What are sen?

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What are sen?

Sen are the channels and conduits along which prana (energy) flows in Traditional Thai Medicine.

At the core of Traditional Thai Massage lies the intricate network of sen, the vital energy lines. Schools often use a simple explanation: sen are the pathways where Lom Pran flows in the body. This explanation needs clarification as students confuse the term sen with terms from other systems such as qi, prana or energy.

Sen are different than Chinese meridians. Sen do not relate to organs in the body. Sen follow other paths and consist of other substances. Likewise, sen are not mystical hollow tubes like in the Indian nadis through which an invisible, supernatural force blows.

The word sen has many meanings. It can mean a route, a street, a noodle, a hair, an equator, a nerve, a vein, a tendon, a path, a line or a string. These diverse meanings reflect the multifaceted nature of sen. It is a tangible structure, a physical pathway by which movement occurs in the body.

Tradition says that there are 72,000 sen in the body. This number is not an actual count. In traditional Buddhist texts, 72,000 is a number that represents the uncountable, the infinite. It symbolizes the vast network of sen that permeates the body.

Sen are the third layer of the human body. The word sen means many things, including path, route, string, road, equator, noodle, hair, trajectory, nerve, vein, tendon, ligament, and artery. They are structures that include tendons, ligaments, veins, nerves, and arteries.

There are three divisions of sen. The major sen are the main arteries, nerves, lymph ducts, tendons, and ligaments. These are the primary pathways of movement in the body. The minor sen are the smaller vessels that branch off from the major sen, such as smaller vascular pathways, neural offshoots and smaller lymph vessels. And the invisible sen are the connections and pathways of hormones, neurons, neurotransmitters and enzymes that are not visible to the naked eye. These divisions form a complex network of sen in the body.

As Lom Pran is the moving force in our bodies that flows through the sen, sen are the biological pathways where major, minor and invisible movement occurs in the body. The biological pathways with significant movement are the arteries and nerve ducts. Minor movement occurs in the branches of major arteries. The invisible movement that is too small to see is things such as the effect of hormones on the body.

Sen and Thai Massage

Grasping the concept of sen, or energy lines, is not just a theoretical understanding but a practical tool for Thai massage practitioners. By mastering the art of working with the sen, practitioners can tap into the body’s innate healing abilities during a Thai massage treatment, fostering a sense of empowerment and capability.

Usually, schools teach sen to students as numbered lines on the body or as ten metaphysical pathways, referred to as Sen Sib. These lines are not sen themselves. The lines are spaces or trenches where you can easily access the deeper part of the body to the sen. This space allows for greater penetration into the body with acupressure. If you press here with your thumb in a healthy body, it will sink deeper into the body than if you press directly on the muscles.

The focus of a Thai massage practitioner is to manipulate the Wind, the vital energy that flows through the sen, and free up the passageways rather than releasing tight muscles. A practitioner will often have to spend time on the tissue layer of the body, the fascia and muscles, to access and work with the sen. But they are not the end goal. The goal is to restore the balance and flow of Lom Pran in the body, promoting health and well-being.

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