Ruseri Dat Ton

Ruseri Dat Ton

Ruseri Dat Ton is a traditional Thai practice that has been dubbed as Thai yoga, in part due to its similarities to Hatha yoga.

Ruseri Dat Ton literally translated means “Hermit’s self stretching exercise”. It was named this as hermits and ascetics have used it for many hundreds of years. It’s an ancient practice that consists of breathing exercises, self-massage, exercises, poses, mantras, visualisations and meditation. These practices are why it’s been dubbed as Thai yoga as these are all elements in Traditional Hatha yoga practices also. Its similarities with the two techniques are striking. There are over 200 different techniques in RDT that are similar to Indian Hatha yoga. It also shares similarities with Tibetan Yoga Traditions.

Ruseri Dat Ton (RDT) is also the foundation of Traditional Thai Massage often named Thai yoga massage, as it is a form of stretching massage performed by the therapist on the client.

As there are so many similarities between Hatha yoga and RDT it’s not sure which came first and which was the first modality. Suffice to say that each is available in two different countries with two varying objectives.

In the Hatha Yoga text, “Hatha Pradipika”, the primary purpose of practicing Hatha yoga is to attain Samadhi through Raja yoga, ( Hathapradipika Ch. I / Verse1). Even though there are asana (poses) in Hatha yoga, even the goal of these is to be able to sit in meditation for long periods of time, with the eventual aim of achieving the state of Yoga (Samadhi, Raja Yoga).

The goal of RDT is less singular and more therapeutic in its nature therefore having a slightly different objective to Hatha yoga. Of course the by products of Hatha yoga are also to be therapeutic so again the lines between the two are blurred.

The words Ruesri Tat Don come from the Sanskrit Rsi, which means an Ascetic Yogi or hermit. Dat means to stretch or train and Ton refers to oneself, leading to the translation to Hermit’s self stretching exercise.

The Reusis (known aslo as Lersi) were practitioners of various ancient arts and sciences such as: tantra, yoga, natural medicine, alchemy, music, mathematics, astrology, palmistry, etc. There are correspondent people in many ancient cultures, such as: the Siddhas of India, the Yogis of Nepal and Tibet, the Immortals of China, the Vijjadharas of Burma and the Cambodian Eysey (from the Pali word for Reusi, Isii).

In Thailand there are two differing traditions. One is the Southern Thai / Malay Tradition and the other a North Eastern Thai / Lao Tradition. In much the same way as there are two main schools of Thai Massage, one in the North and the other in the South.

Traditionally the practice would begin with some breathing exercises and self massage. This is akin to the pranayama breath work in yoga and abhayanga massage in Ayurveda, the sister philosophy of Traditional Hatha Yoga.

This would be followed by dynamic exercises and poses similar to asanas in yoga, finishing off with visualisation, mantras and meditation again similar to yoga. The postures vary in complexity from simple to more advanced much the same as yoga has.

As the techniques are so similar it is more than likely that they were derived from the same source thousands of years back. Perhaps from the Rsis when they moved down from the Himalayas to South East Asia. Given their multiple similarities this is a theory that has some significant credence. However there are some techniques that are distinct so these were probably indigenous to Southeast Asia and were later amalgamated into what is now known as Ruesri Tat Don.

Traditional Thai massage is thought to have its foundations in RDT. In the same way that RDT focuses on the sen lines / meridians and pranic breath so does the therapeutic benefits of Thai yoga massage.

Ancient Reusis, through their own experimentation and experience, developed their understanding of the various bodies (physical, energetic and psychic, etc.) They discovered the postures, channels, points, the winds and wind gates within themselves.

They realised that these techniques could be adapted and applied to others for their healing benefit, which is how Thai massage was developed. So, in order to really understand Thai massage, as a practitioner, one should have a foundation in Reusi Dat Ton and be able to experience it within oneself and then apply it to others. It is not only the roots of Thai massage but it also unlocks the method for treating oneself and maintaining one’s own health.”.

Today RTD is in danger of dying out as a tradition. It is little heard of internationally or nationally and there are fewer sources of information available on it’s benefits and uses.

What ever it’s origins it is a practice that has multiple benefits and a fascinating history and as such should be kept alive today.