What Is Tok Sen Massage?
Tok Sen is a massage technique from northern Thailand and Burma. It is thought to have been developed by Buddhist monks thousands of years ago. Traditionally, Tok Sen has been practiced at home by wives on their husbands after a hard day’s work in the paddy fields; he would lie on the family dining table, while she would tap along his body with wooden sticks to ease his aches and pains.
Energy, known as Lom is said to be moved through channels in the body, known as Sen. Literally translating as “tapping” the “Sen”, Tok Sen aims to dislodge what are seen as blockages of Lom.
Why Do Tok Sen Massage?
What really makes Tok Sen massage stand out from other massage methods is that the tools achieve a deep bodily vibration through tapping that is not possible using ordinary Thai massage techniques.
These intense vibrations resonate through the body, stimulating from within and dislodging long-held and stubborn muscle tension.
Many people find the rhythm of the taps hypnotizing, as they follow the sound to a deep, meditative state of relaxation, which further loosens the body, making the massage even more effective.
Tok Sen is said to be a particularly good massage for loosening the fascia, a connective tissue beneath the skin which can cause pain when it becomes too stiff. Such loosening both prevents and relieves myofascial adhesions or trigger points, commonly known as “knots”.
How Is Tok Sen Massage Performed?
Traditionally, Tok Sen is performed on a fully dressed client in loose-fitting clothing, lying face down or face up. Some therapists work with the client on a tabletop, and may get onto the table with you to do the massage.
A wooden peg and mallet are used to tap along the Sen, usually going from top to bottom, with heightened attention paid to those areas with the most severe blockages.
After this, the client may be put into other positions, such as sitting or lying on one’s side, to allow access to difficult-to-reach Sen.
There should be no pain or bruising if Tok Sen is done correctly: the peg is used as the primary device for working the sen, while the hammer is there to provide vibration.
Tool use is often combined with manual pressure and stretches at the beginning and end of a massage sequence, to loosen the body.
A Tok Sen massage is often two hours long, covering all muscles. However, it can also be performed on oneself on areas of the body which can be reached.
Tok Sen Massage Tools
Tok Sen is performed with a hammer-like striker, known as a Khone, and a peg, known as a Limb.
These tools are traditionally made from the wood of a Tamarind tree that has been struck by lightning and engraved and blessed by a Buddhist monk. This is said to help remove the negative energy trapped in our bodies.
Such traditionally sourced Tok Sen instruments can cost up to $100 in Thailand, and are difficult to find in the West. However, there are more affordable versions that are readily available online.
Sometimes the Khone tool includes a buffer made of cloth or rubber at the end to silence the noise or make it less abrasive, which is. good for night time use.
Tok Sen tools are regularly treated with sesame oil to keep the wood conditioned and prevent cracking.
What Are the Benefits of Tok Sen Massage?
Releasing and relaxing the body gives a sense of wellbeing as the body’s natural flow of energy is said to be restored. Other benefits include:
- Relieves stress and improves relaxation
- Helps with pain in the muscles, fascia, joints and spine
- Helps with sore tendons, pinched nerves, and numbness
- Improves posture
- Improves blood circulation, which helps with a large variety of related problems, such as some types of hearing loss and dementia
- Can help with migraines
Tok Sen FAQs
Q: What is the difference between Tok Sen and ordinary Thai massage?
A: In ordinary Thai massage, Lom is moved through the Sen using various compression techniques, such as sitting on clients, walking on them, pressing with hands, feet, thumbs, and elbows, as well as occasionally placing the client in passive stretches.
Tok Sen is just another way of compressing and working these same Sen lines, but using tools instead of body parts. Many people will find it more intense than an ordinary Thai massage, and it is sometimes recommended to have a Thai massage beforehand to help loosen up and prepare the body.
Q: What is the difference between Thai Massage and yoga?
A: Thai massage is sometimes called “lazy man’s yoga”, because the recipient receives bodily benefits from a passive position. While some masseurs use stretching or assisted yoga-like positions, stretching is generally the exception not the focus and yoga and massage have very different focuses. Both Thai massage and yoga observe a system of energy channels through the body. Three of the main Sen lines, the energy channels of Thai massage, are identical to the three main nadis, the energy channels in yoga. However, moving past the spine, the Sen and nadi are no longer aligned. The Sen also have similarities with the meridian channels in Chinese medicine, though they do not follow the same lines.
Q: Where can I find a Tok Sen massage?
A: Tok Sen hasn’t yet reached the mainstream: there are few books on the subject; rather, it tends to be passed down orally, and, as such is not offered very widely. While much Tok Sen is practiced close to its place of origin, for instance in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, there are increasingly practitioners training bringing the tradition to the rest of the world. You no longer need to travel to Thailand to take a training course, as online courses with video instruction “Tok Sen Online Course” are available.