Asaya in sanskrit signifies understanding your past journey in order to navigate your path to self-acceptance. I was able to fully immerse in this concept during recent travels to Thailand. In our experiences throughout the country, we encountered a deeply spiritual culture that seemed to speak to the importance of self-discovery. It all came together in culmination when visiting the wellness program at the Rosewood in Phuket, where I learned the meaning of this word.
The Asaya wellness programming, allowed me to comfortably dip my toe into alternative/eastern medicine. I had read articles, listened to podcasts and talked to friends dozens of times about the benefits of treatments like acupuncture, reiki and forms of energy healing, but had never tried it out for myself IRL. The Rosewood Asaya wellness program that started with the Phuket location in 2017 and is expanding in 2018, makes eastern healing convenient and approachable for first timers like myself.
Prior to any treatments with the Asaya program, I met with the in house wellness practitioner, Steve. Rather than him explaining the treatments, he started by having me explain my needs, then suggested treatments that would help. As western culture conditions us to do, I separately detailed my physical health and mental health, including chronic issues and what I felt like that day. I had previously considered them totally unrelated so I was shocked at Steve's reaction that both of my concerns were tied together. To think that maybe fixing one could help fix the other and that I needed a new approach to acknowledging both was a huge aha moment that somehow gave me a sense of comfort. He continued to explain that this is a common pair of distress and we could start working through it immediately. He advised to proceed with Reiki, Chi Nei Tsang and Sound Therapy.
I was definitely intrigued but skeptical about the power of Reiki. Nonetheless, I went in with an open mind. If you are not familiar with Reiki, this is a treatment where a practitioner uses their hands and light touch to send and receive energy from various body parts in order to promote healing. You are fully clothed for this treatment and lying on a bed. Steve started with my head and stayed there for a little while then worked his way down. Apparently he was planning on having me turn over and reiki all over, but was guided by my energy to spend most of the time in my lower abdomen. This is my biggest area of need, as I am a chronic sufferer of digestive issues. For the first 40 minutes I felt absolutely nothing. I relished in the relaxation of a quiet room with peaceful music and gentle touch, but that was it. After that, when Steve was still drawn towards my lower stomach, I began uncontrollably laughing. I literally could do nothing to stop it and anxiously tried to get ahold of myself, feeling terrible that he probably thought I was mocking him. Instead it grew more intense and I was now uncontrollably laughing so hard I was crying. Right when I started crying after the laughter subsided, I felt a notable shift in energy. I can't remember if I really felt "happy" then "sad" or just intense emotion during all of it that I labeled as "happy" since I was laughing and "sad" because I was crying. When I apologized when the treatment was over, Steve smiled and explained that this is actually a common reaction and he was expecting me to have this very behavior based on what I explained. He said when I started laughing he was waiting for it to switch to tears. It seemed that this was how the energy he was healing manifested itself in the treatment.
Chi Nei Tsang
When I posted about this in stories, like me, most of you had never heard of this before. This detoxifying organ massage is supposed to release blockages of the body and mind. Steve recommended it based on my digestive issues. I typically ask therapists to avoid my stomach when I get a massage, but decided it was worth giving this one a try. I have to say that this was not a particularly relaxing experience. If you decide to do this, I would really view it as an intentional and purposeful treatment, not a chance to unwind like most massages. The therapist explained that it was key for me to relax my abdomen and focus on my breath. I could feel her touching each organ as if she was inside my body. It was weird to feel where each body part lives and for once not think of that area as "my stomach" but rather as the distinctive anatomy it truly is. I felt uncomfortable and familiar sensations while she worked. I could feel where it was coming from when I get different stomach aches and pinpoint the areas I often feel as she was working on them. It is hard to say if I felt detoxed after because there was such much happening in my body with the travel. I do think it may have contributed to my overall reaction which I will detail below.
The last treatment that I received was the Tibetan singing bowl sound therapy. I got this in conjunction with a massage. Various bowls were placed at different chakra points of my body. As the bowls were struck, I could feel a prolonged vibration throughout my body starting at that point coupled with a distinct and relaxing sound. At times the bowls were moved around so that the sounds were more and less intense to me. I was shocked how calming this was. I felt the tension release from each part of my body and an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility.
Okay, so you may have been wondering while I explained the treatments- so DO THEY WORK?! And the answer is: it's complicated. Like most wellness practices, it is hard to draw a direct cause and effect, but mindful observation can lead to some conclusions about benefits. As I explained above, Steve suggested that my physical (digestive issues) are connected to my mental (self-consciousness/control/perfection/anxiety/body image issues). It was really hard to notice any changes during our travel because I was so overstimulated constantly, so it was when I got home that I noticed the change. My usual mental issues described above have decreased dramatically. A few of the symptoms I was struggling with currently seem almost non-existent. My overall energy has completely shifted and I feel like a lot of mental clutter and fog has dissipated.
It is impossible to know if these changes are from the treatments, but I think if not completely from them, it may be from absorbing the Thai culture while traveling and the treatments in combination. While I was there, I also read a book written by a monk on mindfulness and also learned a lot about mindfulness and karma from the people we met. Steve also shared wisdom with me about how our internal narrative does not change the reality of the past, present or future in conjunction with some of what I was working through in the treatments. I am now trying to navigate how to incorporate some of this in to my at home routine. I would love to hear your experiences and suggestions in the comments, through social media or email!