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Phuket Lifestyle: Facetime with Dr Paul Ekman

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Phuket Lifestyle: Facetime with Dr Paul Ekman | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Dr Paul Ekman has built an impressive career around research on the human face and the many subtle micro-expressions which expose emotions. He believes that regardless of geography or culture, mankind has facial expressions in common that even reach to the world of primates.

Recently he presented a lecture, Emotional Intelligence and Education: Reading Faces, Recognizing Feelings and Revealing Lies at the Thanyapura Sports and Leisure Club at the Phuket International Academy where he described his research into human emotions and their expressions.

Speaking exclusively to the Phuket Gazette after his lecture, Dr Ekman offered further details about his life and career.

“When I was a student in the 1950s at the University of Chicago and New York University, I focused my research on micro-facial expressions which confirm whether a subject is telling the truth or not. The basis of my research was work done by Charles Darwin and his investigations while he traveled around the world making notes on various cultures. Darwin believed that human beings shared common facial expressions,” Dr Ekman said.

Ekman graduated from Adelphi University in 1958 with a Phd and then spent two years in the American military as a clinical psychology officer. In 1960, he joined the faculty of the University of California San Francisco where he continued his research into human emotions until his retirement in 2004.

“I was satisfied with Darwins research which was quite contrary to the prevailing popular beliefs at the time as expressed by anthropologist Margaret Mead who taught that human emotions were conditioned by experience rather than biology. I determined that I needed to go and test aboriginals where there had been no human contact to prove Darwins theories,” he added.

In 1967, Ekman headed into the jungles of Papua New Guinea to find a Stone Age culture that had had no contact with the outside world. He was successful in locating the Fore tribesmen and began extensive photographic recordings of facial expressions that mirror what he has determined to be the seven basic human emotions of anger, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt and happiness. He returned to Papua New Guinea the following year to confirm his research.

Ekmans research tool is called Facial Action Coding System (FACS), which determines which of the faces 43 muscles are working to express an emotion.

Over the past 50 years, his research on reading the faces expressions, has been adopted by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), who uses his Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program.

“Through my training programs, I have been able to help assess the probability of deceptive behavior. I don’t believe that lie detector tests are reliable. In my experience, I have found that Secret Service agents in the United States are the most accurate at successfully determining the credibility of a suspects statement. This is because they have been trained to carefully observe human emotions and movements,” said Dr Ekman.

Ekman’s work was the basis for a popular television show, Lie to Me, which had a three-year run on Fox television networks. He was named one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People of 2009 and as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century by the American Psychological Association.

His trip to Asia was inspired by his recent visit with the Dalai Lama in New Delhi.

“I have had several meetings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama where we have discussed the importance of emotions in human life. Of course we come to the subject from very different belief systems, but we do agree that emotions can be helpful tools to assist with issues such as stimulating human justice and reducing stress, said Dr Ekman He is currently the manager of the Paul Ekman Group, a company that produces training devices to help his clients develop competence at learning how to read emotional expressions, and continues his research into training techniques for national security.

To learn more about reading the emotions behind facial expressions, check out

— Bruce Stanley

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“Self-myofascial release” – what is foam rolling?

The Thaiger



“Self-myofascial release” – what is foam rolling? | The Thaiger

by Krix Luther

The word is out about self-myofascial release – foam rolling – and, no, Thailand people, this doesn’t have to do with a ‘soapy’ or ‘happy-endings’.

So what is foam rolling you ask? Well, it was once a secretive technique used by professional coaches and therapists but has become a regular practice for people across the spectrum of all fitness levels.

Self-myofascial release is just a fancy term for a technique of self-massage that helps deal with muscle tightness and trigger points.

With a massage parlour never being farther than a kilometre away, and decent one-hour massage costing you less than 500 baht, it might be difficult to see the point of learning the technique – which would explain why I always see a bunch of rarely used foam rollers in the corner of Nai Harn Gym in Phuket (one of the places I work).

Nonetheless, the understanding of your body and muscle structures that comes with practising the technique can offer many benefits.

  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Prevents chances of DOMS
  • Reduces post-workout stress
  • Helps with post-workout cooldown
  • Reduces recovery time
  • Prevents training-related injuries
  • Reduces chances of overtraining

The practice can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, Theracane or your own hands by simply applying pressure to specific points on your body, aiding in the recovery of muscles and assisting in returning them to normal function. We can think of ‘normal function’ as when your muscles are elastic, healthy and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.

Foam rolling after a workout will provide deep compression that will help relax tight muscles and adhesions (fibrous bands) between muscle layers and their surroundings. The benefits of foam rolling are outstanding, in addition to increasing blood flow, which will speed up muscle recovery. Foam rolling can be used for a variety of corrective bodywork.

It can loosen muscles to re-balance posture, re-establish proper movement patterns, enhance performance and help create pain-free movement.

