Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medical system that aims to maintain the health of the mind and spirit, tailored to each individual person. Ayurvedic massage uses oils, movements and techniques chosen especially for you, your body and your skin type.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is an ancient lifestyle practice which aims to create harmony within the body. Practised widely in India, it works on the belief that all life forms have a "dosha" - a unique mix of energies known as "vata", "pitta" and "kapha". This is similar to the Western idea of elements - water, fire, earth, and so on.
A person's dosha determines the kind of lifestyle that is balancing and healthy for them, including the sorts of food they should eat and the amount and type of exercise they should do. Ayurveda covers a variety of techniques, from detoxification, diet and herbal prescriptions, to yoga, meditation and massage therapy. All are personalised to suit the individual's dosha. A favourite among celebrities, Ayurveda is a lifestyle made up of treatments, diet and exercise.
What is Ayurvedic massage?
Ayurvedic massage uses essential oils that are chosen to suit your dosha. The massage techniques used include tapping, kneading and squeezing as well as the more traditional massage strokes you would expect. The style and flow of the massage is determined by who you are, and what your body needs for balance and wellbeing at the time. An Ayurvedic therapist is trained to focus on the "marma points" - similar to the pressure points in reflexology, acupuncture and acupressure.
What is Ayurvedic massage good for?
When combined with other Ayurvedic principles (eating a range of food prescribed by one's dosha, for example, or exercising at certain times of the day), the massage is designed to:
* detoxify and cleanse
* boost the effectiveness of the immune system
* keep healthy people in good health
* help those with medical conditions to improve their overall well-being.
Before you go
Don't make any arrangements for a couple of hours after your massage. You'll need time to relax and wash the herbal oil out of your hair. It's a good idea to refrain from large meals and alcohol in the hours leading up to your treatment, too.
Any Ayurvedic treatment will be tailored to suit you, so your therapist is likely to ask detailed questions about you and your health, in order to determine which oils and massage strokes will best suit your body. As with all types of massage, it's important to share any medical concerns or worries you may have at the start of your session. Not all oils or massage techniques are safe during pregnancy, so it's also important to tell your therapist if you are - or think you might be - pregnant.
What to expect from an Ayurvedic massage
Before your massage begins, your therapist will ask you questions about your lifestyle and health, to determine your dosha. She may also assess your skin type, and choose herb-infused oils accordingly. Because it is so personal, no two Ayurvedic massages are the same.
For your massage, the therapist (or maybe two therapists working in unison) will tailor the intensity and level of pressure to what suits you best. During an Ayurvedic massage, your therapist (or therapists) might utter dosha mantras, designed to help balance your body, mind and spirit. The massage is likely to be quite oily, and some of the oil gets rubbed into your forehead and hair. The massage will probably last around an hour.
Check with the spa in advance about what you should wear. Ayurvedic massage is very oily, so if you choose to wear anything at all, make sure it's old and dispensable.
You'll probably want to relax for a while, taking a long, leisurely shower to wash off all the herbal oil. Sip some cool water to re-hydrate yourself and enjoy feeling calm, composed and balanced for the rest of the day.
Different kinds of Ayurvedic massage
* Ayurvedic Indian head massage
* Abhyanga: An individually prepared herbal oil massage
* Abhyanga-Garshana: A dry lymphatic skin brushing followed by a herbal oil massage
* Vishesh: A deep muscular massage using herbal oils
* Pizzichili: A two-therapist massage using warm herbal oils
* Shiro-Abhyanga-Nasya: Deep head, neck and shoulder massage, facial lymphatic massage and aromatic steam
* Ayurvedic foot massage: A deep massage in which the therapist uses his feet to massage you
* Udwarthanam: A slimming treatment involving deep massage with herbal powders
* Ayurvedic Shirodhara: A treatment using oil poured on the forehead
* Ayurvedic face and marma therapy: A facial using a herbal mask and individ