Ayurveda is an ancient science which, although originated thousands of years ago, is still used as a treatment for many problems and ailments. Additionally to the nutrition suggestions, Ayurvedic oil massages are recommended for relaxation of body and mind as well as for stimulation of nerves and muscles.
In ancient times, Ayurvedic massages were such a commonly known practice throughout India, that Ayurvedic practitioners and clinics did not even offer them. People consulted Ayurvedic doctors only for particular treatments and special needs in order to receive a specific treatment. Nowadays however you will find Ayurvedic massage offers in all Ayurvedic clinics and also in wellness spas.
Through the detoxifying process as well as the relaxation of the mind, Ayurvedic massage also has a great effect on your mental and psychological state. When your mind can relax from the stress and overwhelming input of your surroundings, it has time to sort thoughts and emotions.
In Hindu traditions it is even today usual to give an Ayurvedic massage to both, the bride and the groom, as a special ceremony that lets them relax and makes their skin soft and glow from inside. The soothing relaxation helps a couple - newlyweds or not - to share and give love. Ayurvedic massages are thus even recommended for partners who wish to maintain a loving relationship.
Today's busy, modern world offers many advantages but is at the same time a challenge for the human mind and body. Constant stress and pressure weigh heavy on our minds while long sitting and working hours as well as a permanently wrong posture give strain to our body. While a lot of people are disappointed with the treatment that allopathic medicine offers, those who have experienced Ayurvedic Massages and procedures are often convinced by the results: they feel better, muscles could relax, strain and stress was lifted and pain could thus be reduced. These are the most common and recommended procedures: Pizhichil, Njavarakizhi, Abhayangam, Shirodhara, Shirovasti, Elakizhi and Ubatan.
Abhyangam is that what most people will imagine when they hear 'Ayurvedic oil massage'. Herbal medicated oil is used to massage the entire body. While doing this, the therapist takes care to press the 107 vital points, called marmas, of the body.
This massage obviously has great benefits on the entire body. It enhances the blood circulation, it tones your muscles, rejuvenates your skin, strengthens the tissues and relaxes your nerves. Through the relaxation of the body your mind is soothed. Your body and immune system can resist influences from outside better. You have better sleep, your skin shines and you feel young and full of power.
Shirodhara is probably one of the most widely known Ayurvedic treatments. It is a gentle massage as well as treatment in which oil with Ayurvedic herbs is poured onto your forehead in a continuous stream.
The effect of Shirodhara is often described as a rarely experienced relaxation of the mind. Any stress and tension is relieved which has a relaxing effect on your mental and emotional situation. Shirodhara is thus strongly recommended for people suffering from insomnia, depression or burn-out. Sleep is improved, concentration gets easier and it can even change your general attitude towards more positivity.
If the therapist uses buttermilk instead of oil, the therapy is called Takradhara.
'Pizhichil' literally means squeezing. It is however not the body that is squeezed but a piece of cloth which the therapist dips periodically into a bowl containing warm oil with Ayurvedic herbs. This oil is thus squeezed onto your body in a continuous stream over a longer period of time. The whole body except for head and neck thus experienced this warming and relaxing stream of oil.
Apart from its obvious soothing effect on the mind, Pizhichil relaxes the muscles of the whole body while the herbs reach deeper into the body tissues. Pizhichil is recommended for problems caused by the dosha Vata. It has beneficial effects for patients with muscle spasms, frequent cramps and even paralysis and hemiplegia.
In preparation for Njavarakizhi, oil with Ayurvedic herbs is applied all over the body. After that you receive a massage with a warm bundle filled with Ayurvedic herbs and medicine and dipped into warm milk.
The warmth, further supported by the Ayurvedic massage and herbs, makes the body sweat out toxins. Through the rubbing with the bundle, dead skin is removed so that new skin can grow. This process not only makes your skin shine through the revitalisation and thus gives the impression of a rejuvenating therapy but also helps against certain skin disorders and impurities. Apart from this effect, Ayurveda suggests this therapy for all types of rheumatism, pain in the joints and arthritis. Its relaxing and soothing effect is helpful during the convalescence period after traumatic experiences. General weakness is another reason for an Ayurvedic doctor to recommend this massage. Patients suffering from paralysis have experienced relief after repeated application of this and other treatments over a prolonged period of time.
Usually Snehana (oiling) and Swedana (sweating, for example through steam) is done before one starts a Shirovasti treatment. For Shirovasti, a crown or cap is formed out of a hard cloth that is then fixed with a paste to the head so that it can be filled from the top without leaking. Warm oil with Ayurvedic herbs is filled into the cap and remains there for some time which is determined by the Ayurvedic doctor.
The benefits of this treatment go far from a relief of headaches and earache to a a distince improval of all sensory functions. The warm oil stimulates nerves at the top of your head and is thus recommended for diseases and problems connected with your cranial nerves. Ayurveda recommends the treatment for facial paralysis, cataract and glaucoma but also for schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, memory loss, insomnia and disorientation. It is described as a Shamana treatment rather than a Shodhana treatment, which means that it alleviates problems rather than cure them completely.
For Elakizhi your therapist will prepare bundles of various herbs and herbal powder. These bundles are warmed in Ayurvedic oils and then used for massaging your body.
Elakizhi is a therapy that revitalizes your skin. Blood circulation is increased and your body sweats out toxins. Your skin releases these toxins and through the massage, dead skin particles are removed. Ayurvedic doctors also recommend this massage against joint pain, muscle cramps and arthritis. Of course the massage also reduces any stress levels in your body.
Ubatan is a Beauty Massage. It is used to help the elderly and special techniques have been developed for young mothers as well as babies.
All those treatments can be performed on a healthy person, too, simply to strengthen the immune system and giving back energy to the body. For patients, an Ayurvedic doctor usually recommends different combinations of treatments and herbs. Specific Ayurvedic massage therapies are used in certain therapeutic treatments like in Panchakarma purification.
If you would like to experience different ayurvedic massages and ayurvedic treatments, you are welcome to come to a Yoga and Ayurveda retreat to the Ashram.
Interested in Ayurveda in daily life? Read Swami Balendu's blog category about Ayurveda and get to know his opinion.