Friday, 26 June 2015

5 Reasons why India is a spiritual land

Anyone who has been to India will agree that it’s a right, royal mess. From the jumble of wires on electric posts, to men openly urinating on walls plastered with lurid coloured Bollywood posters. India has chaos written all over it. Yet, from this seemingly putrid mess arises a flowering bouquet of wisdom and wisdom holders. South Asia has been the birthplace of many spiritual paths like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Vedanta, Yoga and Tantra.

Over the centuries from Adinatha, a Jina to Shirdi Sai Baba a Sufi, India gives birth to prophets/ saints on an assembly line. The all-pervasive mess is in stark contrast to the wisdom that emanates from it, baffling many into thinking - how anything, mildly enlightening could arise out of it! Why is it that a country with every possible resource and some of the brightest people in the world continues to be a place of so much suffering and inequity often accompanied with fatalism? Is it possible that this suffering is the fuel for the wisdom of the yogis? After all, Buddha was an overindulged prince of a palace until he saw disease, old age and death causing him to renounce his luxurious closeted existence in search of the ultimate truth.

While suffering and mortality are not the preserve of India, yet it has that special quality that has given rise to many paths of liberation. That makes India the must-go-to destination for the seeker in all of us. Here are the top five realisations I have experienced while living in India.

Deep blue spot south of the Indian peninsula has the lowest gravity on Earth
A Lightness of Being: The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite has been mapping the gravity on the surface of the planet for the past few years and its findings show a large gravity hole just South of the Indian land mass and its effect running all the way up to the Himalayas. The blue gravity hole indicates the point on the planet with the lowest gravity. A careful scan of the GOCE map shows that there is no other place with those gravitational properties on the entire Earth. It may be subtle but it is a fact that life is lighter in India even when you have very little.

A Paradoxical Land: One of India’s richest men, has built for himself a 170-meter skyscraper as his personal home in Mumbai. The skyscraper is plush with every possible luxury in the world. Paradoxically from where he stands on the highest floor of his ultra luxury home he can see the brown buttocks and the pile of turds of the poorest man in the world as he defecates in the open next to the railway track.

India is a land peppered with a million bizarre contradictions, so hard to wrap one's head around that it can cause the analytical mind to short circuit into an instant Samadhi (meditative absorption). No headstand is required.

Learning to Surrender: Living in the United States a country where buses and trains arrive on time and traffic follows in preordained and predictable ways, I realize how strange India can be. I may be driving a swanky sports car on one of India’s superhighways between Delhi and Mumbai, only to suddenly find a cow saunter across placidly and drop a good sized cow pie just as the car whizzes by its tail. In India nothing is predictable. A typical day in India is filled with so much uncertainty that the idea of an “I” that is in control may slowly wither away!

Confronting Mortality: Those brave enough to visit the incredible Indian state of Sikkim in the Himalayas have to take a shared mini van from the dusty, polluted town of Siliguri up the mountains. The van fits ten people depending on the greed of the owner. Irrespective of the number of people in the van it will be a tight squeeze. After a long period of haggling and smoking, you will eventually be driven careening up a narrow, potholed Himalayan road.  The frothing Teesta River runs fast and deep about 1000 feet below while on the other side frequent landslides block the narrow road. Every precarious turn gives you a whiff of your neighbour’s armpit. Then, you remember your friend telling you that there are only two kinds of jeep drivers-- those who run on alcohol and those that run on Benadryl. It is at this moment that you realise that life is as fleeting and delicate as a soap bubble in the wind. If you do survive the thrill of this journey, you can expect a feeling of rebirth and the realisation of your higher purpose in life.

Find a Guru: In India saints and enlightened beings still exist, each with a unique perspective on love and liberation. The only problem is that they are not on the Internet, selling workshops, DVDs or managing large communes. You are more likely to find them in the temple villages, cremation grounds and dusty, crowded alleys of an Indian city or even begging on the train. It 's hard to spot them and one may have to wait for the Guru to call. Which is not a problem because even if the wait is long, India will entertain, shock and enchant every minute. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

How many Levels of Thai Massage should I do?

Every student who registers for our courses asks this question. In this article, I will attempt to answer this. It is important to understand that traditionally Thai Massage has never been taught as levels. The structuring of Thai bodywork into levels is the outcome of the education being adjusted to suit western students travel plans in Thailand.

Traditionally Thai Massage was taught over several years by first observation and then practice.

In modern times, most schools divide basic Thai Massage education into two five days sections (typically from Monday to Friday) comprising of 30-40 hours of instruction each.

Some schools will not offer this option and instead will offer a combined ten-day course.

The first five days a student is taught how to work with a client lying in a supine (on their back) position. 
Thai Massage with client in Supine position
Thai Massage with Client in Supine position

Thai Massage in Prone position
Client in Prone Postion

Thai Massage with client in side lying position
With Client in Side Lying Position

Thai Massage with Client in seated postion
Client in Seated Position
The next five days (Level 2) the student is taught how to execute new and some of the previous exercises with the client now lying in prone (on their stomach), side-lying and seated position. In these positions, the student will learn to work on the back and hips of their client.

The main reasons for structuring the course like this is that in Level 2 the student will be stepping, kneeling and sometimes standing on their client. It is, therefore, important that the student takes the first five days to understand the pressure and other safety considerations before proceeding to more complicated moves.

How many levels should a student do? Depends on what their objectives is! If the goal is to get a flavour of Thai massage and learn a few techniques that one can apply informally then a three day, five day or introductory course is sufficient.

If however if you wish to practice this healing art with any seriousness, then the students must do at least two levels or a ten day /60-80 hour course. I recommend this for the following reasons.

  1. The second level covers working on the back and hips. Two crucial areas where everyone needs work on. Therefore for anyone planning to practice professionally, Level 2 is essential.
  2. If you are new to Thai Massage then memorising the sequences and techniques in 5 days can be quite challenging. However since Level 2 covers many of the level 1 techniques in the same series (except that they are done in prone, seated and side-lying) it allows the students to refresh their Level 1 and improves retention.
  3. While Level 1 teaches about One and a half to two hours of techniques when combined with Level 2, the total becomes almost 3-4 hours of techniques. The benefit of this is that with so many variations you can delight your client with new techniques each time they come for a session
  4. Finally, it has been my experience that most students who do only Level 1 rarely ever progress to become serious therapists. On the other hand, those who did both levels are today serious practitioners in their right, and some have even become Thai Massage teachers now.

Advanced levels can be done if the student feels confident enough with previous levels. The higher level course can be both theoretical in nature or can focus on more advanced techniques. Continuing your education after a ten-day course, however, requires sound practice. Please write if you need any further information by visiting this link.