This is something I ponder frequently, and the concepts around how one would attain balance, or in the case of Thai Massage, facilitate balance in others. If we put ourselves into the context of Thai massage for right now, this conversation can be extrapolated outwards from there.
We all essentially have imbalances – I don’t think I’ve met anyone who is entirely balanced. Even venerable monks who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have had imbalances in strength and tension development in their upper backs from being seated for long periods. So this idea of achieving balance is something most of us (at least everyone reading this) tend to strive for in order to create a life that is pain free and peaceful.
As a practitioner I often wonder about the best way to facilitate balance.
I always attempt to “read” the body, by evaluating movement patterns from the moment someone comes in. The way they walk, the process of being seated, their posture throughout and then also how their body “lands” in the passive setting of a treatment (which can be a very important part of the puzzle).
Once I am formulating a reading of each person’s posture and imbalances I immediately being to form a series of postures to facilitate more balance and alleviate [particularly] tension imbalances. But here’s the big question:
Do I treat imbalance with pure balance (the same techniques on both sides of the body, with the same number of repetitions and the same pressure, and so on…) OR do I treat imbalance with imbalance (more treatment weight/time placed on the areas of imbalance)?
These are my musings on such a question..
In pure theory the idea of balance can only be achieved through balance. So in an ideal world, each treatment would be evenly distributed between sides of the body and over a long period of time it would eventually reach a state of evenness. This would take longer to treat – maybe years/decades of very regular treatment along with targeted remedial exercise assignment. But that’s not necessarily all that practical for most people.
On the other end of the spectrum is the idea of treating completely differently on both sides in order to “accelerate” the process of returning to evenness. Just like distributing different sized weights between two sides of a scale without worrying about how many go on each end, but instead focusing on the mid-point where both sides are equidistant from the ground. But how does that translate into the treatment experience? Does your patient leave feeling balanced or further imbalanced by the sheer residues of your work? And ultimately could it lead to further or downstream imbalances?
And then there’s the middle road. And if we’ve ever met in person, you know I’m an advocate for the middle path (which is ironically the path less traveled) or the one that’s away from both extremes and is adaptable. My own personal treatments are divided between ensuring that both sides receive the same techniques and postures, but to differing degrees based on their need. One side might get more pressure or more time with particular techniques. I find that this not only allows me to map the body more completely, it also allows each patient to perceive greater balance in their bodies when they’re finished.
To extrapolate this out to the rest of our lives, the same idea is generally held to with most treatments aimed at restoring wellbeing and homeostasis/balance. For a brief period we must utilize imbalanced treatment in order to accelerate the move towards balance or returning to wellness, but as we approach it our treatment plan/dosage often changes and becomes less extreme so that there’s no “overshoot” into the opposing imbalances.
What do you think? How do you treat? How do you prefer to be worked on?