Ayurvedic Massages

All the Ayurvedic massages used medicated herbal oils (siddha taila). The herbs are freshly cut each day, to suit the individual’s constitution. The herbs are than boiled in the vegetable oils or ghee (clarified butter). The efficacy and concentration of the medicated oil depends on the size of the fire, and size of pot used and type of metal, iron, copper or steel pot.

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Medicated oils work on the plasma, blood and muscle tissue of the body. They increase the digestive capacities of the different tissues. They work primarily on the skin, blood lungs and colon. Through the colon they can have some effect on the nerve tissue.


Touch me, pamper me!
Kerala, in south-west India, also know as the Venice of the east, is the heart of Ayurvedic medicine in India.  As a strong believer and consumer of the benefits of massage therapy for over 25 years, I always receive Ayurvedic massages when I am tarvelling through India. For all massages, you strip down and wear a loincloth that is provided for you. So if you are body-shy, work on that, before embarking to Kerala.
The massages I experienced are listed below.


Customized Rejuvenation Massage: first coconut oil with herbs is massaged on the head, than medicated sesame oil is applied all over the body. The oil is gently rubbed on. After that, you are lie on the massage pad and oil is liberally applied and massaged in steady long strokes to and from the heart. The head and body is massaged for over an hour. The face is massaged with a herbal cream. After the massage, you are then led into a medicated steam bath using either Eucalyptus or Lemongrass essential oils. This is chosen depending on your body constitution.  The steam bath is for 15 minutes. The intensity of the steam makes one sweat profusely, clearing the body of toxins. A warm bath is prepared and you wash yourself using Ayurvedic herbal soap and Inja. Inja is a tree bark that absorbs the oil and also exfoliates.  I had four of these massage, I felt brand new and I was glowing with health.


Elakizhi:  After carrying the backpack for over three weeks my muscle and joints were in pain.  I opted for this massage.  First a light sesame oil base is rubbed on the body. Elakizhi is done utilizing fresh medicinal leaves made into a poultice. The poultice is dipped into hot boiling oil. The excess oil is squeezed off the poultice. The hot poultice is then applied al over the body. This is repeated for an hour. The heat was extremely soothing for the muscle and joint. The fragrance was heavenly. For maximum benefit this treatment is recommended for 15 days.   A warm bath is recommended after an hour of the massage.


Dhara:  This is a 7day treatment. In a 7day treatment, herbal oil added to medicated milk or buttermilk, and poured on the forehead continuously. It is very effective for relieving mental tension, headache, relaxation of mind and body.  It also cools the head and body. After the session, a cool bath is taken and one should stay out of the sun.

In my case, I wanted to try it once. For my one-day treatment buttermilk was used. Sandalwood paste is applied to the head; a cloth is wrapped over it and tied under the chin. The sandalwood paste absorbs excessive heat from the body. [Remember in winter we lose 70% of body heat from out head].  A light oil is massage all over the body. My eyes are blindfolded with cotton to prevent the buttermilk from seeping into my eyes. There is no danger to the eyes, but one merely from a viewpoint of comfort.
On top of my head hangs a clay pot with a wick through it. Buttermilk is poured into the clay pot and down drips the buttermilk gently swinging back and forth on my forehead. The buttermilk smelled delicious. It took a while to get used to this liquid washing down my head.  After a while I dozed off, only to be waken gently from my slumber.  I felt so relaxed, but the cool bath did wake me up. For the next few days long I was in zen state.
In my opinion a healthy relaxed body and mind offers the body a chance to maintain a healthy immune function.  Sometimes the best immune reconstitution is just lying by a beach, listening to the ocean roar, watching a sunset, getting massages daily, drinking coconut juice, eating fresh pineapple, mangoes and checking out the local scene, which is quite delicious in itself.


