Monday, 27 September 2010

Chiang Mai -- Of Cold-Pressed Virgins and Hot Tempers

I thought I was just going for a massage here, but apparently I am about to get my doshas adjusted.

You see, in the ancient Indian practice of Ayurvedics, there are three major body types or doshas: Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water).

After filling out a rather probing questionnaire, and a discussion with the resident doctor (yes, she's a fully qualified medical doctor), I'm declared to be Pitta Vatta. "There is fire in your mind. Short temper, irritable when it's high. A fire person cannot wait in a queue." I suspect she's been talking to my ex-wife!

"I like to catch these three doshas and adjust them," she explains in the chilled manner that comes from working in one of the most serene environments imaginable for the past 6 years: the Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi. "The pace of life here in Chiang Mai is like nowhere on earth," says the Mumbai native.

"Ayurvedics is all science, but maybe they cannot explain to you how it is scientific she says," perhaps sensing my slight skepticism. It has been around in the order of 6000 years, used by seers to treat important people before becoming everyman's traditional practice.

In rural India, it's still a daily practice whereby oils, scrubs, and herbal concoctions are used to treat people instead of going to a hospital.

"I am soul, then I have body and mind to explore this world. How to balance actions and thoughts. Finally it comes to body. But here we start with body -- it's easier."

She continues with her verdict on my diagnosis. "Your body seems quite balanced," the doctor declares. I'm thinking she should have seen me on the dance floor at the Latin party the night before. A bit of Rumba and too much Margarita clearly had me off-balance. "And your mind is a little stressed."

Well, of course, I'm stressed, doctor -- I'm about to have my doshas readjusted by you and we've only just met. Jing jing!

"Stay warm and eat food that's healthy, nothing ice cold [damn, there go the margaritas!], oils for skin would be wonderful. Warm sesame oil, virgin cold pressed or sunflower oil -- of course not cooking oil, " she says for my degenerating knees.

She consults the list of solutions thoughtfully. "I'm recommending one hour Abhyang ayurvedic treatment and 30 minutes Shirobhyanga."

My assigned therapist, a delightful young Thai, leads me across the courtyard of the 3000m  spa, modelled on the ancient golden teak wood Royal Palace of Mandalay.

The room is cavernous, smelling of lemongrass; chiming music immediately centres me. The Abyhang is a light massage using herbs, oils, touch and friction. It helps purge toxins, and apparently promotes youthfulness and increases energy. I don't know about that -- I was doing an especially fine impression of a sun-basking seal! Then she started on the Shirobhaya ancient Indian head massage. Aaaaaaaaah.

Here the finest oils are used, as a remedy for insomnia, impaired vision (we're back to those icy-cold margaritas again!), circulation and concentration. The energy centres ('marmas') in the head, eyes, and neck are treated.

The experience is blissful, ethereal almost. A couple of hours in a parallel universe. I promise myself to control the fire within, starting NOW!  Oh, there I go again with my fiery Pitta impatience. Starting sometime soon, I mean.

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