12 Feb 2012

Have I turned Japanese?

Before coming to Japan I worked for a while in a big Univeristy hospital.  I remember seeing a patient wearing a surgical mask and being escorted down the corridor, whatever he had looked serious and the mask intimated contagion. I was told in a whisper he was a tuberculosis patient.  

A few months later I boarded the plane to Japan, and stepping into the cabin I was shocked to see half of the passengers masked.  Get me off this plane, was my first thought, what could be the matter with all these people? It was a creepy sight for one uninitiated to the Japanese way.

Now, am used to seeing face masks every day, students, teachers, truck drivers, housewives, office workers, dustbin men, shop staff, EVERYONE wears masks.  

I have shunned them, ridiculed them and generally thought Japanese people had a mask fetish.  Another layer to hide behind, to shield themselves from the world.  I refused to wear them, it was my last bastion on the 'I am not Japanese' front.

I yielded.
This week I have worn a mask to bed, around the house, when driving.  I wore one even to the supermarket the other day, still feeling very embarrassed, so of course, as luck would have it, the lady behind me in the queue screamed 'Esther!!!  Long time no see!!!  Wow how are you??? ' I wanted to crawl further under my mask, I'd been caught red handed.  Mind you, she was masked too, and didn't bat an eyelid.

It is always a strange sensation talking to one whose face is partially covered.  Yet it is curiously comforting, more private.  

However, I still hold fast that these masks are, in my opinionated opinion, grossly missued. Surgical masks are generally most effective at stopping the wearer from passing on their disease not the other way round, at least not these cheap ill fitting ones popular here. Maybe they offer protection in reminding people to keep their hands away from their face (the importance of washing hands) or in that they keep your nose nice and warm and moist, cold viruses tend to prefer dry and cold conditions.  Who knows. But the Japanese love them dearly.

In my case I sprinkled a couple of drops of Eucalyptus oil, and can inhale the warm moist healing vapors, making my sinuses feel wonderful.

9 Feb 2012

Forgot my Tools

A few years ago while I was in Rishikesh I found my self surrounded by Yogi of a different breed, they were busy tongue scraping, urine drinking, stomach purging, string and water nose washing to name but a few of the cleansing techniques that were being practised around me.   I began to feel that perhaps I was missing out on something, should I too drink a litre of salt water every morning, and bring it back up to cleanse my stomach.  I've never been a fan of detox diets, fasts and purges, thinking it's more balanced to do these things gradually in daily life, like the yoga, rather than a boot camp, do little by little daily.  I asked my teacher about this, she said these are tools, good to know if you ever feel the need.  I always feel the need for jala neti (water nasal cleansing) in dry and dusty India,  rarely so in Japan in my forested humid location.

Seems I thought I was superwoman in January and overdid it in every way possible.  Was feeling worried, confused and overwhelmed.  Practised yoga too hard, went snowboarding a lot, worked a lot and didn't dress, eat, or rest properly.  Came down with a cold that led to infected sinuses.  Not fun.

Anyways, I had forgotten about my neti pot (my mother reminded me), and the key principle of moderation and rest!  But I picked up my tools again,  and am on the road to recovery, and smelling great.  Found an interesting remedy for sinusitis which I am trying out now, seems to be working.

8    Tbsp of Fine Sea Salt
10  Drops of Rosemary Essential Oil
6    Drops of Tea Tree
Mix well.  Half a teaspoon into the Neti pot and rinse away with warm water.

Also been using Lavender Spika to ease congestion and help drainage.
Eucalyptus for clear breathing and it's anti-bacterial and viral properties.

Add a healthy does of relatively gentle Asana practice, a large dose of Pranayama and a scattering of snowboarding, interspersed with adequate rest and hot springs.