Glossary:
Dosha: things that can go out of whack
Vata: increased vata can cause a increased wind in the body
Kapha: the force which when projected in the body cause mucus to arise
Pitta: force which cause bile to be produced
Dhatus: the seven dhatus are tissue fluids, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, sexual fluids. The Dhatus nourish one another
Ojas: life force, that which links the physical, mental and spiritual
Panchakarma: an intense detox, rejuvenate, balance program; can be a few days to weeks to months

For further explanation of terminology please refer to Ayurveda page.


Traditional Ayurvedic Massages and Panchakarma Treatment
Listed below are the diverse range of Ayurvedic Massages offered. All Ayurvedic massages are customized to the individual’s constitution after a consultation.


General Massage- duration 45 minutes
This massage concentrates on the whole body (except the face and head). The whole body is massaged with herbal oil. Benefits; recoups your vigour and vitality.


Customized Rejuvenation Massage (1 hour)   
A customised herbal oil is massaged on the head and body. An herbal cream is used for the facial massage. This is followed by a medicated steam bath (see below for explanation) for twenty minutes. The water is a decoction made out of herbs and wild fruits. This aromatherapy combination helps to nourish your skin, improve skin tone, vitality and enhances youthfulness.


Chaithanya Chikitsa (Vitality Therapy, 90 day treatment)
A precise potent herbal concentrate which contains extracts of some of the rarest medicinal plants and other ingredients.  It is actually an intensified version of the historic “Kaya Kalpa Chikitsa”.  When taken orally it changes the constitution of the body and thereby boosts vigour, vitality, vision, memory, muscle power, stamina, sexual energy and dynamism.


General Massage for muscle relaxation (1 hour)   
Massaging the entire body with special herbal oils. Extra attention will be given to the muscles. This improves blood circulation, gives relief from spasm, myalgia,etc.


Customised Joint Massage (1 ½ hours)  
Massaging all joints, vertebrae, had and face with highly potential oil. In addition a full body massage will be also given.  This helps to get rid of rheumatism, joint pains, myalgia, etc. Increase the strength of joints.


Chavutty Thirummu (Customised Rejuvenation Massage, by foot, 1 hour)  
At first a mild massage is given by hand. Then a customised body massage will be given by bare foot using herbal oils. The head and face will be massaged by hand.


Slimming Massage (Udwarthanam)
Massaging the whole body with a combination of various medicinal powders in upward direction.  It reduces body weight, controls cholesterol and obesity.  Strengthens muscles, tightens loose skin and regains figure.


Abhyangam
Medicated oil will be applied be applied all over the body. A mild massage will also be given in 5 different postures. Special consideration will be given to the head, ears and feet.  This will be followed by medicated bath.  It helps the promotion of blood circulation, thereby relaxing the mind and body.


Pizhichil
Luke warm herbal medicinal oil will be poured over the body continuously.  The body and mind will become completely relaxed after this procedure. This treatment helps to relieve rheumatism, nervous disorder and sexual weakness.


Dhara (7 day treatment)
Herbal oil mixed with medicated milk or buttermilk and medicinal extracts is poured on the forehead continuously.  This treatment is very useful for relieving mental tension, headache, relaxation of mind and body.  Above all it cools your body and head very effectively. After this session, it is recommended to stay out of the sun. For maximum benefit, it is recommended to receive this treatment for 7 days.


Njavarakizhi
A very effective mode of treatment using medicinal pudding.. It is very effective for eradicating rheumatic complaints and nervous disorders.


Elakizhi (15 day treatment)
Done with a collection of fresh medicinal leaves and oil for backaches, joint pains, muscle pain, etc. Medicinal leaves are tied in a muslin bags. The muslin bags are immersed in hot medicated oil. The muslin bags are applied are applied at bearable heat on the body parts. The hot medicinal poultice is applied to the body parts. Before this process a light body massage is given.


Shirovasthy
Luke warm medicated will be allowed to maintain on the head by using a cap fixed around the head. Effective for memory ailments, nervous disorders, disturbed sleep.


Nasyam
Luke warm medicated oil will be poured into both nostrils for cleaning the nasal cavities. It is an effective treatment for ailments above the neck. This is very effective for nervous disorders, sinusitis, headache, congestion, etc.


