This trip has been an endless parade of learning experiences and adventures. And my last couple of days at TMC, Wednesday and Thursday this week, have just kept on delivering.
On Wednesday we travelled over an hour south of Chiang Mai to a temple in Lampoon Province. There we learned Tok Sen and experienced a Yam Khan treatment from Phor Mor Tananan Fainanta. Tok Sen is “Hammer Massage” and Yam Khan is “Foot-on-Fire, Step On Massage.”
Phor Mor Tananan learned Thai Traditional Medicine from his grandfather and is one of the last remaining Thai Medicine Doctors “Phor Mor” in the province who still practices this art. He is also an instructor for the Thai Traditional Medicine departments at the Universities of Lampoon and Chiang Rai.
Before the teaching began, our group made an offering to Phor Mor Tananan in front of the Buddha Statue in an open air, covered structure atop a hill, overlooking the countryside and the mountains to the west.
The morning teaching began with Tok Sen. In Tok Sen, a wooden peg is placed on the body atop a sen line, and pressure points along these lines (energy lines), and tapped repeatedly with a wooden mallet “musically” as it is moved over the body. The vibration from the hammering moves through your body creating a most wonderful, relaxation response. Each of the wooden pieces is inscribed with a healing mantra which the practitioner is to recite silently as they hammer the sen lines over the head, neck, shoulders, back, legs, and feet. Phor Mor Tananan demonstrated and we spent the morning practicing our Tok Sen on each other while he came around to correct and refine our technique. His young grand-daughter has also been trained in this technique and assisted with the demonstrations, corrections, and treatments.
In the afternoon we experienced Yam Khan, a “Foot-on-Fire, Step On Massage” treatment. Phor Mor Tananan lit charcoal in a pot and partially covered it with an old metal plow blade. The pot rested next to the treatment mat, along with two containers. One container held a mixture of water, herbs, and oil and the other held a mixture of oils only. He would dip his foot into the water and touch the flat of the hot plow blade, then lean on his crooked staff as he rubbed his hot foot over our back, legs, or arms. Then he would dip his foot into the oil and when he touched his foot to the plow blade a great burst of fire shot up from the blade. He then used his toes, the ball of his foot and his heel to dig into tight, resistant muscles and blockages. At the beginning of my treatment his foot felt very hot but as the massage continued it just felt pleasantly warm with the soothing oil, and pressure from his foot, melting away the tension. He used his wonderfully crooked cane as a support, using his body weight to lean into me with his foot. Earlier in our TMC course we had learned how to do the Step On Massage, but without the “Foot-on-Fire.”
Whether it is lighting a staff and poi balls on fire at Circus School, experiencing a “foot on fire” massage from Phor Mor Tananan, or simply living in the heat that is Chiang Mai in March and April, I feel like I have definitely been travelling on a fire-themed journey.
At the end of the day before heading back to Chiang Mai, Phor Mor Tananan chose a peg and hammer for me that will be my healing tools for Tok Sen when I return home. Now, I know that not all of my clients may want to try the hammer treatment, but I do know many will be curious to try it at least once. And there are a few clients (and you know who you are) that I know will be smiling from ear to ear right now, and will be “pounding” down my door to be hammered. And I will be happy to oblige!
I also plan on doing Step On Massage (without my feet on fire by the way) once I have had a staff made that I will use as my support.
Today, Thursday, we journeyed an hour north of the city to a facility that trains mentally and physically challenged youth and young adults in vocational work. Our class had the opportunity to provide massage to some of the residents and staff at the facility. It was a wonderful experience for us all, with many smiles and thanks exchanged. These field trips have been an invaluable professional and cultural experience for us all.
It is hard to believe but there is only one more day left and my five week training comes to an end.