the client's body awareness and positioning, from simple instructions like "keep your arm straight" to subtle sensations like feeling the texture change with varying pressure, many Thai Massage therapists suffer from wrist, ankle, and shoulder pain due to incorrect body alignment during the session.

It's astonishing how small adjustments in the practitioner's body position can be the difference between causing harm to oneself or effectively aiding in the client's healing process. That's why, for years, I've described 'Thai Yoga' as a yoga practice that not only benefits the client but also heals the practitioner when performed efficiently. The Thai Massage sequence enhances the client's body through stretching and pressing, stimulating blood flow throughout the muscles and smoothing out fiber striations while creating more space between the bones.

This process resembles yoga, where poses stretch and compress, allowing for improved circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body and relieving joints from constant gravitational pull. It's no wonder that clients often feel significantly better after Thai Massage compared to other types of massage. Consequently, Thai Massage typically costs double the price of Swedish massage in luxury spa resorts. While clients experience incredible results, the providers often suffer from pain that lingers long after the session.

This pain can be avoided or even reversed by learning Thai Yoga, which entails a deeper understanding of how the provider interacts with the client, utilizing the Greg Thai Massage sequence protocol and moving their body correctly. Once the practitioner develops this awareness, comprehending how to shift their body weight, maintain a relaxed yet firm posture (preventing joint overuse and injury), and enhance the client's joints and body texture through the sequence, they are ready to perform 'Thai Massage.'

In 'Thai Massage,' the practitioner trusts the client's body to guide them towards what it needs. For example, if there's an injury on the right side, the practitioner may spend more time applying repeated pressure on the corresponding area on the left side. The Nuad Boran sequence demonstrates how energy crosses the body, with the right side often influencing the left—for instance, a restriction in the right hip potentially causing pain in the left shoulder.

I often liken the Nuad Boran sequence to a three-hour dance between two people, much like how a musician learns scales to appreciate the interplay of sounds and rhythm. Unfortunately, most Thai Massage programs never teach the full three-hour sequence, nor do they focus on the Thai Yoga aspect inherent in the teachings. Personally, I learned these principles through observing my Thai Massage master, Pichet Boonthume. From the moment I met him, he emphasized that when Thai Massage is performed efficiently, it heals both the practitioner and the recipient.

During my first week in Thailand, I felt a bit lost since I had come expecting to attend a traditional Thai Massage school. To my surprise, I found myself among a group of professional Thai therapists from around the world—Europe, the USA, Japan—who had known Pichest for several years already. On the first day, after an hour of listening to chanting, which I later learned was the Buddhist prayers preceding the prayer for Dr. Shivago, credited with creating the Nuad Boran sequence, Pichest turned to the group of 25 people and asked, "What does a Yogi do?"

We were all sitting on simple Thai Massage mattresses laid on the floor in various positions—some in a Zazen style, others like mermaids with their feet to the side, and others crossed-legged. Pichest transitioned from sitting Zazen to sitting in half lotus and began circling his torso with his right index finger while stating, "A Yogi sits and a Yogi feels." His focus honed in on a student in front of him, pointing to their shoulder and asking, "You have pain there, mai?" (Mai being the Thai word for "no.") He essentially asked, "You have pain there, right?" It was a magical moment for me, even though I, as a yoga teacher of eight years, knew the student's right shoulder was slightly higher than the left.

But my amazement grew when Pichest followed up by asking, "You have a problem in your left hip, mai?" The student revealed that they had experienced an accident when they were younger. As it was my first week, I had limited experience with Thai Massage, having only taken a weekend course in Tucson. However, I was granted permission due to my yoga teaching background, as Thai Massage was often referred to as "lazy man's yoga" back in 2005.

I was unprepared for what I witnessed—a master providing real therapy in less than 20 minutes. After confirming his assessment of the student's condition, Pichest asked them to lie on their right side while he worked on their left hip, occasionally gesturing to his own shoulder and elbow to indicate his precise awareness of his own joints and how they aligned (as incorrect angles between joints in Thai Massage can lead to pain for the practitioner over time). Ten minutes later, the student sat up, and Pichest, half-jokingly but also therapeutically, showed us how it was okay to put all of our weight on someone by placing his knees on the student's shoulder crest and lifting his feet, even rising his chest and essentially knee-standing on top of them.

While this particular move didn't teach me much about the Nuad Boran sequence, it showcased the incredible capabilities of the human body. What struck me the most was that the student felt significantly better, and their shoulders were visibly aligned. Pichest didn't explicitly point out the shoulder misalignment but simply stated, "Now, shoulders in line," and asked, "How do you feel?" The student bowed their head, turned to Pichest, and replied, "Much better."

As the afternoon progressed and students started working on each other, Pichest would often look around the room, shaking his head in disapproval and exclaiming, "Terrible! Terrible! You don't feel!" He would then approach the struggling pair, touching a bent elbow or demonstrating how a wrist should align below the shoulder. At the time, I didn't fully grasp the significance of his actions until later, after I had memorized the three-hour sequence at a different school. During a 90-minute Thai Massage session in Mysore, India, my fifth or sixth massage, I no longer needed to refer to my Thai Massage manual in case I forgot a pose. I trusted my memory and suddenly became aware of keeping my legs and arms straight, immediately noticing the difference between properly stacked joints and misaligned ones.

