It seems to me that when we talk about the ‘immune system’, we’re coming from more of a medical jargon perspective, and that could become a very complicated conversation. So I’m going to answer this question in terms of what I think the average person most likely has in mind when they’re talking about the immune system.
When people are talking about their ‘immune system’ many times they are thinking about their general sense of well−being or the wellness of their body, somehow. As in: something that feels good for them could be called “good” as long as it boosts their immune system or it is bad for them to the extent it’s going to somehow weaken their immune system.
Even though the application of the modality seems to be very physical, Thai people talk about energy a lot – even to the point that this practice is not seen as a physical practice. Traditionally, the physical part of the healing practice relates more to the use of herbs and diet as medicine: different spices and herbs used in the preparation of different types of food.
Traditionalists consider this thing that I do, that has been loosely translated as Thai Massage, not as bodywork, but more as energy work that has a kind of ‘flow’, which is a much more subtle thing. For the most part, they have very little knowledge or interest in the western model of anatomy or physiology and the specifics of muscles, bones, ligaments, nerves, etc. For the longest time, it was not okay to do any kind of dissection of cadavers or anything like that. They found it quite unnecessary, since they don’t consider the work a type of physical manipulation at all.
They look at it more from a quantum physics perspective, as in what you might be seeing on a macro scale are muscles and bones, but if you look through your microscope and really get into it, eventually it all turns into vibrational energy. Molecules turning into atoms and atoms made up of electrons and then smaller and smaller particles until eventually all you can perceive is a flow and vibration of life. And that’s what Traditional Thai Yoga Massage teachers and practitioners feel is being manipulated through the practice.
Even though a practitioner is pulling on the arm and moving it this way and that way − it’s really the meridians throughout the body which are important. The meridians – called “Sen” in Thai – are channels along which life force/energy flows, just like in Acupuncture. They are not exactly the same channels, but very much the same idea.
If the pathways are flowing freely (like in a freeway system where the traffic is moving nicely) then the body will go into a state of homeostasis. It will go into a space where it can sort itself out. For example, if you cut yourself and you apply a Band-Aid, the Band-Aid is facilitating a healing response in the body. The Band Aid is just holding the edges of the wound together, but you start to heal almost immediately. Somehow your cells are binding and soon the cut is starting to close up and it’s all good.
You don’t even necessarily have to understand exactly how your body healed itself, it just does without much intervention. The concept applies to your growing fingernails; your beating heart; your growing hair and all of that. And we can assume to the extent that you’re well fed, you’re happy, and comfortable, all of these other processes are going to be working well.
That’s the whole concept of energy flow in Thai Yoga Massage. As long as we get the traffic flowing freely in these pathways in the body, we can trust that the body will sort itself out, which it does, and then amazing miracles can happen in the body. Sometimes we can explain how improvements happen, and sometimes improvements are part of a bigger picture that we can’t exactly pinpoint.
There can be a lot of confusion about these processes, because we are actually much more like a living plant than a mechanical device like a clock or a car. But the way we talk about anatomy and physiology in the modern world, sounds as if the medical profession actually thinks that our bodies are like a mechanical object – just like you could take off the wheels and put different tires on and then put them back on again and then it’s going to be better, or like you could just focus on the exhaust system of the car, independent of the rest of the vehicle.
Obviously you can’t just unscrew parts of the body and put other parts in and expect it to work better. In this way the body is more like a plant, if there’s a problem with the leaves of the plant, you noticing that the leaves are turning brown, you can’t just focus on the leaves. You’re going to have to use some fertilizer in the dirt, maybe water it more or protect the plant from the sun. Then the leaves tend to improve as a result of the whole plant getting nourished. That is what goes on with our bodies in the healing process. Granted, it’s easier to teach people about bodies and physiological systems by using a mechanical model, but if you pay too much attention to that and take it literally, you can actually go way off track.
I’d love to hear your questions and feedback. Plus, if you’re ready to learn more about energy flow, meridians or Thai Yoga Massage techniques – join me for a live workshop or class! Check out my calendar here.