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Are you familiar with the sensation of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Of feeling like there’s something stuck in your body-- a deep ache, a crick in your neck or a spasm that came from out of the blue? Or sometimes our mental and emotional stressors seem to manifest in our physical body. Why is this?
Thai element theory states that there is a progression of imbalance and disease through our human bodies that explains this manifestation. In short, pathogens (germs, moisture, heat, cold) condense down through the physical layers of our body; if left to persist for too long in one layer, they progress into the next deepest layer causing restriction of movement and pain. Through Thai bodywork we dissipate these areas inviting the body to open up and release blockages, allowing for increased movement which decreases pain.
Skin is our largest organ. Often we don’t give it much of a second thought, but actually, this thin covering is our first layer of protection. In a healthy body it allows pathogens and waste out of our system while creating a barrier against other pathogens trying to get in. If we are weakened or overwhelmed from the outside world, more pressure is placed on our skin to protect us, and sometimes pathogens slip through.
Once this pathogen permeates the skin it condenses into the tissue layer, permeating the muscles and fascia, creating binding, pain, aching and spasm. This is where the crick in the neck becomes apparent, or the headache starts to set in, or the emotional worries make the abdomen sensitive. Imbalance at this stage is easily taken care of through massage. We find where the condensation is causing issues and encourage dissipation. We clear blockages where there is supposed to be movement, break up adhesions and separate bound tissues.
If this condensation isn’t dissipated, the affected tissue will begin constricting the next layer of the body: the Sên (in Thai), or the pathways of movement. These are our nerves, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. When movement is inhibited, areas of stagnation start to develop. Blood and nerve impulses aren’t able to travel freely and toxins (old blood, lack of oxygen) begin to build up in the area. Massage at this stage is focused on releasing the bound tissue so the Sên can flow freely through the body. We’ll also work directly on these pathways, making space in the trenches they lie, to allow for unimpeded movement.
Stagnation and toxin build-up love to coalesce in the joints, at the bends in the path. Movement gets stuck here and creates pain and inflammation. This is why after working out the blockages in the tissue and Sên layer, we work on this bone layer using traction, jostling and range of motion to encourage movement back into the body.
In this particular pathway of imbalance, of condensation and dissipation, the last layer of the body to be affected is the internal organs, if they are affected at all. This moves us out of the realm of body work, so I’ll stop there.
Of course there are many more factors that can influence the way imbalance comes about in our bodies. This is one progression, a relationship between the condensation of a physical issue and the dissipation of that issue through bodywork. My job as a practitioner is to facilitate your body in opening up, releasing blockages to allow you to float through the world a little lighter and more balanced.
With peace and goodwill,