Kerala Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurveda, a Sanskrit word meaning 'the knowledge (veda) of life (ayur)', is an Indian holistic system of health dating back over 5000 years. Indians see it as a divine gift from Lord Brahma, their Hindu creator God, which has been developed by sages and holy men over the centuries.
In contrast to the western system of medicine, which is geared to treating an already diseased body or mind, Ayurveda seeks to help the individual strengthen and control both mind and body in order to prolong life and prevent illness.
In today's world, it is a brilliant complement to western medicine and, as well as detoxing the body and mind and relieving stress, has been used to treat ME, high blood pressure, allergies, asthma, back pain, rheumatism, skin diseases, migraines and insomnia, and is used as an effective follow-up treatment to chemotherapy.
How it Works
In essence, Ayurveda combines body treatments and detoxification therapies with a balanced diet, gentle exercise and meditation to promote wellbeing.
The type of treatments and therapies are dictated by an individual's constitution, defined by a balance of three bodily energies or doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Composed of the five elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether (or space) - these doshas govern our bodily processes: vata controls circulation and the nervous system; pitta the metabolism and digestion; kapha bodily strength and energy.
When we feel out of order, our doshas are likely to be out of balance, which a course of Ayurvedic treatments will seek to remedy. If we're uptight and prone to multi-task, it will calm us down and help us focus. If we're sluggish and suffer from bad digestion, it will energize us and get our bowels moving again.
An experienced Ayunvedic doctor will diagnose your dosha type by taking your pulse, and observing such things as how quickly you speak and move, your build, the colour of your eyes and the quality of your skin. You'll also be asked lots of questions about your preferences on anything from climate to the spiciness of food. The more open and honest you are, the more accurate judgement will be, though the best doctors will read you just right, whatever you tell them.
What You Do
Any programme of Ayurveda will include preparation treatments and elimination (or detox) therapies. The former include soothing, synchronized oil applications and massages, and swedana (purifying steam and herbal baths), while the latter involve ingesting or retaining herbal medicines, medicated oils and ghee (or clarified butter), inhalations, bastis (or oil enemas), therapeutic vomiting and bloodletting.
Preparation treatments often include sleep-inducing shirodara, when a wonderful continuous stream of warm oil is poured across your forehead: choormaswedana, where hot herbal or lemon poultices are massaged all over you to induce sweating; and the supremely nourishing four-handed abhyanga and marma massage.
Pizhichil is often regarded as the 'Marmite' of Ayurveda. Gallons of cleansing sesame oil are poured continuously over your body and massaged in by two therapists as the oil increases in heat. You'll slip about like a sardine in a tin, but this treatment is very effective. Look at the oil afterwards, and you'll be shocked at just how dirty you were. If you're a smoker, it's likely to be black.
Any hotel or retreat venue that offers only Ayurvedic massages is offering only a part of what Ayurveda is all about. You need time for Ayurveda treatments to have any real effect. A proper course of Ayurveda needs at least two weeks to be effective and offer any real lasting benefit, and rest between treatments is vital. Most people who undertake a course of Ayurveda have a 'panchakarma' - which literally translates as five therapies, and which also refers to a general Ayurveda detox lasting two weeks or more.
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