The Samoeng Loop

Doing Thai Massage takes strength and stamina, and I revel in physical challenges to keep me in shape. Cycling is one of my great passions and I was able to indulge that passion in spades this weekend.

My big plan was to ride the 100 km Samoeng Loop road that circles around the Doi Sutep mountain range on Saturday. There is a 1400 metre elevation change with some serious switchbacks and steep ascents and descents, but I was feeling up to it. Not, however, with my single speed “Create” bicycle.

The road bike I was to pick up Friday night from NK bike rental just outside the southeast corner of the old city walls didn’t get back to the shop in time. So the owner rented me a great Trek road bike and even threw in his own cycling shoes which happened to be a perfect fit. This is very unusual, as finding a bike big enough for me wasn’t easy, and to find a bike shop owner with the same size feet was uncanny.

After I picked up the bike, I met Nicole and Kelly at “Cooking Love” restaurant Friday for THE best mango chicken curry with rice and a whole fish. Then Nicole and I went gallery hopping as part of Galleries’ Night, an event organized by the Chiang Mai Art Conversation (CAC). Studios, galleries, event spaces such at Thaphae East, art cafes, and others, hosted art and photography exhibits, open studios, documentary films, live music, and provided free food and beverages (including beer!) Friday and Saturday night. It was an amazing event that took me all over the city, over the two nights.

By 7:30 am Saturday morning I donned my Bike Dr. cycling gear and set off for the Samoeng loop. Within the first 90 minutes I had two flat tires! Fortunately, I had a pump and repair kit with me so all I lost was time.

It was a beautiful and challenging ride through the mountains with many places to stop. On the trip I took breaks at a great cafe, several look out spots, a small town for lunch, and at a strawberry farm. There were spectacular views that I stopped to look at whenever it was safe, or when I needed to give my butt a rest.

Total cycling time was about five hours, and the total trip time with all the flats and breaks was about seven and a half hours. When I got back into the city I had my favourite banana black sesame smoothy at Pun Pun, then headed home for a shower before going to the Lanna Health Spa for a massage. It was a perfect end to the cycle trip.

Then I spent the night cycling around the Galleries’ Night events, including a documentary screening on a roof top where jumbo jets from the CNX airport took off directly over our heads. I also came upon a rock concert I was able to watch from outside the fence for a bit (sold out crowd of 10,000 people!), and of course I ate and ate and ate.

One more day and I begin my five week course at TMC (Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai).

 

The Cutler Experience

While cycling around town I stumbled upon the perfect place to tame my increasingly wild hair. The Cutler Ensemble – A Vintage Barber for Men.

This is definitely the place for hipsters, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, gentleman, and men of style in Chiang Mai. I felt like I was transported to another dimension really. And yes, I am describing a barbershop.

I enjoyed a cut and straight razor shave and met an articulate, young, bearded Norwegian entrepreneur in for a haircut and beard trim in the seat next to me. It was a wonderful experience, with a precision cut that employed two electric clippers and four different scissors. During my shave I had a face, head, and shoulder massage with hot and cold towels and all manor of great smelling soap, oil and cream, applied to my face.

I am SO excited because my stay in Chiang Mai is long enough that I can have another cut before I set off for home. An appointment at The Cutler is now at the top of my list for things to do when in Chiang Mai.

The Cutler Barber https://www.facebook.com/THECUTLERBARBER

To punctuate this great experience I took the advice of the owner and had lunch at Cerebrum and Friends Cafe across the street from The Cutler. Friendly service with great coffee and fresh, elegant salads and sandwiches in a super funky atmosphere made my day.

 

Tiggers have springs in their tails…

The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs. They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!

On Sunday my friend Peter from the UK (we met two years ago here and he is the reason I am studying Thai Massage with David Lutt) invited me to join him and a few others for a three and a half hour movement training class led by an American named Chance at Huai Kaeo Arboretuma, a park close to Chiang Mai University.

Chance led us through a full body warm up, specific exercises to challenge our ability to move in different directional planes (such as sideways, twisting, and diagonally), strength training using body weight, a focus on supportive breathing, and ways of movement that brought up fear – like jumping sideways, or head on, over concrete barriers. I am happy to report that no bodies were bloodied during the workout.

And yes, I paid for this.

After Chance had us explore the role of fear on our movement, and witnessing me spring over the concrete barrier, he exclaimed the words that I used as the title of this posting. There was much laughter and smiling through this workout!

