I thought I was leaving paradise when I left the islands to head up north, but learned that Chang Mai is a paradise all of its own. Really, it's a healer's paradise, a yogi's play-land, a massage therapist's dream, and a music lover's never-ending concert, so anyone that knows me knows that Chiang Mai is my interpretation of heaven on earth. I have been touched and inspired by this city. I have learned and grown as an individual here, but even more so as a healer, a yogi, a massage therapist. I spent over two weeks in Chiang Mai, my days furthering my massage skills at the Sunshine Massage School, my evenings furthering my yoga practice, and my weekends experiencing the beauty of this country. The city is full of western comforts and foods to accommodate all the western travelers and I certainly indulged in many things that I have been deprived of for the past six months. (Sushi, cheeses, sandwiches, live blues and rock and roll). Before coming to Chiang Mai, I was initially turned off by the idea of how touristy it is, but came to the understanding that instead of implying a negative connotation with "touristy", I can now claim the culture of the travelers as an incredible one, and there's a pure, true to the core, reason that people choose to come here. I love sitting in cafes and hearing the rolling boil of expats explaining their lives, getting to hear about who they are, what they do back home, and then get to see who this person is as a traveler - an essence, or perhaps a totality, of their true being.
Sunshine Massage School was a professional setting for learning, with experienced teachers and a friendly staff. The students that attended the school all came from different backgrounds. Some of us, massage therapists, others, yoga instructors - all bodyworkers of some sort with different levels of experience. Each day, it took me almost 45 minutes to walk to school, so I woke up extra early to leisurely walk through the city and enjoy the realities of life in Thailand. My walk was a beautiful one as I passed many Buddhist temples, walked along a canal that surrounded old city, and walked along the riverside to cross into the other side of town, but the sunshine certainly left me hot and sun-scorched by the time I arrived each day. After a sacred ritual of washing our feet as we arrived, we started class with a prayer to the doctor of medicine, asking for his grace and guidance in our healings, followed by chanting Om's to heighten the vibration of the classroom each day. We covered energy lines, astrology, the zodiac calendar, and about eighty different assisted yoga stretches for us to perform on our clients, to create a two-and-a-half- hour massage sequence. The work was hard, partially just getting back into the rhythm of responsibility, but also the physicality of the massage, lifting legs, twisting spines, opening hips, and a number of movements that not only require physical strength, but also proper body mechanics to keep our own bodies in good health. My teacher understood my fascination with using these techniques on my laboring mothers, so she often shifted the lesson a bit to guide me in the proper direction. After two full weeks of practice, I received my certificate, only wishing I had more time to do a longer course! There's so much more for me to learn!
My first weekend in Chiang Mai was spent at an Inversions Workshop at the yoga studio I had been attending. It was a six-hour workshop, split between Saturday and Sunday and covered many aspects of yoga inversions (forearm balances, handstands, headstands). It was about breaking fear, building strength, finding balance and flexibility, and taught us yoga teachers a great way of supporting our own students through their inversion struggles. The teacher was incredibly educated on kinesiology and explained everything in a very specific way, making us bodyworkers cheese out on anatomy! As I have continued to struggle with handstand in my own yoga practice, I feel like I took a lot from this course, and I'm excited to find that balance and strength that I need. Beyond this workshop, I spent about half my time in Chiang Mai at the Wild Rose Yoga studio. The teachers were different everyday and had so much to offer. I was beyond impressed with the comfort, love, and support within those studio walls and through the collection of courses, I felt inspired and touched to be a greater yogi within my own practice and a greater teacher as well.
My second weekend in Chiang Mai, we went to an Elephant Sanctuary in the jungle not far outside of the city. I was touched by the opportunity to interact with the elephants and hear their story. A Thai woman, daughter of a Shaman, started the sanctuary fifteen years ago to help keep the elephants of Thailand off the streets and out of the care of abusive handlers. There stories were devastating. One elephant was a breeding elephant. She lived with a chain around her hind leg to keep her contained and while she was in labor, she broke her hip from the constraints. Another elephant was forced to work as a logger, hauling tree trunks up mountainsides. She delivered her baby while working one day, however the baby elephant didn't make it because of the laborious work. The mother refused to work while she was grieving the loss of her baby, and her owner stabbed her in the eye, blinding her. There was a total of 49 elephants that had a history of stories like these, and the sanctuary actually purchased them from their abusive owners to give them a safe place to live on the three-hundred acre sanctuary grounds. We spent the day feeding them, washing in the river with them, and sharing love that these gentle giants deserve. These creatures are amazing beings and spending time with them influenced my own perspectives of how to live life. Their kindness and gentleness spread across the sanctuary, even after years of abuse and injury.
Although I was tired from school, I managed to make it out with Hannah some evenings to catch live music at a Blues Bar on the edge of Old City, to walk the miles of night markets where artisans of all sorts sold their goods, we went to a Tiger Kingdom (which was actually a terrible tourist trap that we fell for and I don't support at all), and we visited some amazing Buddhist Temples. Once school was over, however, it was time to move on and squeeze in one more small adventure before my Visa ran out, and that's how I ended my trip...in Pai.
Pai is a little hippie town in the mountains of Thailand, with tye-dye clothing, dreadlocks, joints, and classic rock in every corner. You can spend your day times, doing yoga, taking workshops of fermentation, drinking Kombucha, or sitting in silence at a local mediation center. You can spend your evenings dancing under a disco ball, drinking a literal bucket of cocktail (or a psychedelic mushroom smoothie, if that's more your style), and dancing to anything from classic rock to electronic. I tended to find a balance in the middle, drinking mango mojitos and enjoying my book, while I sat and watched the chaos that transpired once the sun went down. The whole town is like shakedown street at any festival I've been to, local vendors selling food or crystal wraps, dream catchers, or, tye-dye clothing. It was a great place for me to relax at the end of school and at the end of my Thailand experience.
Now on my way to Indonesia, where my soul has been drawn to for quite some time. I look forward to discovering what it is, exactly, that my soul is looking for...I'll keep ya posted!
Our prayer to Shivago:
We invite the spirit of our founder, the father doctor Shivago, who comes to us through his saintly life. Please bring us the knowledge of all Nature, that this prayer will show us the true medicine of the universe. In the name of this mantra, we respect your help and pray that through our bodies you will bring us wholeness and health to the body of our client. The Goddess of healing dwells in the heavens high, while humankind dwells in the world below. In the name of the founder may the heavens be reflected in the world below so this healing medicine may encircle the world.We pray for the ones we though, that they will be happy and illness will release from them.
Om namo Shivago Silasa ahang karuniko sapasatanang ostaha tipa-mantanag papaso suriya-jantang gomalapato paka-sesi wantami bantito smethaso Alokha sumana homi. piyo-tewa manussanang Piyo-proma namuttamo Piyo-nakha supananang Pinisiang nama-mihang namo-puttaya navon-navien. Nasatit-nasatien Ehi-mama Navien-nawe Napai-tang vien. Navein-mahaaku Ehi mama Pyong-mama NAmo puttaya. Na-a Na-wa Lokha Payatii Vina-santi.