Originating more than 2,000 years ago in the Buddhist monasteries of Thailand, this form of "massage" is also called "assisted yoga" or "lazy man's yoga." I think you could also call it lazy man's meditation. For just as the asanas are applied to the receiver without any effort on their part, so also follows an effortless fall into a form of meditation called Vipassana.
In brief, as you follow and observe the sensations released during the bodywork you don't meditate -- it meditates you! The only work of the receiver is to remain equanimous as the asanas (stretches/postures), along with massage and accupressure, are applied.
Achieving equanimity is at the heart of all true yoga practice. It implies exercising the means to stay truly at peace in whatever one is doing, be it yoga, meditation or translating these into daily life. Thai Yoga Massage can give a person a good glimpse into how to practice equanimity at the level of sensation and how awareness of sensation can help them in daily life.
With a skilled, calming, intuitive yoga masseur, the receiver can use the flow of asanas applied as a stream of opportunities to relax into equanimity, thereby aiding the receiver to delve deeply into themselves to unlock emotions and anxiety; sometimes with an "Ahhh" and sometimes with much emotion.
The therapeutic and meditative affects of yoga massage are enhanced by the clearing of sen, channels in the body through which the revitalizing life force of the universe (called chi or prana) flows. Basic yoga asanas assist, too, yet one can relax and concentrate more on equanimity when someone skilled and trusted is applying an asana (posture/ stretch) and accupressure for you.
This results in a much greater release and clearing of the sen line, which results in markedly increased vitality. It's also why people often remark after a Thai Yoga Massage they're filled with energy rather than wanting to sleep for a few hours, which is often the feeling after a traditional massage.
WILLIAM BRASHEAR, owner of Cincinnati Yoga School in Blue Ash, is a Thai Yoga Masseur and has practiced Vipassana Meditation for 18 years. For more info on Thai Yoga Massage, contact him at Will@cincyoga.com.