Some aspects of the training were very similar to things I do at Freedom Functional Fitness http://www.freedom in Saskatoon. The idea is that if you can challenge your body and mind in a safe, supportive, and playful environment you increase your vitality while strengthening and preparing yourself to adapt and meet the challenges you will face in your life. Done in community it increases our feeling of connection with others, enhancing our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

I had the great pleasure to do partner work with a wonderful woman named Erica twice during our workout. Unfortunately, she strained her neck doing a very challenging core exercise, reminding me that it’s not always good to push too hard. However, Erica continued valiantly on and we had too much fun literally rolling over each other as a way to release tension held in our bodies and breath at the end of the workout.

After the workout the group shared great conversation over a wonderful brunch at “Rustic and Blue” where I also reserved my spot for a Farm Dinner on the banks of the Ping River with live music and a 5 course meal on February 6th. But more on that later.

All things on this adventure seem to feed into the theme, explored within David Lutt’s Dynamic and Osteothai workshops, of our capacity to move, play, and adapt as a determinant of our health.

So, move, play and be merry everyone. It appears to be good for you.

 

Extracurricular Activities

So for the last week, what does a Massage Therapist learning great new techniques and approaches to treating clients do outside school hours, besides practice?

Well, here is a list: Cycling the streets of Chiang Mai admiring the graffiti art, a Movement Training Session at Huai Kaeo Arboretuma (a park close to Chiang Mai University), acroyoga and slack lining in the Old City Park, a hike in Ob Khan National Park, listening to live music at the North Gate Jazz Club, drinks with friends at Rise, and CNX – roof top bars, late-late night Khao Soi (yellow coconut curry soup with crispy noodles and chicken) on the street before bed, early morning yoga (not necessarily after a late night) with Kam Thye Chow (former owner of Lotus Palm Thai Massage School in Montreal and supreme good guy!), evening at Ole Gourmet Mexican with live music at the venue Thaphae East, riding a moped with David to Doi Sutep, the Bhubing Palace gardens and for a swim in Hang Dong Quarry, and more Muay Thai Training at the Chiang Mai Muay Thai Gym.

And here are some pictures to prove it…

The Dancing Web of Adaptation – are your Spidey senses tingling?

It is hard to believe that the second David Lutt course, Osteothai is over. While the Dynamic Thai workshop was full of new approaches and techniques to the practice of Thai Massage, Osteothai was as much a focus on a conceptual framework for living and working well.

Osteopathy is a western wholistic manual therapy approach to healing. Many of its’ techniques are subtle and deeply relaxing, providing a safe environment for change in the body. Its’ approaches are backed by increasing research on the influence of the body’s fascial system, its’ effect on our immune system, and on our ability to adapt to our ever changing environment. It melds wonderfully with the practice of Thai Massage.

As a Massage and Thai Practitioner, my work is to assist in strengthening the body’s ability to adapt. It is natural for a healthy body to be constantly adapting to its’ environment. It is through movement that our bones, blood, fascia, muscles, joints, and organs acquires and strengthens this adaptability. Reduce your movement, or capacity to move, and you reduce the adaptability of all aspects of your physical, mental and spiritual being to maintain your health.

I now understand why David Lutt is in demand to teach his workshops all over the world (currently he teaches in France, Greece, Thailand, and Japan). David teaches not only about techniques, research, and knowledge, but about how the most important thing one can do to be a great practitioner is to work on oneself. In class we explored presence, attention, and intention within our work. We explored the role of our fascial web (thanks Spiderman!), and how embryology reveals the profound truth of how we are beings in motion constantly in relationship, consistently interdependent.

I was reminded of the power of Thai Massage’s compassionate, non-judgemental treatment approach. We work on people, not people’s conditions.

A restriction, or lack of mobility, is what stifles our body’s auto regulation, or our ability to adapt.  The greater our adaptability, the healthier we are. Life is movement.

So have fun out there and move about.

These two courses together are yet another springboard for an inspired practice I plan to return to Saskatoon with. I can’t wait to share it.

 

 

Movement, Rhythm, and Joy!

Friday was the last day of my first Thai Massage Workshop with David Lutt of France. The workshop was beyond my expectations in all ways. David’s teaching is grounded in a compassionate, practical, playful, and spiritual approach to Thai Massage. It was clearly evident to me that he lives what he teaches. He is masterful and so very joyful. His teaching assistants (from the U.S., Japan and Germany) were a fitting complement, as they skillfully assisted all twenty four of us in learning and practicing the techniques and art of Dynamic Thai Massage.

