More and more, the question is coming up – “What is Thai Yoga Therapy?”, and “Is Thai Yoga Therapy the same as Thai Massage?”. And I wish the answer were simple, but it’s a little more involved.
One thing that we need to be clear on first is that Thai Massage, as an umbrella of bodywork includes so many different styles of practice, theories of the body and methods of applying techniques. This makes it really difficult to define what Thai massage is, and so to compare it to anything else can be difficult. It also means that the experience of people who receive a treatment can be wildly inconsistent and be unrecognizable from one practitioner to the next. In some ways, by naming our school Navina™ we wanted to create distinction between Thai Massage and Thai Yoga Therapy, yet at the same time honour the roots of this practice. It’s also important to know that not everyone will have the same definition of Thai Yoga Therapy either, and so the definition I’m about to explain is truly our own and cannot be translated to other schools and educational institutions (unfortunately).
To let you into the process of how and why we chose the name Thai Yoga Therapy instead of Thai Massage, I’ve listed the main considerations and thoughts below:
- Reputation of Thai Massage – let’s face it, there’s still a pretty strong stigma around Thai Massage and their correlation to erotic massage. We wanted to avoid such thoughts as that’s clearly not what we’re about and so we wanted to direct the attention towards yoga and therapy, which are both more professionally recognized.
- “Massage” creates a box – when you commonly think of what massage is, usually you’ll picture a table, with oils and having to disrobe for the treatment, which involves gliding strokes along the surface of the skin. Whilst there are modes of Thai massage that employ oils and friction techniques, this is not the way we practice or teach, here at Navina™. We incorporate a wide variety of techniques, ranging from acupressure-like manipulations of the soft tissue, joint mobilisation, passive stretching, active stretching, fascial release techniques, to tapotement and more. So in this way the word “massage” does not really encompass all that we do.
- Therapeutics – many schools teach the forms of Thai massage, but not many (in my experience) understand or educate on the therapeutic applications of such techniques. In many instances, sequences are taught and those sequences are certainly tried and tested and shown to be beneficial. However, if we’re thinking about helping people in the most effective and efficient ways possible, we have to have a deeper understanding of why we use techniques, the order in which techniques are applied, and of course the ways in which those techniques are applied. For that to happen we have to have a sound understanding of anatomy and physiology. Essentially, our goal is to elevate the practice of Thai massage to a therapeutic standard. This cannot be done simply by changing the name to Thai Yoga Therapy, but it is a step towards an accurate representation of what we do. As an additional consideration it was important for us to consider was lifting the standard of education and practice for the schools who shared a similar vision, without harming any of the other schools. We were thankfully warned about this early, and harming other schools is in no way any part of our intention, we’re just on our mission.
- We’re not a traditional school – in fact, the name “Navina” means ‘new’, ‘fresh’, or ‘modern’, which accurately represents our approach. Directed at blending the best of traditional practices with a contemporary understanding of the human body, our curriculum needed to be represented uniquely in order to encompass this. In a modern world, old practices must adapt and education is the first component of that process. By understanding the modern sciences, we’re also able to enhance the therapeutics of the work we do. As an additional note here: this doesn’t detract from the traditional forms of Thai Massage – they were adaptations of older practices that were changed to suit the times and culture as well. We just have to keep that process of evaluation and evolution happening.
You can see that it’s a little more involved than you might have initially thought. Essentially, Navina™ Thai Yoga Therapy uses many of the same techniques, postures and forms as Thai Massage, yet our philosophies of practice, the application of techniques and the underlying knowledge of the human body are different.
I hope that helps with clarity.