Oil. Lots of it. And getting naked. Almost.
We’re talking about the oldest form of healthcare in the world, folks! My research tells me that ayurveda dates back an estimated 5,000-10,000 years. In Sanskrit, ayu means life and veda, science or wisdom. This wisdom was initially passed down orally through generations, and then written down in the Vedas, the oldest writings in the world, in Sanskrit language. The tale of how it truly began is spellbinding and as old as the cosmos, interweaving fact and fantasy, myth and matter, science and sagas.
During those ancient times, ayurvedic clinics did not normally just offer massage because everybody knew how to give one. It was only when someone needed a particular treatment did the clinics offer consultations with specialists, who then used appropriate ayurvedic techniques.
In modern day India, however, there are countless practitioners that give head and body massage for a few rupees; even that barber at the tiny shop around the corner will offer you a shoulder massage to de-stress those sore muscles. It’s ayurveda, he’ll claim. They may have little knowledge of ayurveda, but they do know how to work and sooth the muscles.
Certified practitioners of ayurveda use special techniques and oils which are designed for individual doshas, or body types, and marmas, or pressure points. Ayurvedic massage practitioners can keep the body in a balanced state of homeostasis that allows the immune system to function properly and is therapeutic for the entire body.
You can’t achieve this blissful state of homeostasis in one session, however. It usually costs a lot because normally they’d suggest a complete massage therapy session that spans 5 to 15 days. And each session costs approximately USD 40-50.
Ayurvedic massage is basically tailored to your body’s specific needs. The style and the flow of the massage is determined by who you are, and what your body needs for it to be balanced. There are four main kinds of massage offered by ayurvedic massage therapists, each with a specific purpose in hand. The massage can either be performed with the intention to eliminate toxins though purification, relax the body, strengthen the muscle tone or rejuvenate the body.
Despite my great curiosity and interest on experiencing this traditional, ancient massage firsthand, I chickened out at the last moment. The thought of exposing my fats to another person, albeit a female, makes me shudder. But I’ve managed to convince Masood. I made him realize how stressed out he is from all the responsibilities, his work obligations, the traveling…
The man who has hated oil since he was a fetus finally agrees to have an ayurvedic massage!
It takes me an entire day of coaxing and cajoling, so by the time he says yes, it is almost dinner time, and the ayurveda consultant has left. So we really don’t know his doshas and such, but the masseur agreed to give him abhyangam, an exotic-sounding word that promises a relaxing treatment meant to quiet the nervous system, produce a feeling of deep relaxation, and aid sleep.
The massage is offered at the resort we’re staying at. I stay back in our room and watch lions kill a buffalo on Animal Planet, while Masood leaves for his massage treatment. The entire process takes 60 to 75 minutes.
The masseur first takes out three or four bottles containing different types of oil, takes out a measured quantity of oil from each of them, then heats the oil until it’s warm. He asks Masood to undress and wear a langot, something that probably resembled a diaper. I wouldn’t know since I am not there during the massage process. Then he pours a generous amount of oil on Masood’s head.
“This is water, not oil. This is water, not oil. This is pure, clear, odorless water,” Masood repeats to himself as the viscous oil—the composition of which has been carefully formulated thousands of years ago—glides gracefully from his head to his shoulders, and down his body. The masseur works on massaging the head first.
Masood is then asked to lay on a wooden bed, facing down; the masseur starts massaging his shoulder, arms, and back. In finely coordinated strokes he would do this swiping movement on a muscle area with a fair amount of pressure but not painful. Then he turns to lay on his back so that the masseur works on the chest and thigh muscles.
He then shows Masood into a room that has a steam/sauna box. He sits in it with his head sticking out of the box, a towel wrapped around his neck. He detects a hint of menthol in the steam. He stays in there until his pores open up and release all the toxins from his body.
He then proceeds to take a warm shower. He finishes two bars of soap and a bottle of shampoo. And yet the oil still clings on faithfully.
He takes another shower upon reaching our room.
Then it rains heavily. It’s 11 PM and we’re sitting in the front porch enjoying the cool breeze and the freshness of our surroundings.
He sleeps like a log. And wakes up completely refreshed and rejuvenated the next day.
Have you ever experienced an ayurvedic massage? How did it work for you?
Oh, and by the way, you can also indulge yourself in ayurvedic self-massage by following these simple steps.