One thing I’ve learned over the past 10 years is people expect to get what they see. What I see is that the internet tends to perpetuate stereotypes.I watched a movie called ‘The Social Dilemma’ all about how our relationship with technology has changed the way we think and behave. By designing algorithms that are able to predict our behaviours better than we can. Making suggestions that change the way we think and act. It is true about everything on the internet including the Pretzel myth.
The Pretzel myth is a lie that says a Thai massage twists you into a pretzel with the possibility the knot might never come undone. People see pictures and they click on them. Click. Hover. Read. Buy. The people who click see themselves. All of this leads to the alienation of people who could use Thai massage the most. The gentleman with fibromyalgia. The elderly lady who needs human touch and the release from anxiety. The non-binary amputee. The child or adult with autism. We have to remember that the images you see on the internet are posed models with makeup artists and professional photographers. These are demonstrations where the models match in height. The models are flexible, beautiful, fit and young, able bodied. Now, do you think that is the majority of Thai massage recipients? Of course not. The people need Thai massage even if you are sick, frail, have body issues, have the blues. There is no reason to judge in Thai massage. Anyone is invited to my mat.
Yet there is a persistent myth that keeps getting perpetuated in the echo chamber of the algorithm...
Perpetuating the myth is not advantageous for either the practitioner or receiver. Images of “baby cobra” “twisting wing” “ultimate water pump” for example. People may approach the massage with zeal and vigour, expecting to be twisted like a pretzel. If the practitioner doesn’t take the time to explain how the massage will proceed, the client may be disappointed. If the practitioner only does what the above client expects, she may become detached from her work or injured from over working. For every pretzel person there is a perfectly good bagel with the works that is lost.
Most Thai massages consist of gentle, medium and firm sen work. Rocking back and forth with palming, thumbing, and rolling the forearm. It can be as gentle or strong as you want it to be. Understanding your dosha can have a profound effect on how you experience your massage as well, but the important thing is that nobody receives the exact same massage. It is tailored to each person through good verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes a certain stretch is all that’s needed for moving sen line energy, and sometimes not. The poses you see are used only as indicated. In other words, if a practitioner feels a certain stretch or compression is necessary for the sen they are working they will do it. In cases where a stretch or compression could be harmful or unsafe in any way they will definitely avoid it!
It may not be every day that we see relaxing images of Thai massage on the internet, they tend to look painful, awkward, or downright impossible for you. That’s because the pictures used on the internet are there to highlight the uniqueness of Thai massage. As they pointed out in the movie “The Social Dilemma” I am guilty of perpetuating the myth even though I see what is happening and I consider it bad for our image as practitioners. I do it anyway, to grab attention.
So the Pretzl myth has been untangled. There’s no need for ‘not for me’ the next time you see an article for thai massage and you see exotic, dynamic stretches. Try to remember those are only meant to impress, and don’t address what thai massage is really about, Service to the sick. And I vow to better in my own marketing using less of the impossible postures and more different ages, body types and even moods in my promotions.