Stretching alone is not always enough when it comes to releasing the tightness, which makes the technique very helpful. Additionally, you are able to feel exactly what is happening and adjust the pressure so that it is uncomfortable, but not unbearable – not always the case when it comes to the toes of your Thai masseuse digging into your back.

Krix Luther has been a Personal Trainer in Phuket for more than 10 years, he specialises in weight loss, strength & conditioning, TRX and CrossFit. For more information about Krix and his services, visit

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Thai Life

Japan’s legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away

The Thaiger



Japan’s legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away | The Thaiger

by Kaoru

Do you travel frequently between Thailand and North America and want to break your journey on the way? Or are you simply looking for somewhere to escape the scorching weather forecast for the next few months? 

Japan has become a very popular holiday destination among Thais with visitor numbers expected to reach one million a year. Many of them are excited to see snow in winter but March~April is a more pleasant time of year with spring flowers and festivals all over the country. Cherry blossoms are well known but the plum blossom season starts earlier in mid-February and the flowers last longer. 

While in Thailand I met so many expats, mainly farang, who had “been there, done that” all over Asia but not yet been to Japan. It seems these days, it’s the free-spending Thais who are travelling in numbers. Budget airline Nok Scoot started flying from Don Muang to Tokyo Narita last year and Thai Lion has now joined the competition. 

Those of you bound for North America can connect flights in Tokyo or Osaka, flying legacy carriers like JAL or ANA out of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK.) Actually, Tokyo has two international airports, Haneda (HND) which is close to the city and Narita (NRT.)

Japan's legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away | News by The Thaiger

Narita Airport is about 60 kilomentres from Tokyo but lies close to a temple town of the same name, only 10 minutes by train. Plum blossom festival is held there until March 3, Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated earlier than Thailand in April, and there will be two days of drum (taiko) performances on April 13 and 14.

However the largest plum blossom festival in the region is held between February 16 and  March 31 in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, about an hour and a half from NRT by coach.

To visit this event you might need a stopover of at least one night. The main venue is the Kairakuen Garden with 3,000 plum trees spread over 50 hectares.  On selected dates an outdoor tea ceremony will be held, and you may also like to taste local plum wine which is sweet and a lot milder than sake (Japanese rice wine.) 

“Plum Blossom Ambassadors,” ladies dressed in traditional costume (kimono) greet visitors at the gardens. Thailand is a photogenic country and so is Japan. I was in Chiang Mai until a few weeks ago, so with memories still fresh from the Flower Festival, I quickly approached of them for a photo shot. 

Then, a prominent feudal lord who ruled Mito reappeared from a few hundred years ago and also wanted to join the photo. Known as Mito Komon, his retired life is dramatised as a legendary figure who travels around the country disguised as a commoner, confronting villains and exposing corruption while helping the weak.

Even if you are familiar with Asia you will notice big differences as well as similarities when you come to Japan. “Will I be able to communicate and find my way around?” You might ask. Japan’s ranking in terms of English proficiency is in the same league as Thailand, only slightly ahead, according to one research by an international language education organisation. That sounds challenging to any foreign visitor but it shouldn’t put you off- If you enjoy life in Thailand you already know how to adapt to a different culture. 

* Special thanks to Mito Tourism and Convention Association for arranging my visit. Thai visitors please let them know beforehand that you are coming so that they can display their welcome banner. 

Japan's legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away | News by The Thaiger

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The legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes, is now in effect

The Thaiger



The legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes, is now in effect | The Thaiger

Grass, pot, ganja, marijuana… cannabis.

Whatever you want to call it, it can now be grown legally in Thailand and used in medical and scientific applications with the consent of the authorities, under strict guidelines.

The Narcotics Act 2562, which seeks to amend specific provisions of the Narcotics Act of 1979 to enable the use of marijuana for the treatment of patients, study, research and development, has now been published in the Royal Gazette.

The revised also allows for cultivation in agricultural, commercial and industrial uses for medical benefits as well.

However, the legal use of marijuana will be placed under the control of a committee headed by the permanent secretary of agriculture and comprises heads of several departments such as the Health Support Services Department, the Industrial Works Department, the Mental Health Department and the Medical Council.

The law also allows for the legal use of “kanchong”, or hemp, with consent from the committee.

Import and export of marijuana in quantities, appropriate for medical treatment of certain ailments, is now permissible under the law, but there must be a prescription or a certificate from a certified medical practitioner.

However, the import or export of marijuana in excess of 10 kilograms remains prohibited as this will be considered trafficking in narcotics.

This is the first time in Thailand that marijuana can be used legally for medical or scientific purposes despite the fact that the studies indicate the plant may possess medicinal qualities of value to some patients.

The controlled use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes is considered an initial step which will eventually lead to wider use for other purposes.

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