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Tok Sen, an ‘entirely different’ massage from ancient Thailand

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Nina London enjoying Tok Sen (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

What is one of the images that come to mind when you hear the word Thailand?

For many people it’s a massage. Thailand’s are world-famous; the epitome of relaxation.

You would never think about doing it with a hammer, right?

Just before Christmas last year, Bill and I went to celebrate at Tao Garden, a spiritual retreat nestled amid the vibrant green rice fields and wild mountains of northern Thailand, where we live during the winter.

The dining hall is an open pavilion under a pagoda roof painted a deep red and gold, shaded by ancient trees, and filled with the exotic cries of hidden birds. Pure white herons stand in still meditation in the small streams that flow in a languid murmur beneath the small bridges arching to the hall.

I heard a soft tapping.

After a while, I asked Bill: “Are they building something?”

We strolled around the circular pagoda and the tapping became stronger. We have seen many strange sights during our winters in Thailand but this caught me by surprise!

Two women were draped over massage chairs as an intent pair of Thai massage therapists lightly hammered on their backs with an assortment of small wooden tools.

It was actually more of a “knock, knock, knock” and the blissful expressions on the patients’ faces implied a deep, abandoned pleasure.

“What is it?” I whispered to one of the assistants.

“It is Tok Sen massage … a Christmas gift from Tao Master Chia, the owner of the garden. It is for any person who would like to experience it,” she answered with a smile.

“Yes, I am definitely in!” Bill laughed softly and nodded.

This was an entirely different massage, unlike anything we have experienced.

Tok Sen has deep roots in the Golden Triangle of northern Thailand. The technique dates to when this province was known as the Lanna Kingdom and its practice is more than 5,000 years old.

It involves the use of a special wooden hammer, or mallet, carved from the wood of a tamarind tree and blessed by a Buddhist monk. There are seven wooden tools of different shapes for different areas of the body. “Tok” translates from Thai as “to hammer” and “Sen” refers to the pathways or meridians of energy running through the body.

The use of small wooden pegs, lightly hammered, allows pressure to be delivered into your muscles in a more targeted fashion. The percussive taps send vibrations farther, providing release to tension held deep within your muscle tissue.

Nina London teaching Chi Gong in Thailand (Photograph supplied)

It is similar to acupressure, non-invasive, gentle and deeply relaxing. It improves circulation, freeing the muscles and clearing energy blockages. It helps with physical pain and aches. You can feel your body tension slipping away with every healing tap of the wooden mallets.

This type of massage is revered in this still deeply traditional area of Thailand.

There are two Buddhist temples near us, which are dedicated to only offering Tok Sen.

The best part: here, it costs only $8 per hour!

When we were sitting next to each other under the gentle rhythm of the wooden hammers, I thought how life is full of wonderful surprises and wonders. The paths to healing began long ago, and the ones that have endured share something in common: they work!

I hope to bring back to Bermuda some of these exotic and ancient techniques for feeling better. Let’s relax both our bodies and minds and leave our troubles behind in 2023!

Nina London is the founder of Mermaid Wellness Centre for Women, a certified Chi Gong and Laughter Yoga teacher. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their bodies and mind. Contact her at www.mermaidwellness.com and on Instagram: mermaid_wellness

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Published December 08, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated December 08, 2022 at 3:44 pm)

Tok Sen, an ‘entirely different’ massage from ancient Thailand

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