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From the face of it, Home of Healing Arts, opposite Agama Yoga in Seetanu, could be anything. The owner, Jan, likes it that way. “I believe the people who come here are meant to come here,” he tells me.
I just happened to be driving by, and thought to stop and see what it was all about. Jan’s Russian wife offered me a cup of tea and then out strode a shirtless Thai man, singing loudly to himself. “Give me something you own,” he demanded with a smile. I reached into my bag and handed him a book. He took a doll and showed me the part of my back he was going to work.
Jan sat on the table in front of me, the doll pressed up against the book, he proceeded to stick the pointy end of a pen into what is known as “L5”… or as I later worked out, lumbar vertebra 5. I didn’t feel anything, and I told him so honestly. Still, he could see I have back problems, so he suggested a combination of acupressure and massage.Once I was horizontal on his massage table, he massaged around my liver, asking me to breathe very quickly. He told me he felt I have a lot of stress, which I store in my liver. It was an exhausting process, but he seemed to be doing something important. While he was doing this, he told me about his credentials and training. He learned everything he knows from his mother, who was a midwife, and who is now still going strong at 90. He also spent three years in a temple, as a monk. On top of all this, he’s a shaman, meaning that he can basically go and come as he pleases from the spiritual world. As far as I know, he’s the only shaman on Ko Pha Ngan, though there are plenty who claim to use spiritual powers during their massage treatments on the island.
I’m impressed by his setup, which consists of a Buddhist shrine, lots of colorful posters of the Hindu goddess Ganesha, and even Native American photos and decorations. Not only that, but the massage table is the real deal — a rare find on the island.
Next, he performed a shamanic practice known as cupping, where he placed both of his hands over my solar plexus, and pumped them rapidly, telling me to breathe quickly and deeply. It wasn’t painful, but it was quite uncomfortable. I put my hand up for him to stop. “It hurt?” he asked me, concerned.
“No,” I replied, suddenly a bit embarrassed about being such a wimp. I told him I just needed a break. After a few moments, he began again, this time more intensely than before, telling me to breathe faster. “More! More!” he was nearly shouting. He stopped for a second to tell me that he was going to keep going, and that I may cry. I looked at him in disbelief. I’m not sad at all, why would I cry?
But when he resumed, I felt a pressure building in my chest. Before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face, and as I tried to catch my breath, I was sobbing. I didn’t even know why.
Next, he performed a series of cracks on my body — neck, back, legs, arms — causing them to make sounds I wasn’t even aware they could produce. Then he used a strongly-scented oil to massage my tense muscles, all the while, asking me questions and regaling me with tales of his own life.
He worked his way over my body for the next hour. “You sleep now,” he said, but I remained wide awake. When I get up a half-hour later I find him and he told me the session was over. I paid him 700 baht, which is what an hour’s session costs, and told him I’d be back in a week.
Since the treatment, I’ve not only been completely free of stiffness and pain in my back, but also far calmer. Jan is a miracle worker, and I can’t wait for my next session.
By Kaila Krayewski
Last updated on 24th March, 2015.