Ayurveda is an ancient lifestyle practice which originated in India over 5000 years ago. The word Ayurveda is Sanskrit and translates as ‘knowledge of life’ (Ayur = Life, Veda = Knowledge).
The practice of Ayurveda is a holistic way of living that encompasses not just Ayurvedic massage, but also medicine, diet, yoga, meditation and herbal remedies.
The general principles, or beliefs, in Ayurvedic medicine is that everything in the universe, including human beings, are made up of five elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. These combine to create three bio-physical forces (known as Doshas) within the human body and are called Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth). Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three Doshas, although one is usually more dominant that the others. It is the balance of these which governs our physical and emotional health.
Ayurvedic massage is known as abhyanga. Abhyanga is a unique form of massage, originating in this ancient Ayurvedic medicine system. The word ‘abhyanga’ is composed of two Sanskrit words, Abhi – means ‘towards’ and Anga, in one of its meanings, refers to ‘movement’. So we arrive to something similar to “Towards Movement”.
The approach to this is because Abhyanga is a synchronized massaging of the body towards the direction of the movement of arterial blood (the blood flowing in our veins) What this means is massaging the body in the direction of the body hair. The scientific reason for this system of massage is by increasing the blood flow towards the most distal parts of the body and avoid overwhelming the heart through increased pressure and stimulation if the massage is done towards the heart, or in other words, in the direction opposite to that of the body hair.
Ayurvedic Massage has tremendous benefits to the mind, body, skin and immune system. It involves copious amounts of oil and a unique two or one-therapist sequence that relaxes and softens the tissues. Ideally, Ayurvedic massage would be combined with other principles within Ayurveda, such as diet and exercise. However, the massage alone works to help boost the immune system, detoxify and cleanse, reduce stress, improve circulation, promote healthy skin and repair the body. It’s also really really soothing which is always a nice thing!
Oil massage is consistently used throughout Ayurvedic massage treatments. Its calming approach means that recipients are not only induced into a relaxed state during the massage, they also often report an improvement in their sleep patterns and general sense of well-being.
This could be attributed, in part, due to our expanding awareness and recognition here in the western world of just how healing in itself it is to be touched.
It is as if we are validated from touch; we are Seen, we are Here, we Exist.
This is something we take from our time in the womb, the safety of being held and supported and seem to lose during childhood as we are conditioned by boundaries and ‘personal space’. Surround yourself in a place with children and mothers and you can be almost sure you will hear the words of “Don’t Touch” to a child.
Somewhere along the way, we lose the importance of what it means to be touched and massage allows a space for this recalibration to happen.
There is an expression in Greek of ‘Meraki’, which can loosely be translated to something like “…With a touch of Love’. If we only approach massage from this point of view, we can already start to understand and appreciate the healing benefits of massage.
In an ideal world, Ayurvedic massage would be carried out daily to help keep at bay the effects that everyday stresses, strains and the effects of fast living can have on our minds and bodies.
Travelling through the sea of life our bodies gather barnacles of conditioning through diverse experiences. These ‘barnacles’ are sub-conscious areas of tension that house our history of emotional baggage, such as defences and vulnerabilities. Weighed down with emotional toxicity, our body armours itself against attacks from past ‘ghosts’. Whereas during a sensitive Ayurvedic massage, a therapist is able to read an individual’s body map of aches, pains, lumps and bumps, fully aware that every touch evokes certain emotions and gently facilitates the process of ‘letting-go’ of unresolved wounds.
Allow massage to be the gateway to your opening up.
During an Ayurvedic massage a subtle transfer of electromagnetic energy takes place between the therapist and the client so it is important to trust and feel ‘seen’ with your therapist. One must feel receptive and safe in order to allow the energy of the therapist. In turn, a wave of unconditional love, compassion and relatability flows through the therapist as they massage, all the while respecting deeply your faith and trust you have placed in them; an honour not taken lightly.
If we look at the Ayurvedic word for oil, we unravel another layer beneath this ancient old tradition; Sneha meaning Oil, is a word also synonymous with love, kindness and tenderness, opening; all the feelings that may engulf you during your Ayurvedic body massage experience.
In the body massage, the masseuse will use different massage techniques including tapping, kneading and squeezing as well as traditional massage strokes. She will use warmed oil that contains therapeutic herbs, which, when the oil soaks into the skin, will help to detoxify the body. You’re encouraged to leave the oil on your skin for as long as possible after the massage.
The Sneha (Oil) used in Ayurvedic massage is considered necessary as The Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic treatise states that “Ayurvedic oils strengthen the metabolic fires, purify the intestines, remove toxins from the tissues, rejuvenate the body, prevent ageing and bestow the user with a lifespan of 100 years.”
I cannot guarantee the last claim! However, unlike massage which is aimed at recreation and relaxation, abhyanga is a therapeutic procedure. Different oils are used to encourage different therapeutic effects on the body. This type of distinction is not made by modern day massage therapy, unless combined with aromatherapy.
Welcome to the Healing Benefits of Ayurvedic Massage.