During one and a half decades of practicing and teaching Thai Massage, I have learned quite a lot about the magic of touch. I know it is there, I have seen it, felt it and experienced it, and I don’t need any more proof other than my experience.
I am writing this from my perspective of living in Thailand. Here people are less intellectually inclined and much less obsessed with scientific proof for everything. No therapist or client discusses the scientific validity of Thai Massage.
I am not claiming to be right with my point of view – however I am offering a perspective from an angle that diverges from prominent western thinking.
There are lots of articles and studies that all try prove the validity and the benefits of massage and touch. For me it is a bizarre western phenomenon to demand that everything needs to be proven to the satisfaction of the scientific community.
Prove your love to me!
Imagine this scenario: Girlfriend tells boyfriend: “I love you”. Boyfriend responds: “That sounds great, but first I need to know if there are any scientific studies that validate the concept of love!”
Girlfriend is bewildered: “But darling, I feel it in my heart!” Boyfriend replies: “That is all good and well, but I need specific proof that this ‘love thing’ is really working all the time.
If you can show me some double blind studies verifying and documenting the concept, backed up by some scientific authorities from high level universities, I will go for it.”
Girlfriend says: “You are crazy, you have a heart of stone and the feelings of a robot. I will find myself a man with a heart.”
Common sense and the value of personal experience
This might sound like a weird story to you since nobody in their right mind would even think of doing something that ridiculous. But it’s really not so different from demanding scientific proof that touch and massage are beneficial.
Anyone who ever had a good massage session knows that it feels great, it relaxes you, and it makes you feel so much better (if you have a therapist who believes in the magic of touch).
Eastern and western definitions of massage benefits
If you ask any therapist in Thailand what the benefits of Thai Massage are, you will get an answer along these lines: “Massage is very good, it is relaxing, good for your energy, good for your health.”
And that would already be an elaborate explanation. The short answer might be: “Thai Massage makes you feel better”.
In contrast, if you ask a western therapist about the benefits of massage, chances are he or she will launch into a scientific explanation, cite all kinds of studies and verifiable research, tell you about muscle tone, heart rate, chemical changes, immune system reactions, and lymph flow just to name a few.
How much proof do you really need?
Does it really add anything to your massage experience if you know how much seratonin and dopamine levels change, or how much of a particular chemical is produced in your body?
Or is your massage experience affected by what some white coated researchers found out in their labs, and what a number of double blind studies revealed? Most likely not.
There is nothing wrong with knowing about those studies.
But there is something wrong with demanding scientific evidence for very obvious things like feelings of love, the experience of a good massage, or the delicious taste of a juicy ripe mango.
These are all examples where personal experience and common sense should be good enough to substantiate the experience without additional proof.
Some things in life can only be experienced
There is a magic in our minds when we have an intense beautiful feeling. Do you remember really being in love? Do you remember holding your newborn baby? Do you remember biting into that delicious apple pie? Do you remember having this amazing massage?
Do you really need anyone’s approval for your feelings? Would you let anyone talk you out of your feelings or experience?
We often think too much and feel too little, and often use our brain when we should use our feelings and intuition.
Some things in life are magical, sacred and precious, and they do not need to be validated or dissected with our intellect.
The magic of touch is one of the most wonderful experiences in life. Think of the touch of a lover, the heartfelt embrace of a close friend, crying on the shoulder of a compassionate person, holding and stroking your baby, seeing the pure pleasure of your dog or cat when you rub their belly, and that heavenly massage you once received.
The magical prescription
The magic of touch can only be experienced through relaxation, shutting off the mind, and surrendering to the magic of the moment. If you try to process it with your mind and rationalize it scientifically, it will certainly elude you.
You might end up knowing all the reasons and benefits of massage, but the only thing that really matters, the actual magical experience, will be filtered out by the activity of your mind.
Luckily living in Thailand and being exposed to a culture which embraces Thai Massage without constant demands for scientific validation has helped me to open my mind to a different way of thinking about massage therapy.
Here is my personal not so scientific prescription for benefiting from massage: Feel more and think less.
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 18 years, and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org