The first time I saw my then Thai Mother In Law settle for a nap on a solid concrete floor with only a block of wood to support her neck, I was incredulous. My Dutch Australian self was more familiar with ultra-soft European goose down pillows or the budget Australian version polyester Tontene.
For EONS much of the Asian & African world has supported heads and necks during sleep with blocks of wood.
The more glamourous version, for wealthy people with valuables to protect during sleep, was something along the lines of this antique Chinese wooden pillow box.
In Japan, the Takamakura was a sign of status: the Geisha used one to preserve her elaborate hairstyle, the Samurai warrior to preserve the sacred topknot.
But in China, particularly, it evolved into a hard-as-a-rock herbal sleep pillow. And I was GIFTED one this week!
TOSS AWAY those Western sweet lavender sweet dream soft ideas... 🤣
My gifted Thai Chinese style bamboo herbal sleep pillow is quite small but weighs 3.8 kg 😲 and is as hard as a rock. Realy freakin HARD! It contains an inner pillow which is unbelievably tightly packed with TEA and various (as yet unknown) Chinese herbs. I am not exaggerating when I say you could seriously injure someone with this thing - pillow fighting may well have originated here!
After the pleasantries and gratitude were extended, I took this baby home for a SERIOUS ROAD TEST on our solid teak wood Thai bed. Please note there are NO namby-pamby niceties for softness. 🤣
And Oh My Buddha!! I AM HOOKED.
This is somewhat like a yoga pose. You HAVE to lay aligned and the pillow forces a level of chest opening and shoulder realignment that is really amazing. My whole BREATH changed! The bamboo is incredibly smooth to lay on, and it felt grounding. It was a VERY HOT afternoon during this roadtest ^^ as you can see from the damp hair around my temples!! The pillow was COOL. Scented but definitely not in a sweet way.
It intrigued me so much that I've been reading about the history of sleep pillows, the herbs used and about the transition from wood to the more current solidly packed herbal styles.
It has become a new favourite things to do - to lay down on the solid teak floor upstairs, with my earbuds in, listening to my Solfeggio Frequencies. Sidebar: incoming post! 30 min with Solfeggio, my hard-as-a-rock Thai-Chinese herbal pillow and laying in Savassana, and one is utterly revived. There is something profound about the realignment of the bones in the upper back and neck that's hard to describe, but probably best illustrated:
There is a DECOMPRESSION that happens between the vertebrae that is palpable, and the opening of the chest cavity for a far deeper breath is really noticable. To lay and savour 30 mins of conscious breathing like this, while listeing to Solfeggio, has been, and is, WONDERFUL. It's a perfect counterpoint to a head perpetually held forward due to too much screen time.
Neither of these thigns did I seek out - the pillow was a random gif from my business friend, Khun Wii, who does not know me well, and the free 9 week Solfeggio Frequency meditations came via my friend and customer here in Chiang Mai, Ali Young, who owns Chiang Mai Holistic.
And so the ancient ways are being rediscovered and live on in my little corner of the world. I am endlessly surprised and curious at the gifts, the learning, the joys and the experiences which weave their way into my everyday Thai herbal world.