A NICE STEAM sauna, a soothing massage, a cup of fragrant herb tea, a spot of meditation - most of us will have enjoyed at least some exposure to these age old health boosts while visiting Chiangmai. But how many of us stop to think about the deep traditions and rich cultural heritage they embody or the ancient wisdom they draw from - a wisdom passed down generations of healers, often only by word of mouth.
Thailand has a long history of healing culture, much of it imported over 2500 years ago from China and India, to be then embellished and blended with local lore.
Traditional healing has always sought to treat the whole person body, mind, and spirit. Recent years have brought a resurgence of interest in the ways of old as people, pushed to the edge by modern stresses, seek once more that inner balance and harmony, looking deeper than the treating of symptoms alone for a more holistic approach. Chiangmai is known as a medical health hub throughout the region of greater Asia.
For besides medical history, the part played by relationships, environment, and attitude is also considered in the forming of a diagnosis. And now more Thais are beginning to proudly reclaim their ancient wisdom, turning again to meditation and natural therapies. Visitors to Thailand can find an ever increasing number of places to receive herbal and steam compress, natural tonics and remedies, and also a special kind of training in Thai massage.
More popular than ever, this unique form of body manipulation is attracting tourists from far and wide for well structured and very reasonably priced 5 and 10 day courses. The best known centre for traditional healing and massage in the north are: ITM Institute of Thai Massage, The Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai and Chetawan Massage School, Chotana/Chiangmai Branch. More and more modern hospitals are also offering traditional treatments nowadays as part of their ongoing research programmes. The Lanna Hospital together with the Siam Spa have introduced a special 30-day program for women who have given birth. The program involves two weekly three hour sessions at Siam Spa Think Earth Think Beauty at either one of the two convenient branches.
Traditional Thai medicine does not separate itself from religious beliefs, and the Buddha's teachings form an intrinsic part of the healing tradition. The Buddha spoke of the four main elements, namely earth, wind, water, and fire as being the very essence of life and how their equilibrium was a sign of good health. These four elements form the material aspect of human life, the other two aspects being spirit and energy.
ElementsElements refer then to the body, and different organs being associated with one of the four elements were therefore treated accordingly. For example, if someone has heart problems - considered to be a earth organ - their treatment may involve coating them with clay or earth. Similarly for paralysis of the muscles, Body liquid ailments - being ‘water' - would be treated with warm or cold water, depending on their need for stimulation or calming. Wind (breathing ) treatment involves good air, and fire of course involving the application of heat, as in steam compresses for example.
The spirit controls the body through the use of energy which in turn controls the functions of the body. If energy lines are obstructed the person feels bad, physically or emotionally. Massage and steam baths would then stimulate the energy flow and rejuvenate the patient. Another kind of boost which is becoming increasingly popular is the use of "Universal Energy" - a channeling of healing energy through the hands to the patient. This is offered free of charge at some temples at designated times.
In bygone times, life in a community revolved very much around the temple and the monks played a far more active role in the healing arts by reading from sacred texts, chanting or performing special ceremonies. These days there is less emphasis on the temple but the understanding of the value of meditation in the healing process is still well recognised.o
Easy to find recommendations
Contact Thai Massage schools: ITM Institute of Thai Massage at Tel. 053 218632, The Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai at Tel. 053 275085,Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai (TMC) Tel: 053-854330, Chetawan Massage School Chotana/Chiangmai Branch at Tel. 053 410360, Huen Samunprai Lamphun at Tel. 053 534977. Many more choices at www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/1_massage.html
Care for spa care products to use at home? Order healthful and soothing products from Auntie Ornsri by calling for the product list at Tel. 053 498326 or 053 303 103.
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