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Ancient traditions of Thai massage: Sen lines

Central to the traditions of Thai medicine, spanning more than 2,000 years, is the concept of ‘Sen lines’. These lines are believed to play a vital role in maintaining health, both physical and emotional. Here we explore a little more of the tradition of Sen lines and how they are used in Thai massage therapy.

Traditionally Sen lines are believed to be ‘channels’ through which the body’s life force flowed. Ancient practitioners thought that when these channels were blocked or out of balance, that physical or emotional ailments would result. Holistic Thai traditional medicine involves various practices such as herbal remedies, diet, meditation, as well as massage therapy to restore balance and harmony to the system of Sen lines.

Practitioners describe more than 70,000 Sen lines in the body, each with a particular function and relation to an aspect of the body, such as the nervous system or circulatory system. Thai traditional massage focuses on just ten of them, the greatest difference can be made by applying pressure or manipulation. The Thai massage therapist uses pressure (finger, palm, forearm, elbow, knee or foot), as well as stretching, to work along the major Sen lines. By manipulating the Sen lines in this way, Thai massage therapy aims to improve wellbeing, flexibility, and promote relaxation.

One example, the Sen Sumana line, is considered the most important. This runs from the navel to the crown of the head and is associated with the heart, lungs, and emotional balance. It is believed that blockages in the Sen Sumana line can lead to physical and emotional imbalances, such as anxiety, depression, or respiratory problems.

Another important Sen line – particularly to the practice of Thai massage – is the Sen Kalathari, running along the spine. This line is believed to be linked to the body's ability to heal and is often used in Thai massage therapy to treat chronic pain conditions.

One of Bangkok’s most famous attractions is “Wat Pho”, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Traditional Thai massage is taught and demonstrated there, and on its walls can been seen ancient illustrations of the Sen lines (see picture above!)

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