Now that massage therapy and other wholistic health modalities have become more popular, some would say the massage industry has become saturated. In some cities and countries it has. A country like Dubai has one of the highest concentrations of spas per capita in the world.
There was a running joke among us massage students that in one particular Southern California city there was a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a yoga studio and a massage therapist on every corner. The ugly reality of that joke was that there were other Southland communities that were not getting the health benefits of these preventive care treatments due to economics, so instead of wellness practitioners on every corner, there were liquor stores and street pharmacists on those corners. So much for healthy stress management and preventive care in those communities. Unfortunately, that scenario is duplicated in cities across America.
Early on in my health practice, I was blessed to have met and networked with other massage therapists and health practitioners (herbalists, acupuncturist, martial arts teachers, medical doctors, nutritionists, wholistic health educators, yoga teachers) that were passionate about awakening the knowledge of wholistic health back into these under served communities and neighborhoods. I use the word awaken because for many African American, Latino and American Indian communities, wholistic health was our traditional medicine for generations. However, as we moved away from living in connection to the land and our elders, much of that knowledge was forgotten or simply dismissed as “old ways”. Even in modern-day China, there was a period of renaissance and re-discovery of their own Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), now used in association with a modern model of medicine and healthcare delivery.
Decades later, while there are still massive institutional health disparities and barriers across the board, for both African American healthcare practitioners and patients, I am happy to see that using their own innovation, business imagination and acumen, these health practitioners have offered the community safe places to get a massage-a legitimate massage, take a yoga class, grow their own food and start food cooperatives, learn stress management skills, or simply offer a safe place to sit and sip some herb tea and take a breath break in one’s own neighborhood.
While Western quantum physics is affirming many of the principles of indigenous traditional healing modalities such as TCM, Western medical science has been slow to welcome these preventative healing practices into the medical marketplace. I challenge those on the wave of the current healthcare transition to incorporate a more integrative healthcare system that uses these practitioners and formalizes the payment for services in a fair way that serves the interest of the patient, the practitioner and the larger community.