Indian Ayurvedic Massage
One of the biggest treats on a stay in India can be going to an Ayurvedic clinic for an Indian Ayurvedic massage. If you are unfamiliar with Ayurveda, it is an ancient healing science based on balancing the three fundamental principles of nature: Vata (air & space), Pitta (fire & water) and Kapha (earth and water).
In this incredible country, there is so much to learn, so much to see, so much to soak up, that travel days tend to be packed with one stunning experience after the next. There is no better way to spend at least a few hours along your journey than to have one of these truly soothing, nurturing and therapeutic massages. If you are in one of the big cities especially, there can be great options beyond the spa services at your hotel. Really different from a western massage, Ayurvedic massages include herbal oils and can even be performed by more than one masseuse at a time (meaning multiple masseuses working on one person).
Walking in to a new place for your first Indian Ayurvedic massage can be just a little bit nerve wracking. You know you will be lying on a table, partially if not fully nude, entrusting your health, well-being and security to someone you don’t know in a country that you are just visiting, possibly for the first time. Knowing just a little bit of what to expect can help take the edge off of any nerves you might have, and enable you to look forward to a wonderful experience! Here is what you need to know:
Did you call the Doctor?
The reception room may be similar to a doctors office rather than a spa, depending on whether the place is a clinic for Ayurvedic health or more like an Ayurvedic retreat type place. Don’t be alarmed, you are in for a treat either way.
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 long 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 ;-).
Once you have the underwear squared away, commonly they will have you sit in a chair to start your massage. Enjoy the amazing scalp and shoulder massage with earthy deep aromas coming from the Ayurvedic oils.
An Indian Ayurvedic Massage includes a full pectoral massage – for men and women. There will only be women working on women and men working on men. There is not any shyness about it; it is just a body part after all. Don’t be alarmed, they are very professional. However, if you do have any issues with it, you should inquire beforehand to see if that part can be skipped.
As I’ve mentioned, Ayurvedic massage involves warm oil, lots of oil, mixed with a variety of herbs. At the end of the massage, your masseuse will wipe you down lightly with a towel, taking off at least one layer. Or there may be a shower and bathroom where they have you go to rinse off. It is best if you rinse or wipe off only the excess and leave some of the oil on for several hours afterwards, to receive its full healing benefits. Basically, there is no chance of you washing or wiping all of the oil off at one time anyway. Wear clothes that are comfortable, simple cotton, nothing fancy, so that when you get dressed you are not worried about the fabric against your luxuriously oily skin.
Leave the oils in your hair too – so delicious for your scalp and hair. When you are ready to finally wash it out, know that it will take several rounds of shampoo before your hair will feel “normal” again. Personally, my hair is so thick that I don’t mind shampooing it just once, a few hours later, then allowing it to absorb the rest of the oil over a few days when I shampoo it again.
Part II of this blog will include recommendations on where to experience an Indian Ayurvedic massage, which type of Ayurvedic massage to get, and how Ayurveda is closely tied to South India.