One of the noticeable contemporary developments in the Thai Massage community, both in Thailand and across the globe, is hybridization. It means that Thai Traditional Massage concepts, methods and techniques are taken up and mixed, blended, integrated, emphasized or used isolated within other healing disciplines.
Examples thereof are modern phenomena like Osteothai, PhysioThai, Chi Nei Tsang, Shiatsu-Thai, Vedic Thai, or Thai Yoga Massage, to name some “new” healing modalities.
One of the questions that arise is if it’s “wise” to mix healing systems with different conceptional backgrounds. I mean, does hybridization perhaps counteract or impede healing? I don’t know. It’s just a question. I cannot give an informed judgment here, because I do know what’s Thai Massage about, but I have little knowledge and experience with other healing disciplines.
To give an example of how a hybrid might work, let’s take a look at Osteothai. What we see happening here is that Thai Massage therapists are taught to bring in Osteopathic fine-grained tissue and mobility restriction release techniques into Thai Massage sessions. Of course, if Osteopaths take such a training course they will bring in Thai Massage techniques, such as Thai Yogic stretches, in Osteopathic healing work. Things go both ways.
Of course, doing so (I’m referring to the example above) could improve healing and healing results if one considers that one takes the “best of both worlds” to tackle certain health issues or pathologies.
What I do find a matter of concern is the fact that non-specialists, say in our example-case — non-Osteopaths, start to use osteopathic techniques without having a proper Osteopathy training or education. So, you can be an excellent, proficient and well-qualified Thai Massage therapist, but what are the results of using osteopathic techniques if you don’t have a decent Osteopathy education? Again, I don’t know. Just another question.
Another example of a well-known hybrid is what nowadays is called Thai Yoga Massage. Well, perhaps hybrid is not the right description exactly. Because this is not so much a mix of two distinct healing modalities, but emphasis and exaggeration of a certain intrinsic part of Thai Massage, in this case the Yogic stretching techniques found in Thai Massage.
By putting more theoretical and practical emphasis on yogic stretches and making them a bigger part than usual of a Thai Massage training course or treatment session, Thai Yoga Massage is born. In itself perhaps nothing wrong with this practice, but in the past 15 years Thai Yoga Massage has gradually become almost synonymous with Thai Traditional Massage. This of course is an anomaly and can easily give students an incorrect picture of what’s supposed to be Thai Massage.
Of course, Thai Traditional Massage as we known it nowadays is a modality that developed and evolved over hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years. No doubt historically that Thai Massage is a blend and hybrid also, influenced by Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, and local indigenous healing practices. Yet, it came about during a very long process of trial and error, experience, and gradual change, being refined and fine-tuned within a region and cultural context what today is called Thailand.
Certainly there’s no use in trying to stop today’s hybridization in Thai Massage. It’s going, it’s happening, it’s there. We can only try to be sensible and critical. And for sure, in ten, twenty or a hundred years Thai Massage will have a completely new face. Perhaps same, same, but different, or perhaps only totally different. But hopefully for the better.