For a long time there was only one famous statue at Wat Po (Po Temple) in Bangkok depicting Thai Massage while there were many statues depicting Reusi Dat Ton poses (they can look a lot like yoga poses you may have done in yoga class!). You can see one of the Reusi’s doing Reusi Dat Ton in the background on the upper right of the above picture. In the past few years, they have created a bunch of new statues; many of Reusi Dat Ton, and a couple new Thai Massage ones. It seems that they tend to pick Thai Massage poses that are a little ridiculous and aggressive, but so be it. Actually, the massages that they give at the Thai Massage school at Wat Po are quite gentle for the most part.
What is Reusi Dat Ton?
Now, you might be asking, what does Reusi Dat Ton mean? Reusi Dat Ton means literally, “The Reusi stretches himself”. Now you may further ask, what is a Reusi? Sometimes Reusi’s are described as hermit monks. They are individual practitioners who practice Buddhism and medicine. The Reusi’s of the past were the ones who developed and perfected Thai medicine through their lived experience in nature with plants, animals and minerals. Their Buddhist viewpoint infused their understanding of how the medicine works and in this way, Thai medicine was developed and shared with the people of Thailand.
In addition to their work with medicine, Reusi also developed practices that helped keep their bodies as healthy as possible while living in often difficult and austere conditions. The practice, though it may look on the outside like a movement practice such as the yoga that we are familiar with in the west (breath, poses, movement, meditation etc), it actually is based in Buddhist view that makes it quite different at it’s core than western yoga practices. That being said, Indian yoga and Reusi Dat Ton come from the same Himalayan roots. But because the medical theory of the two practices diverged, the internal practice and understanding is actually different as well, despite the fact that it may look similar when you just take a simple look at it.
Because of the fact that the practices in India and Thailand look somewhat similar, it has the been the cause of many misunderstandings about the nature of Thai Massage and Thai medicine. These misunderstandings are a big topic in and of themselves and I may decide to delve into that in future posts (although I also may not!).