The Sen Lines / Myofascial Pathways

Thai Yoga massage is a very practical and highly evolved system that has managed to simplify the approach of working the entire muscular skeletal system in a very effective way, by using a system of compressions and Yoga stretches that work the complete range of motion for all limbs and physical structures of the body.

Probably the most defining aspect of Thai Yoga massage is its incredible model of the 10 Sen lines, which run throughout the entire body as one complete system. ‘Sen’ means energy and ‘Lines’ refer to pathways and whilst it’s true that Sen lines are energy pathways, it needs more explanation to understand what that means.

Thai Yoga massage originally came from the Indian Yoga system and eventually migrated across South East Asia to Thailand. Although during this journey it may have lost its scientific yoga roots and wisdom somewhat, it still kept the form and physical practices. This is how I personally define the difference between Thai Yoga massage and Thai Massage. Thai Yoga massage embraces the Yoga system quite clearly and Thai Massage embraces the practice with a broad acceptance of the spiritual and energetic basis of life energy and interconnectedness, but with no clear science of the mind body system as we find in Ayurveda, Yoga and Chinese medicine.

The Yoga system views that the phenomenal universe and human beings exists as 5 layers of being, calling them 5 Koshas. We have the physical body, energy prana body, mental body, wisdom body and bliss body. (Talk more on this on level 5). In the Thai system the Sen lines refer to the energy prana body, which in Yoga is the second layer known as Pranamaya kosha. It is composed of the body’s subtle life-force called prana, also known as Chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Thai approach thinks of Sen Lines or energy pathways as subtle channels that permeate the physical body and allowing for the circulation of prana to help it function. Prana is the basis for the function of the physical body and its vitality. It is the animating force behind every atom, vital organ and bodily function

Imbalances or blocks within the prana energetic body greatly affect the overall function of the physical body. However the effect of prana goes deeper because the Pranamaya Kosha is also closely involved with the function of the third layer known as the Manomaya Kosha or mental body and has a significant influence upon its function.

This connection and knowledge of the kosha bodies is utilized in Yoga with asana and breathing practices called pranayama, which alter our state of our mind and balance the activity of the mental body (manomaya kosha). The Manomaya kosha is linked to the nervous system, the unconscious emotions and the processing aspect of our mind; hence the reason we say the breath and pranayama practices act as the bridge between the mind and body. We can feel imbalance of the Manomaya kosha when we can’t stop thinking, control our worries or concentrate.

Understanding the science of Yoga and the inter-relationship of the 5 koshas we can appreciate that working on Sen lines is a very important part of treatment and in my opinion what makes Thai Yoga massage one of the most profound systems of massage to exist. I fully embrace the Yoga roots of Thai Massage because it anchors this wonderful practice into a spiritual and scientific framework of how we exist and how everything exists in its totality.

With Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) proving the existence of the energy body ‘Pranamaya kosha’ through the practice of Acupuncture working on Meridians, the western approach can acknowledge the Thai approach of Sen Lines with more confidence. On the whole though the western background is more familiar with physical anatomy corresponding to the first Kosha, known as Annamaya Kosha and many find it easier to see Sen lines as Myo-fascial trains of connective tissue rather than an ambiguous notion of energy lines and flow.

Each of the 5 layers influence each other and its not wrong to focus on the physical layer because the body is the tangible form we can touch and alter the more subtle layers. However we cannot focus on anatomy alone if we want to improve our ability to help people. The subtle layers need to be acknowledged because our physical problems and chronic symptoms are more often emotional and stress-related and come from these deeper layers.

The general western approach sees that the 10 Sen Lines for the most part equate to the fascial lines between muscles and bone. Fascia binds the entire body with a subtle fabric of connective tissue that provides the advanced abilities of elasticity, flexibility and mobility for the body.

Although the entire fascial web is connected as one whole system there are different layers and types of fascia in the body. In Thai massage we work on the myo-fascia because its the fascia closest to the skin. It’s the slippery connective tissue that wraps around the bones and main muscles of the body, allowing them to move over each other without sticking. The fascia protects and lubricates them.

Fascia has many other functions such as providing elasticity for the body and helping it to stretch, adapt, move around and maintain good posture. So blockages in the Fascia, adhesions through damage or dehydrated fascia will tighten, reduce mobility and create feelings of stiffness and aching in the muscles and joints. When fascia loses elasticity it will pull on the body parts connected to create poor posture and then further problems will follow as the altered balance and weight distribution begins to stress the specific joints and muscles forced to compensate.

As fascia is an important part of the way that weight and force are distributed throughout our body it becomes a very important aspect of the kinetic chain system. Kinetic chains are a term that understands that our entire body is connected and that bones are connected to other bones via joints, thus creating a physical system whereby our movements transfer weight from one joint to the next in succession as we stand or move around. The direction and transfer of this weight is known as the kinetic chain and fascia provides the subtle connectivity, lubrication and elasticity of this chain.

Fascia is essential and working the Sen lines helps to keep the entire fascia web healthy and able to act as a complex circulatory system for the physical and energetic body. The Sen lines act like a bridge through providing a direct link between the deep unconscious mind / nervous system and physical body.

Sen lines are a fascinating subject and simple to understand and work with. With Sen lines (for the most part) following the myo-fascia between muscles or between muscles and bone, it makes the 10 Sen lines an easy model to work. We can feel the pathways as indentations between different muscles and bone. By following the muscular shape we always know with accuracy whether we are on the Sen line or not, because we can feel it with our fingers or body part we are working with.

The Fascias link to the nervous system (manomayan kosha) means that working fascial Sen lines is a wonderful neuro-muscular massage that is able to release deep emotional stress manifesting as the chronic aches and congestions that limit mobility and function of the entire body. Thai massage is excellent for removing the chronic aches, muscles fatigues and pains that seem to have no cause and never go away, because the massage via the Sen lines allows direct access into the deep nervous system and unconscious mind creating them

The connectivity of Sen lines allows us to appreciate that restriction in one area of the body will influence and pull on other structures in different parts of the body. The global network of the fascial web means that the restriction or pain we feel is not always where the problem is. Instead it can reveal an area of weakness in the body that is being forced to compensate for the actual problem existing in another part of the body. The chronic pain we feel in the neck may be reflecting damage in the sacrum for example.

The function of Sen lines goes deeper than the term ‘energy lines’ which is often used to describe them during our training. They are also more than subtle cable wires that help maintain good posture, because fascia seems to be an advanced aspect of the human nervous system that embody emotional intelligence linked to primal instinctual needs. Such as our need for safety, our need to belong, our need for relationship, our need for respect and recognition. (Yoga science says that we have several instinctual needs rooted into each of the main chakras)

When human instinctual needs are suppressed and denied, the fascial system connected to the particular nerve plexus of that chakra, will contract and pull on the body parts and structures directly in that system (like kinetic chains). In working fascial Sen lines we are putting our hands into the body’s soft tissue and helping dissolve the neuromuscular tensions created through emotional stress as well as the fascial densifications caused through injuries and immobility.

Thai Yoga massage is a mind body treatment with real intelligence. It is also a wonderful spiritual journey and path of personal growth, leading into the development of presence, being in the rhythm of the breath, deep listening and intimacy through soft caring touch. It is a form of active meditation applying the principles of Metta (loving kindness) and Sati (mindfulness).

 

 

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