This was definitely an interesting experience; the classic story of solo traveler stops in a quiet village for a few nights and learns from the locals about a “Medicine Man” of Sidemen who is also a holy man. This therapy did have an effect on me. Perhaps it was the energy of Sidemen. Maybe it was both.
The owner of the Pondok Tepi Sungai, Gusti (who speaks next to no English) drove me around my first full day and took me to Mangku Mastra’s compound. He didn’t have his phone number so we just did a walk in. We patiently waited in his treatment/meditation room while he finished a daily prayer across the compound. He finally appeared with a big smile and a jolly demeanor and explains he only does house calls so he works on visitors at their hotels. He spoke better English than Gusti, thank goodness because I wanted to interview him for my blog and find out why he is so incredibly admired.
6 pm that evening he arrived carrying a shoulder bag full of aromatic oil bottles. The staff set us up with a makeshift floor massage mat in front of an unoccupied villa on the top level. It was a perfect place to feel (I couldn’t see) the sunset and hear the rushing river right below. And we had total privacy in this outdoor space without cabana curtains. I followed him up the steep (I mean really steep and narrow) two flights of stairs wearing a sports bra, loose tank top and boyshorts, carrying my sarong). He laid out his supplies and patiently sat in lotus and said so seriously “ok now remove your top”. I gave him a second look. “Don’t worry. I am also a holy man.” (Ha! That could easily be a pickup line.) However, I’m in Indonesia. There is no room for modesty or shyness if you want to experience traditional healing. Plus, this is a “chakra” massage. I should’ve realized he needs to access the chakras which are down the front of your body. So the sports bra came off. I of course kept my boy shorts on and I lay down on my stomach, ready for the healing session.
He offers two different therapies:
Spiritual Healing/Yoga Therapy (as he explained to me) – consists of opening prayer, meditation, visual imagery and yoga (90minute).
Chakra Massage – I chose this one, explained below (60 min)
When you think chakra massage, you usually think gentle energy balance along the chakras. Chakras are energy centers through the body (seven of them), each representing a color, a vibrational energy and linked to an organ or anatomical region as well as psychological, emotional and spiritual energies. They start at the base of the spine and move to the top of the head. So, I was expecting a soothing relaxation therapy where I can occasionally drift off into La La Land while my chakras align and I arise from the table enlightened. That’s not really what happened. It was a mix of spiritual energy healing, deep tissue (non trigger point) sports therapy and a little Thai massage. I realized I needed all of that anyways.
Note: This is not a spa massage and not for those seeking a trendy, retreat experience. This is traditional and therapeutic. You need to understand the chakras are located along the midline of the body and down to the root which is regarded by most as a culturally sensitive area. However, besides not being the modest type, I am also a doctor and practitioner in Ayurveda. I already understood the potential of the therapy addressing these sensitive areas. Mangku Mastra was very professional during the session.
The Prayer-Meditation Where He Reads Your Energy Centers.
He starts with a prayer/meditation then reaches for the oils. I’m not sure I was face down so I think he blended a couple after reading me energetically. He definitely hit the problem spots, starting with the back, and then moving to the neck and extremities before having you turn over. He covered the entire neck and head region so well that he zeroed in on my left TMJ (jaw) where I have a history of problems. His pressure was so strong and there were a few times I had to talk myself out of yelping and waking up the wildlife, then praying I wouldn’t lose the next day in recovery. I reminded myself, this is therapy. Breathe! These are knots and stagnation points I’m sure have been ignored for a long time!
Note: This is not North America, where healers and therapists take a history, ask what kind of pressure you like and monitor you during the session. There is no intake form nor waiver. Sometimes there are no linens to modestly cover you. They don’t know anything about you except maybe your name. They just intuitively and methodically do their work. If you really need to tell them to lighten up or go deeper, be loud and clear. So, you need to put your modestly aside, trust and allow them to do their work. You are in their world so go with it and allow the healing to take place..
Mangku is a warm, friendly spirit and told me three years ago he spoke no English. He’s very talkative, laughs a lit then suddenly stops saying “talking no good for me” because he doesn’t speak English well. This healer is downright serious about his work. He would start a conversation then abruptly stop me from talking, saying “I can’t do your healing if you don’t relax your mind and quiet!” I had to laugh at those moments.
Tip: He gets right in your hair so if you have long hair and he used menthol , peppermint or any similar oils, be careful the strands don’t get near your eyes – that part was not fun!
I didn’t have my iPhone recorder on and couldn’t reach for it with my oily hands during the session. The young girl who worked at my villa didn’t show up to take photos. I think she didn’t understand my request. But it turned out I was half exposed anyways, so no treatment photos this time!
When I got up, I felt I was stretched without being stretched and a little spacey. In my stupor I managed to get a little info from him. He’s a 53 year old Sidemen native and has been doing this particular therapy since 2010. However he has been doing spiritual work for much longer. He studied from all different Bali Healers and from all the traditional healing books including Vedic texts (Ayurveda), so we had some interesting conversation.
Tip: It is recommended you do not wash off the oils for several hours. Keep absorbing their healing qualities!
I slept even better that night. The next day I really did feel like something happened to me – the good type of ache like the soreness from a hard workout, a little headache (could’ve been the Bintang at dinner) but boy did I move in slow mo! I was a space cadet, in a very zen state, which forced me to relish every last minute on my cabin porch that morning before checkout. I needed one last heavy dose of the river fresh mountain air and quiet my mind as he advised. The fog lifted by 11am when I checked into my next hotel, Villa Karma Loka. I really felt like a new person. My body and brain was just purging until that point. Hydration is even more critical after any type of body work and even energy work. I postponed my tour with my friend, Rai a couple of hours to allow my body to recharge.
Mangku is definitely a therapeutic gem in Sidemen.
Tip: If you choose to receive his Spiritual Healing/Yoga treatment check with your hotel first to make sure they can provide the space you need.
How to find him? Ask Villa Karma Loka (the owner Ngyoman was his English teacher) or contact Tepi Sungai where I stayed the night of the massage.
Tip: If you need a driver in the Sidemen area, my friend Rai is a professional driver and also has cousins who do transport. I trust them implicitly. Contact Rai at +62 812 3923 3841
You can read another article on Cokorda Rai, Balinese Healer from a previous trip by clicking HERE
If you had a Balinese traditional treatment experience I would love to know! Please leave a comment! If you have any specific questions please post or send me an email through the contact page!