This realization dawned on me in 2006, and ever since, I have been studying with Pichest. While Thai Massage is also a practice that encourages a deeper connection between all beings, akin to the principles of yoga, when I describe Thai Yoga and Thai Massage today, different words come to mind. Thai Yoga is when someone stretches you, whereas Thai Massage is when someone fixes you. To be completely honest, my initial words were more ego-driven: "Thai Yoga is when I stretch you, Thai Massage is when I fix you."

This September, I'll be leading a Thai Yoga Massage training in Curaçao, and you can also find an in-depth online course on

Over the years, I delved deeper into the practice, exploring the nuances of body alignment and the interconnectedness of muscles, joints, and energy flow. Thai Yoga became more than just a sequence; it became a profound way of guiding individuals in their body awareness. By emphasizing the importance of correct body positioning, from something as simple as keeping the arms straight to the subtle nuances of feeling the texture change during the application of pressure, Thai Yoga unlocked a whole new level of healing potential.

It became apparent that many Thai Massage therapists suffered from wrist, ankle, and shoulder pain, often stemming from incorrect alignment with their clients. I was shocked at how small adjustments to the provider's body position in relation to the client could make the difference between experiencing pain or effectively facilitating healing.

Thai Massage, based on the same sequence and technique, enhanced the client's body through a combination of stretching and pressure. The rhythmic pressure stimulated blood flow through the muscular system, while the stretches helped to smooth out the fibers and create more space between the bones. Similar to the effects of yoga poses, Thai Massage promoted increased circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body, offering relief to joints under the constant pull of gravity.

It came as no surprise that clients often felt incredible after a session of Thai Massage compared to other forms of massage. The practice provided a holistic approach to healing, addressing not only the physical but also the energetic aspects of the individual. However, for the providers, the story was often different. Many suffered from chronic pain that could have been avoided or even reversed with proper training in Thai Yoga—a comprehensive understanding of how to apply the Thai Massage sequence while moving their bodies correctly.

Observing my Thai Massage master, Pichet Boonthume, I witnessed the profound impact of this efficient approach. He emphasized that when done correctly, Thai Massage could heal not only the receiver but also the giver. In that first week in Thailand, as I sat among a group of experienced Thai therapists from around the world, I realized that I had stumbled upon something truly transformative.

As we began our training, our sessions would always commence with chanting—Buddhist prayers expressing gratitude and honoring the healing powers of Dr. Shivago, the creator of the Nuad Boran sequence. It was a powerful reminder of the deep connection between body, mind, and spirit that Thai Yoga and Thai Massage embodied.

Pichest's teachings resonated deeply with me. His question, "What does a Yogi do?" opened my eyes to the essence of this practice. A Yogi sits, a Yogi feels. Through the sequence and his intuitive understanding, Pichest would identify areas of pain or imbalance within his students. His ability to pinpoint the source of discomfort, such as a higher shoulder indicating a problem in the opposite hip, amazed me.

With each session, my understanding deepened. Thai Yoga, as an application of the Thai Massage protocol sequence, became a practice of healing through stretching. On the other hand, Thai Massage involved trusting the client's body to guide the session. An injury on one side might require more focused attention and repeated pressure on the opposite side, following the energy pathways that traverse the body. It was like a three-hour dance between two people, where the giver carefully listened to the client's body and responded accordingly.

Most programs focused solely on the mechanics of the sequence, often neglecting the essential Thai Yoga aspect and the profound impact it had on the provider's well-being. But through my experiences with Pichest, I learned to cultivate body awareness, shifting my body weight, and maintaining a relaxed 

yet firm posture, preventing joint overuse and injury. I understood how the sequence enhanced the joints and texture of the client's body, creating a harmonious flow of energy.

After my time with Pichest, I continued my journey, seeking to expand my knowledge and share the profound benefits of Thai Yoga and Thai Massage with others. I enrolled in a Thai Massage course at a school in Mysore, India, where I honed my skills and embraced the essence of this ancient practice.

During one of my sessions in Mysore, as I moved through the sequence, something remarkable happened. I noticed a significant difference when I kept my legs and arms straight and ensured proper alignment of my joints. The realization struck me that Thai Yoga and Thai Massage were not merely physical practices; they were transformative experiences that encompassed the mind, body, and spirit.

Since that moment, I have dedicated myself to studying with Pichest and furthering my understanding of Thai Yoga and Thai Massage. The practice has become a fundamental part of my life, allowing me to bring healing and restoration to both myself and those I serve.

As I reflect on my journey, I've come to realize that Thai Yoga is more than just someone stretching you. It is a profound practice that nurtures and supports the body, promoting balance, flexibility, and well-being. Thai Massage, on the other hand, goes beyond stretching and focuses on the therapeutic aspects, where a skilled practitioner listens to the client's body and offers healing through precise touch and movement.

In September, I will be leading a Thai Yoga Massage training in Curaçao, where I aim to share my knowledge and passion for this transformative practice. Additionally, I have developed an in-depth online course available on, providing a comprehensive understanding of Thai Yoga and Thai Massage.

Through my experiences and teachings, I hope to inspire others to explore the profound connection between body, mind, and spirit, and discover the transformative power of Thai Yoga and Thai Massage. It is a journey that brings healing, not only to the receiver but also to the giver, creating a harmonious dance of well-being and self-discovery.

As I continue to immerse myself in this ancient practice, I am reminded of the words of Pichest: "Thai Yoga is when someone stretches you, Thai Massage is when someone fixes you." It is a testament to the transformative power of this art form, a journey of healing and self-discovery that continues to unfold with every session, every student, and every connection made along the way.