According to Ayurvedic teachings, all life forms have a dosha, a mix of vital energies known as vata, pitta and kapha. Ayurvedic massages relax the body and remove deeply rooted imbalances by restoring harmony among these doshas.
An Ayurvedic massage eliminates toxins, strengthens muscles and rejuvenates the body. The most commonly used techniques are kneading, tapping, squeezing and traditional massage strokes using essential oils to treat individual doshas.
Here are seven Ayurvedic massages that you should know of:
An invigorating massage that cleanses the body using grains and herbs, Udvartana increases blood circulation and helps eliminate toxins from the body. Though it’s a commonly used weight loss procedure, it also controls cholesterol levels and improves the complexion. In Udvartana, a herbal paste or dried herbs are massaged in the opposite direction of hair growth (in an upward direction) that breaks down adipose (fat) tissues and Kapha in the body.
Shirodhara stimulates the nerves in the scalp by pouring herbal oils on the head in a constant stream (dhara means stream in Sanskrit). The pouring of warm oil on the head relieves stress, fatigue, depression, headaches and clears your mind.
One of the most important practices in Ayurveda, Abhyanga involves the use of hot medicated herbal oils to massage the entire body at a comfortable but warm temperature. Herbs specific to relieve a particular dosha are used. The practitioner stimulates specific marmas (pressure points) to help release toxins from the body and improve blood circulation. This massage strengthens the bones, joints and muscles.
A traditional Ayurvedic dry massage devoid of oil or herbs, Garshana stimulates the skin and the lymphatic system and improves the blood circulation by releasing accumulated toxins. By using raw silk gloves, a soft sponge or a dry brush, dead skin is brushed away by gentle hand movements. This massage helps in boosting immunity and revitalizes the skin. Experts advice an Abhyanga massage after Garshana, as it opens the pores and offers greater absorption of massage oils.
A classical massage with medicated leaves, Elakizhi helps tackle muscle cramps, joint pains, arthritis and stress. Herbal poultices (bundles) are prepared using several medicinal herbs. The poultices are then heated in medicated oils and the entire body is massaged with it. This massage increases perspiration and improves blood circulation, eliminates waste and improves skin tone. It is useful for treating osteoarthritis, joint pains, and spondylosis.
6. Njavara Kizhi
Also known as the ‘rice bolus massage’, Njavara kizhi is done using a special rice called Njavara. The rice is first cooked in milk containing herb decoctions, which is then packed in cotton bundles (poultices). This massage improves skin texture, boosts blood circulation, relieves muscular stress and joint pain.
7. Pizhichil (Thailadhara)
This Ayurveda massage involves pouring streams of lukewarm herbal oils from a Kindi (a special vessel), which is placed several inches above the body. The body is simultaneously massaged using gentle upward strokes. It provides relief from rheumatic diseases, paralysis, arthritis, nerve problems, blood pressure and fractures.
If you want to try any of these massages, there are a number of Ayurvedic centers across the country that provide them. They are:
1. Carlsbad, California
The Chopra Center for Wellbeing
2. Chicago, Illinois
3. Sedona, Arizona
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