“Tonify” is a term often used with Chinese medicine. If something is deficient in the body—the therapist will tonify that area to improve it, break up stagnation, and allow for better “qi” to flow. The word for “qi” in Thai is “lom”, which means “wind” like “prana” in Yoga.
The Thai word for “energy lines” is “Sen Sib”, which means 10 energy lines. The Chinese system has 8 main lines that are considered “extraordinary” and of the 10 Thai lines, 8 are primary as well. Same same, but different–the Thai and Chinese systems!
Thai Sen Sib lines and Chinese meridian lines are very closely related—in Thai yoga massage the therapist can work all of the Thai energy lines and simultaneously work the Chinese lines because they are nearly the same. In Thai Yoga Massage the emphasis with the energy lines is more about flushing the whole line rather than just working points. And in Thai yoga massage, the therapist uses acupressure (pressure with the thumbs, palms, fists, elbows, forearms, feet, and knees to administer pressure) versus using acupuncture (same work but with needles).
In Five Element Chinese Medicine, each organ is paired—there are yin organs (feminine) and yang organs (masculine). Each paired set of organs correlates with a specific season. This is important because it means that the organ pair will be more vulnerable to doing its dominant season. For example, Autumn is the season of the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. The Lung meridian is a Yin organ and the Large Intestine meridian is a Yang organ. This means that the issues/indications that surround the Lung and Large Intestine meridians could become flared during the Autumn season because they are both dominant in this season. Mucous secretions are connected with the Lung and Large Intestine meridians, which is a big reason that many people get colds and coughs during this season. If their body and these meridian lines aren’t ready to handle the changes—if they aren’t tonified—bolstered to prepare them—that’s a big reason why most people catch colds and coughs during Autumn.
There’s very detailed Chinese medicine theory around why the Lungs and Large Intestine connect with Autumn—and more importantly with the respiratory system. Briefly, most people hear “Large intestine” and they think that working that line will directly affect their digestion. But it doesn’t and that’s not how Chinese medical theory works. The treatment has more to do with what that organ symbolizes in the overall harmony and homeostasis of the body: the Large Intestine is about downward-moving energy in the body—releasing energy—letting go—moving out and down.
The Lung and Large Intestine meridians are contraindicated (not good to work) during pregnancy—especially in the 1st trimester because it could create a downward/expelling energy in the body and abort the baby—that’s rare—but it could happen. But also, those lines should be worked when a baby is past it’s delivery time—to induce labor.
Chinese medicine, as the Chinese culture, is more connected with documentation and theory than the Thai tradition, which has always been an oral tradition with little documentation. Chinese medical theory is a beneficial tool to enable a Thai Yoga Massage practitioner to access the acupressure points and Sen Sib lines with more understanding and awareness.
In Thai Yoga Massage—the Lung meridian is called “Inside Arm Line 1”, and it connects with the thumb line—tracing it from the inside of the thumb up into the brachial/axilla plexus (armpit). The Large Intestine meridian connects with Thai Yoga Massage’s “Outside Arm Line 2”–the middle finger on the outside of the hand/arm tracing up along the deltoid and the top of the shoulder.
Another consideration to show the benefits of using Chinese medical theory to influence Thai Yoga Massage is that each meridian line has something called a “sinew” channel that it’s connected with. A sinew line is like the connective tissue that relates to that line. In Western medicine, this is called a dermatome, which relates to the spinal nerve that governs certain muscles and areas of the body. By working the connective tissue and muscles that relate to an energy line, we are also accessing and stimulating that energy line.
For example, the Lung meridian’s sinew channel connects with the lateral (outside) aspects of the pectoralis muscles, so in a Thai Yoga Massage, the therapist will work the specific energy line and will “nerve touch” or cross-fiber friction along the pectoralis musculature to fully work and tonify that line. In addition, the Large Intestine’s sinew channel connects with the superior and medial aspects of the scapular muscles (upper/inside of the scapular)–so by working the lower trapezius muscles and the upper rhomboid muscles along the shoulder blade, via Thai Yoga Massage compression and nerve touch, the therapist can tonify and work this energy line.
This information connects with Autumn because the therapist would work along these arm energy lines and into those muscles to help tonify and prepare a patient’s body for Autumn. These lines would also work well if someone already has a cold or cough—it will normally lessen the duration and severity of the symptoms. These arm lines can easily be worked via self-massage to prevent and lessen a cold’s severity.
To learn more about the connections of Western and Eastern massage modalities, visit our school’s website and take a class soon!