Dynamic Thai Massage is an inspiration of Ajahn Chaiyuth Priyasith’s Traditional Thai Massage, and an incorporation of Osteopathic principles and techniques. It gives an opportunity for the practitioner to be more fluid and creative while connecting to the water element of the body. It has been described as Perpetual Movement Poetry.

The experience I had with the other students in this workshop has already brought a profound shift to my understanding and practice of Thai Massage. It has also filled me with a sense of awe about how easily and deeply we can compassionately connect with people around us to bring great meaning and joy to our lives. I didn’t think I could be any more excited about my life and the work I do in Thai Massage, but I was mistaken. I can’t wait to bring this new approach to my work with clients in Saskatoon.

It was fitting that to celebrate this wonderful workshop with my classmates, we began Friday evening with an incredibly inspiring event put on by Documentary Arts Asia (DAA’s). The DAA is a non-profit organization for advancing visual literacy and supporting documentary artists in Asia. The event happened in a green space occupied by Pun Pun Market and Restaurant, Two Revolutions Cycle Shop, and the DAA. The market is an organic food store and restaurant serving some of the finest and healthiest food in the city, with produce and organic meat supplied by Pun Pun Farm http://www.punpunthailand.org/index.html. Two Revolutions Cycle is a community bike shop where you can go to repair your bike, get local cycling advice, and information on cycling events https://www.facebook.com/TwoRevolutions.

This was the 4th anniversary celebration of the DAA which included an indoor and outdoor photo exhibit, as well as a screening of Chintan Ghoul’s joyful documentary film “Pun Pun Farm, and A Philosophy for Life” about the organic farm Pun Pun just outside Chiang Mai. You can watch the 19 minute documentary here: https://vimeo.com/117770298

Then it was off to Riverside Restaurant to meet up with Peter who I met here in Chiang Mai two years ago, and who was the one who introduced me to David Lutt’s work. From there it was off to The White Swan Burmese restaurant near Tha Phae Gate to meet up with more classmates, then to the Roots Rock Reggae Bar for a night of dancing. We had to put all that fluid movement poetry to work after a week of Dynamic Thai!

 

Kombucha

I love kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, and began buying it from Dad’s and Herbs N Health in Saskatoon several years ago. Eventually I ended up drinking it so much (daily in fact) that I decided to make it myself, to avoid taking out loans to pay for my addiction.

Here in Chiang Mai at Tip Top I met another Canadian who came to Chiang Mai to write a novel. To improve his health after a bout of food poisoning, he decided to try fermenting tea to make kombucha. He inspired me to do the same since I am here for 8 weeks.

I am excited to try my first batch of kombucha. When it’s ready, I will decant it into different bottles and flavour it after it’s first fermentation with different fruits such as passion fruit, mango, and kaffir lime leaves. For those who don’t know about the great taste and health benefits of kombucha it is well worth buying some at a health food store to see if you like it. It is hard to describe the taste, but a movie I watched once had an hilarious, if not appropriate description of it, as a slightly sweet, sparkling vinaigrette.

Kombucha is made by brewing a batch of sweet tea, adding either a touch of cider vinegar, or an amount of kombucha from a paste batch, and placing the “mother” or “SCOBY” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to float atop the tea in a glass vessel. A week or so later the SCOBY has transformed the sweet tea into a slightly sweet, vinegary, effervescent drink full of B-vitamins, antioxidants, glucaric acids, and beneficial bacteria.

Kombucha has been shown to boost the immune system, support body detoxification, improve joint health, and aid in digestion and gut health. You can read up more on it’s effects here http://www.foodrenegade.com/kombucha-health-benefits/

For a clear and simple instructions on how to make Kombucha yourself I recommend this site: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-make-kombucha

A compelling and fascinating read on how to ferment just about anything and the benefits on our minds, body and spirit, I recommend Sandor Ellix Katz’s book “The Art of Fermentation.” This fermenting bible (thanks for that gift Shaun!) is why my partner Shaun and I have several ongoing ferments in the house such as kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi.

In Chiang Mai, I went to Baan Suan Pak health food store just north of the old city to get my SCOBY. For anyone that comes to the store wanting to make kombucha for their first time in Chiang Mai, they receive a free SCOBY. Then you can buy your vessel and anything else you need for fermenting from them.

If you are interested in making kombucha yourself, you may be able to find a SCOBY in a health food store where you live, from a fellow fermenter in your neighbourhood who will always have SCOBY to share (it just keeps growing and growing – remember this is a living organism and way more fun to keep alive than a Tamagotchi), or go onto Facebook and search for a fermentation group in your area. In Saskatoon that would be at https://m.facebook.com/groups/523009037840303

Here’s to your health!