Shamans and Medicine Men

Before coming to Costa Rica, my experience with alternative medicine was very limited. As in, nonexistent. My idea of alternative medicine was alternating Motrin and Tylenol if the fever was severe.

But here in Nosara, alternative medicine seems more common than traditional therapies. Feel a cold coming on? There are all sorts of homemade elixirs for sale at the farmer’s market to cure what ails you. Not sure what ails you? There are practitioners who can use energy healing to determine the cause and cure.

Not only can you stimulate and heal with acupuncture, you can do it in a community acupuncture class, where you all lie around together with needles poking into you. The advertisement for the community acupuncture class encouraged participants to bring singing bowls. I had to look that one up. Via product description on Amazon:

“Singing Bowls are one of the ancient Tibetan meditation tools. The pure sounds produced when the rim is rubbed by the mallet is said to put the brain into a meditative state.”

At home, it would’ve seemed bizarre to even imagine a community acupuncture class with singing bowls. But here in the jungle, somehow it fits. Nature is knocking at the door, the hospitals are hours away, and it’s not hard to transport your mind back to a time of shamans and medicine men. And that’s the thing I guess – I thought shamans existed only in the history of ancient peoples or in the fringes of today’s society.

In this respect, I was most definitely the odd one out among our group of friends here in Costa Rica, all of whom have experimented with alternative medicine, several being energy healers themselves.

One day my friend Anna told me about the experience she had a year ago with Dr. Sheel Tangri, a chiropractic kinesiologist (a what?) in a town about an hour away. I’d heard of chiropractors of course (though I’d never been to one), but I had no idea what a chiropractic kinesiologist was.

It’s not easy to explain.

Dr. Tangri uses “manual muscle testing” (I’ll get to that in a minute) to determine if a problem exists in your body. These problems can be physical, emotional or spiritual. And then he uses both energy healing and chiropractics to fix whatever issues are discovered. He travels all over the world speaking and healing, and people come from all over to be treated by him.

Anna felt her treatment was so beneficial that last year she took the whole family to him, kids included. And she was going to make an appointment to see him again.

My curiosity was piqued. I’m pretty healthy, but have a few aches and pains. And from time to time I have issues with anxiety. Could Dr. Tangri help? I had no idea. But I didn’t think it could hurt. After all, we came to Costa Rica to open ourselves to new experiences, right? And this certainly fit the bill.

So, I made an appointment, along with Anna and another friend, and the three of us traveled to Samara – always an adventure.


We arrived at Dr. Tangri’s office, which is a building adjacent to his home on top of a mountain. His “waiting room” is a lovely front porch with a view of the sea.


We made our introductions, and then he pointed to me and said, “You first.”

I laid down on a massage table and he began to explain how the whole “manual muscle testing” thing works.

“Lift your arm,” he instructed. He held my wrist, with his index finger pressing on a point in my forearm. He said that he would ask a series of questions or make certain statements while applying pressure. If my body responded positively, my arm would stay strong. But a negative response from my body would make my arm weak and it would fall onto the table.

“Your shorts are ugly, I don’t like them,” he said. Plunk, my arm hit the table. “See?” he said. “Negative energy made your arm weak. Lift it again. I think your clothes are nice.” He pressed again on my forearm and my arm held steady.

With the demonstration finished, he began the exam. He asked a lot of questions about me physically, listing off various anatomical regions and asking if there were problems there. The strange thing is, he didn’t seem to be asking me. He was asking … the spirit? Several times he would specifically say, “Spirit, is there anything going on with…” and then name another body part.

And sure enough, sometimes my arm held strong, and sometimes it flopped to the table. When it did fall, he’d nod knowingly and begin to “fix” the problem. He’s all about connections in the body, and says that we often have broken connections that cause certain areas to suffer. So for example, he’d rub my left earlobe while massaging my right hip, trying to reignite a connection that he said had been broken at some point.

He listed all of my chakras and asked if there were issues with any of those. He fixed. He massaged. He tweaked. Sometimes I could hear his questions clearly. Sometimes he mumbled. Either way, my arm would respond and each time I’d wonder, “Did I do that? Did he? Or is this real?” I still don’t know the answer.

But one moment really stands out in my memory. I don’t recall the exact question, but it had to do with emotional health. Plunk went my arm on the table.

“Spirit, is the problem with her past?”

My arm remained steady.

“In the present?”


“Spirit, is her problem with her future?”

My arm thumped down.

“Ah,” said. “Let’s deal with this now.”

He walked across the room, away from me, and told me to close my eyes. He told me to place a hand on my heart chakra, and then he talked to me about the future.

He said I am someone who tries to control the future. (Truth.)

He said I am a perfectionist who will try so hard to plan every detail of my life so as to reduce all future risk. To ensure only positive future outcomes. (Also true.)

“Ginger, you could die tomorrow. The people you love could die in a week,” he said. I wanted to open my eyes and glare at him. Was this supposed to be helping?

He went on. “Or you could live a very long life. You don’t know, and you can’t control it. You need to practice letting go of the future and living today. In this moment. This is the only moment you have, right now.”

And then he asked the spirit to heal me of this necessity to control my own future, and to help me begin living for today.

It was a powerful moment. Would it have been any less powerful in a traditional therapist’s chair? Maybe not. Did he do any magic voodoo to change my heart? Maybe not. But his words rang true, and they stick with me even now.

He then did some traditional chiropractics and declared the session was over. He made some general assurances, like that he fixed a misalignment in my pelvis and now my yoga sessions would be much more productive.

And they are. Could it be because Dr. Tangri fixed me? Or could it be because I’ve had more yoga classes now, so naturally I’m becoming better at it?

Who knows.

I’m sure there are people in my life who would think that all this energy healing stuff is contrary to my own religious beliefs, but I would disagree. Dr. Tangri himself would speak of God. When he addressed the spirit in the room, how was that any different than someone praying over me ? This wasn’t witchcraft any more than taking tylenol is witchcraft.

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I opened myself to new possibilities. That next yoga class, I achieved the crow pose for the first time. Thanks to Dr. Tangri? To myself? To my teacher?

I’ll never know, but I’ll take it. And meanwhile, every day I try to live for today and worry less about the future. It’s a work in progress for sure, but it’s progress nonetheless.

Leave a Reply