How does it work?
The term Ayurveda can be broken down into two Sanskrit words – Ayu meaning “life” and Veda meaning “science” or “knowledge”. It’s an ancient Indian system of healthcare that focuses on achieving a perfect sense of balance between the body, the mind and the spirit, and has now become one of the leading types of alternate medicine in the Western World.
While modern medicine is built around treating disease as a series of symptoms (hence our habit of bulk-buying the Lemsip once the sniffles set in), Ayurveda considers disease to be a result of an inbalance from deeper within the body, which has to be addressed through the use of herbs, diet, exercise, [[treatment/yoga/| yoga]], [[treatment/massage/| massage]], aromas, mantras, and [[treatment/meditation/| meditation]]. Sounds much nicer than queuing up with the drunks in A&E, right?
Massage is especially important as it uses touch to access all the points at which we accumulate stress, aches and pains throughout our daily lives. There is said to be a subtle transfer of electromagnetic energy during an Ayurvedic massage – flooding you with positive vibes and gently manipulating pressure points in the body, encouraging revitalisation and wellbeing. Therapists pay particular attention to the seven “chakras” – specific points of energy that nourish and protect individual organs. It’s believed that illness occurs when these are blocked, so Ayurvedic massage works to keep these nice and cleansed, so you stay fit and healthy. After all, nobody likes a blocked chakra...
The different types of Ayurvedic massage include: [[treatment/abhyanga-ayurvedic-massage/| Abhyanga]] – Full body massage Hastabhyanga – Hand massage Padabhyanga – Foot massage Kati Basti – Medicated oil treatment for the lower back Marma Massage – Specific stimulation of the 107 marmas (energy points) in the body Pindasveda – Body massage using linen bags filled with treated Njavara rice Garshana – Dry skin brushing method for exfoliation Mukabhyanga – Head, face and neckline massage Shirodhara – Warm oil treatment for the forehead PristhAbhyanga – Back massage *Garbhini – [[treatment/pre-and-post-natal-massage/| Pregnancy massage]]
Is it for me?
Ayurveda treatments are intensely personal by nature, so your massage will be tailor-made to suit you. This is done in a preliminary consultation, during which your therapist will assess the state of your body and make decisions on the type of massage you need and the oils that should be used, and they claim that this makes the Ayurvedic method much more effective than other forms of massage. However, it is more commonly used to treat illness and disease, and not muscle damage - so that awkward sports injury might not be cured through the soft strokes of Ayurveda. It’s also very spiritual and therapists may even recite a prayer or begin with a brief meditation session, so if this is more likely to give you a dose of the giggles than inspire complete body balance, it might be better to stick with someone who’ll dig their elbows into you.
Good to know
In traditional Indian culture, [[treatment/childrens-massage/| babies are massaged]] every day for the first 18 months of their life as part of Ayurvedic practice.