This has been quite a common question from my clients/patients in the last few years of my practice. And it’s a really important one for us to discuss. The future of Thai Massage and Thai Yoga Therapy looks promising, but what it holding us back right now?
For any practitioners and teachers of Thai Massage reading this, please know that this article may feel quite confrontational. I hope that by mentioning this early, it can be instead received as an educational and eye-opening piece that is simply candid in nature.
In a world where we tend towards extremes, we generally have two distinct groups: traditionalists who hold very strongly to the idea of ancient ways and maintaining lineage; and modernists who turn their attention off as soon as you mention complimentary and alternative therapies. In the last few years I can say that it has been frustratingly rare to find colleagues who can stand in the middle and who are aiming their sights towards bringing the best of the tradition and blending it with the best of the modern science.
This is one of our main barriers to wide-spread access to Thai Yoga Therapy as a covered health service. In a contemporary world we must be willing and able to adapt old practices in a way that honours their purpose and at the same time puts these methods through their paces. No modality, no therapy, and no science should ever be accepted on gospel and each must undergo rigorous testing.
Many traditionalists reading this may suggest that something as old as Thai Massage has already passed the tests. I would challenge that thought by noting that we have new lenses with which we can scrutinize our practice and that we should never stop putting something through it’s paces, lest it gradually veer away from our therapeutic intentions and become obsolete. We should also have faith in knowing that any practice that has already withstood many tests of time will simply be continuously “cleaned” via a consistent critical eye.
To any modernists in the group, it’s important to remember that many of the modern therapies we think of as regular, run-of-the-mill treatments actually originated in older systems of medicine. Many of the drugs used to treat ailments are derived from old tinctures and blends that were used for centuries. So, whilst there is definitely some hocus pocus out there, many of our current medications and therapies came from what we now term complimentary and alternative therapies. The difference is, in those circumstances, scientists were willing to put these medicines through their paces. Some cleaning of irrelevant or ineffective treatment happens along the way, but out the other end we’ve reaped many benefits as a whole. Just think of how many more benefits are available if we keep our willingness to scientific exploration open.
Considering the two main extremes, not much tends to get done in the way of advancing or blending new and old sciences. Extending from a lot of unwillingness to learn from one another, we see a resulting lack of scientific study and documentation.
With a limited pool of scientific literature, it then becomes somewhat difficult to inform education. As a result, the education for Thai Massage is vastly differing and to be honest, there’s a lot of dangerous things that are being taught out there. I still see and hear about the use of techniques that are unsafe, misunderstood, misused and poorly translated.
All of this leads to inconsistency in experience and therapeutic outcome. And in a modern world we must be able to reproduce results – not necessarily through establishing set protocols or treatment formulae, but by ensuring that practitioners have a certain level of understanding of the body, the way it moves, how it works and therefore the ways we can interact with it to achieve a desired outcome.
If you’re an educator of Thai Massage or a practitioner, here’s what we need to start working on together as a community (and if you’re a devoted client, you’re an important part of this process in helping us document and learn!):
- Scientific Research
- Improved & Informed Education
- Blended Eastern & Western Practice
- Detailed Clinical Documentation
I have every confidence that Thai Yoga Therapy will eventually be covered by insurance companies, which will vastly improve access to a modality that has profound potential to facilitate health and wellness in all of us.
It’s just a matter of getting in, doing the work, being adaptable to learning new things and being open to letting go of tools that no longer maintain any relevance.