Finally, Part 2! In this post on getting your first Ayurvedic massage while visiting India, I’ll give you information on what your choices are from the Ayurvedic massage menu, recommendations on a couple of Ayurvedic clinics I’ve been to personally and also I’ll share with you a few tidbits on why Ayurveda is connected specifically to South India.
But First, for the Embarrassing Part
In my previous post on Ayurvedic massage, What you Must Know to Avoid Embarrassment at your Indian Ayurvedic Massage (Part 1) I mentioned that I learned – the embarrassing way – how to put on the paper “underwear” they give you to prepare for your massage. This is what I said in that post:
Wear the Loin Cloth with Pride
This is probably the most useful info I can give you, based on my slightly embarrassing experience. They will give you what they will refer to as underwear as they send you into the bathroom to get undressed. It resembles more of a long paper loin cloth with ties/string hanging from it. You are meant to place it between your legs, belly to back, then tie the strings around your waste, tucking the back end up into it (or tucking the front end into it, depending if you went the other way, back to belly). You can certainly ask for help too, and it is unlikely they will bat an eyelash, so no worries. Good stuff to know beforehand ;-).
Well, I realized just now that I never really told you what the embarrassing part was. Soooo, here you go: I opened the door from the bathroom into the room with my Ayurvedic masseuse waiting for me. I could not figure out AT ALL what I was suppose to do with that thing. When I came out, I had the ties tied around my waste with the long loincloth part of it dangling just about to the floor, covering my front. My backside was bare. I knew I must not have done it correctly, but I was all out of ideas and frankly more impatient to get my massage than I was embarrassed for her to see my incompetence (and my butt)! The darling masseuse giggled and asked if I wanted help. Yes please, I said. Then she tucked it in through the back and that was that!
Now, back to Part 2.
What’s on the Menu?
These clinics offer a variety of Ayurvedic massages and other treatments. For example, the Abhyangam is the basic massage with warm herbal oils. It forms the basis of all external therapeutics in Ayurveda. The oils and herbs soak and nourish your skin as the Ayurvedic masseuse uses long strokes to stimulate blood circulation and help the toxins exit. The Shirodhara is an Abhyangam with rhythmic and periodic flow of warm medicated oils on your forehead. The clinics and spas usually offer these therapies with one or two therapists (sometimes more). They work in synchronized strokes to cleanse energy channels and leave you feeling divinely calm and blissful. Of course, you also get to choose the length of your massage and pay accordingly. (And if you are comfortable with it, yes it is worth it!)
These clinics typically have an extensive menu of options beyond the Abhyangam and Shirodhara such as Avagahanam (exotic herb and oil bath), Nasyam (opens up nasal and sinus channels of energy) and a full list of other Panchakarma therapies that detoxify. There are so many Ayurvedic body therapies. Each clinic and spa offers their own variety.
Beyond a massage and the herb and oil therapies, a full Ayurvedic medical assessment for more intensive treatments can also be received in one of these Ayurvedic clinics or even hospitals. However, for those you need to a lot more time. They are not conducive to a travelers schedule unless you are planning to stick around for a while.
Ayurveda is India’s traditional, natural healing system; health results are achieved and maintained through a lifestyle which includes specific diet (dosha-specific), combined with body treatments. If you do have time to spend specifically on your health while in India, you would first get a medical assessment of your dosha (your body type, made up of the five elements). Then a medical doctor will tailor-make a treatment program that works specifically for you. If you do not have this kind of time while in India, you will find the massage treatments to be soothing, grounding and seriously delightful. (If you want to take a quick dosha quiz for fun, here is a link to Deepak Chopra’s.)
In the past two years, I have had the opportunity for Ayurvedic massages at two different spas (not including a few wonderful hotel Abyhyangams). I can personally recommend them both (and no, I do not have any kind of affiliation with either). Sanjeeva Ayurveda Wellness Spa at Vedic Village is a medical spa just outside of Kolkata. They have residential medical packages as well if you want to stay in one of their beautiful bungalows for a few nights. (Spoiler Alert…if you had no intention of including an Ayurvedic stop in your travels, you may need to add on a few days and route yourself through Kolkata once you take a look at this site!)
Chakrapani Ayurveda Clinic & Research Center is easily accessible from Jaipur. This clinic, research center and school offers a long list of services as well. Whether you are there for a 60 minute Ayurvedic massage, you want to experience a Panchakarma therapy or are interested in Ayurvedic lifestyle and nutrition counseling, they are top notch.
South India and Ayurveda
Ayurveda is a practice that is even more widespread in South India than it is in the North. Although doing just a little bit of research, it seems that Ayurvedic practices and therapies were included in ancient scriptures and civilizations that began in the Indus Valley and Gangetic Plains (in the north). So, it’s not that Ayurveda necessarily developed originally in the South, at least from what I can tell.
The south western state of Kerala claims to possess “an unbroken tradition of Ayurveda that has surpassed many invasions and intrusions both foreign and native.” This could be in part due to their long monsoon season. Because of the heat and humidity, monsoon season is said to be the best time to undergo Ayurvedic treatments. Cleaner and more humid air makes the pores open more easily, facilitating the release of toxins and the absorption of the beneficial oils and herbs. This makes Kerala the perfect climate for Ayurvedic healing.
My recommendations for Ayurvedic massages in this blog are both in Northern India (meaning North of Mumbai) – but I’m heading to Kerala and the south in January 2019. I plan to report back in a year, once I’ve experienced Ayurveda in Kerala!
Care to join me? Sandy Kingsley is the founder/owner of Inspired Exploration Travel (India Travel to Delight the Heart and the Senses). She is an experiential traveler, trip and retreat designer, as well as a yoga instructor and grant writer, with an obsession for India and the Indian subcontinent. Check out the amazing retreat opportunities she is offering in 2018 and 2019. www.inspiredexplorationtravel.com