Indian Massage Therapies Demystified

by Simona Terron
India has long been the destination of healing for travelers from around the world. We have powerful medicinal herbs and spices documented in ancient texts with glossaries of their effects and recommended dosages. And in the modern era, medical tourism in India is booming courtesy affordable expertise and care, which has attracted many people. But none of this is as well-known as India’s best practice for ensuring your wellbeing: its many kinds of therapeutic massages.

Here’s a quick breakdown to familiarize yourself with the main Indian massage therapies:

Perhaps the most popular and renowned is Ayurvedic Massage. Born from a 5,000-year-old system of healthcare, it combines the practice of yoga, meditation, and herbal remedies to restore your mind and body.
During this therapy, everything is customized to the individual’s needs and health condition, from the warm herb-infused oils prepared just for you before your massage, to the post-massage bath or laying in the sun, and even the diet suggestions they offer.
An Ayurvedic massage may also involve the herbal oil being poured into the ears, between the eyebrows, and at specific chakras, or energy points, during techniques known respectively as karna purana, shirodhara, and marma chikitsa.

Some other terms you can familiarize yourself with:
  1. ABHYANGA: This therapy has more than one therapist conducting the massage; there can be two or more therapists working on your body simultaneously. It is a very light massage and leaves you relaxed and refreshed, which means no soreness later unlike certain deep tissue massages.
  2. CHAMPISSAGE: This is restricted to the head and is good for stimulating the scalp, which increases circulation, relaxes you deeply and even nourishes the roots of your hair. Sometimes the face, ears, neck, shoulders, upper arms and upper back are also massaged. Sometimes, there is oil involved but this can be done even without. It helps relieve eye strain, headaches, insomnia, lack of concentration or lethargy.

3. SHIRODHARA: This form of Ayurveda therapy has the therapist pouring herbal oils gently on you’re your forehead. The name of this therapy means shiro (head) and dhara (flow) in Sanskrit. It is usually administered by a metal pot suspended over the person’s forehead. This pot contains the oil, which drips in a steady trickle or sometimes in slow drops that land directly in the middle of your forehead or between your brows.
4. GARSHANA: Not as commonly known but very effective for those looking to improve their circulation and achieve glowing, smooth skin, this therapy involves dry brushing the surface of the entire body. It can be done with a soft brush or even raw silk gloves. You need to massage your entire body except the face and heart. Do not brush hard. You’ll have to start very gently at first especially if you have sensitive skin. The strokes must be firm but gentle and always move towards the heart, sometimes in circular motions and at other times in long sweeping strokes or spiral motions.
We hope this encourages you to try an Indian massage therapy that matches your specific needs, heals you and increases your happiness. Do write and tell us about your experience and if you loved or hated it!

Image: Shutterstock
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