Tharpanam
Medicated oil or ghee (clarified butter) will be applied over the eyes. This is very effective for eyes irritation. This treatment cools the eyes and enhances the eyesight.


Medicated steam bath
A steam bath completes the Ayurvedic massage. Essential oils are added to enhance the detoxification after the massage. Essential oils used are lemongrass or eucalyptus.

Lemongrass, a native plant of India with a powerful lemon like odour.  It is beneficial for infections, headaches, sore throats, respiratory problems and fevers. Has antiseptic properties and used as an insect repellant.
Eucalyptus is beneficial for viral infection, colds, coughs, bronchitis, rheumatism, muscular strain, and skin infections. Has antiseptic, antifungal properties and used as an insect repellent.


Medicated bath
A medicated bath completes the massage. After the herbal oil massage, the herbal bath is prepared. This involves a hot herbal bath, along with medicated hand made Ayurvedic soap and inja (a medicinal bark fibre used as an exfoilant, and absorbs excess oil). The bath cleanses the body, and soothes the soul. It relieves travel fatigue and imparts a healthy glow an freshness.


Reiki
Reiki is based a Japenese modification of a traditional Tibetan technique of great antiquity. Reiki has it roots in Ayurveda and so does Tibetan medicine. It is similar to Pranic healing. Prana is the sanskirt word for life force
Reiki( rei= universal, ki=energy or life force) is a way of  connecting with universal energy to improve health and quality of life.  Reiki is based on the belief that living things share life energy. When that life energy becomes blocked, it results in an imbalance. This imbalance can cause an illness, physical, or emotional.  The practitioner lays his/her hand on the energy field, (there is no body contact) to guide(channel) your energy and unblock your emotions. The person receiving the treatment is fully clothed.   The benefits are profound relaxation, increase energy, release of emotions and increased awareness of self.


Panchakarma
Panchakarma is a detoxification program that is utilized in Ayurveda. Panchakarma is ONLY undertaken when the patient is strong relative to the disease.  It is not to be undertaken by patient at end stage disease.   Panchakarma involves abhayanga (oleation), svedana (sweating), and shirodhara (lubrication of the scalp) and evacuative nasal medication or kriyas.
Each of these four purification procedures is modified to the person’s constitution or excess of humors. In abhayanga, warm oil is rubbed all over the body. It penetrates the skin  and lubricates the   superficial fascia, the deep  fascia, and touches the nerve ending , where it release the certain neuropeptides. These are the same neuropepetides that are present in the central nervous system (CNS), which maintain immunity.  It is believed oleation boost immunity.
After abhayanga and svedana the toxin is directed to the digestive tract to be expelled.  This is aided by dietary means to help the doshas flow.  The three types of toxin (ama) are based on the three humors or doshas, pitta, kalpha , and vata.  These specific purifications are performed at specific times of the day, morning, noon or evening, depending again on
personal constitution.


Toxin from the gastrointestinal tract is directed to the organs specific to each flow of toxin.  Pitta is directed to liver, intestine and gallbladder.  Kalpha brings the mucous toxin to the stomach.  Vata is directed to the colon as gas .To facilitate complete elimination of the toxin according to each humour; these are the general recommendations.  For pitta , purgation therapy.  For kapha, vomiting therapy is recommended under supervision of an Ayurvedic Physician.  For vata disorder, basti (medicated enema)  is recommended.


Nasal medication is the preferred purification for all diseases of the head.  After these intense cleansing a pacification treatment is introduced to rebalance the dosha and protect the system. In this way toxin is eradicated from the system, the system is rejuvenated and disease process is minimizes or halted.

Caution: Each of these detoxification therapies has to be performed under supervision of a qualified Ayurveda or otherwise it will aggravate the situation and make it worse.

References:

1. Robert E. Svoboda, Ayurveda, Life, Health and Longevity, pg. 204-210
2. Dr.Vasant Lad, Yoga Health, The Science of Restoring Harmony, pg. 34-37