While I was in India in January 2015, I took the opportunity to get a one-hour, full body Ayurvedic massage. I am so glad that I took the time to get a massage in India. I spent two weeks in India learning about Ayurvedic medicine. I received a Ayurvedic massage in Rishikesh. This experience created a whole new level of understanding. I will never forget it.
I paid one thousand Rupees which equals to about $16.00 U.S. dollars. After I paid the money, I followed the therapist to a therapy room. The spacious room had a massage table, chair, stool, and a cabinet against a wall. The room was lit by two high windows and a floor space heater keep it warm. (It was cold in northern India!) The cream-colored room was spacious with no pictures on the walls or decorations. The massage table was a heavy, dark brown wooden table. It had deep, open grooves along the sides to collect the oil. A Shirodhara oil container hung at the end of the table. Shirodhara is a therapy that involves pouring hot medicinal oil over the forehead.
The Indian massage therapist looked to be in her late forties. She was short and sturdy with a medium build. She had brown beady eyes and a crooked smile. She wore her long black hair in a pony tail and she wore loose pants and a kurta (long shirt) with an apron. She spoke little English.
I undressed in front of the therapist. I undressed and folded my clothes and put them on the wooden chair. I felt vulnerable as a stood there naked from head to toe. The therapist wrapped a thin towel around my trunk and pointed to the wooden stool. The space heater was near the back of the stool. I sat on the stool while the therapist rubbed my scalp with warm oil. The oil was pungent and smelled like burnt cooking oil. The therapist continued to rub my head, neck, and shoulders.
In the U.S. we do not undress in front of the massage therapist. Americans are modest; especially Minnesotans. In India and in many other Asian countries, there is no modesty when you get a massage. Furthermore, there is no medical history intake form or waiver to sign.
After the upper body massage, the therapist helped me lay face up on the hard, wooden table. The heater near the end of the table was making my feet feel like they were marshmallows roasting on a fire. I moved my feet to the sides of the table indicating to the therapist to move the heater – which she did. A thin, hand-towel-size cloth draped over my trunk. The sides of my breasts peeked out from towel. I readjusted the towel but it was no use! I gave in exposure! The therapist massaged my whole body with lotion and warm oil. She started with a gentle face massage with lotion. Then she massaged my legs, inner legs, arms, stomach, and then my breasts with warm oil. This was the first time I ever had a breast massage. It felt awkward at first but then I just relaxed. I know it’s healthy to massage the breasts. Massaging the breasts moves the lymph and create healthy circulation.
When I turned onto my stomach, hot oil poured on my back. It felt wonderful! This was divine! The massage therapist climbed onto the table to use her weight to massage my back. I could feel and hear my back crack as she went from my neck to my hips and back up from my hips to my neck. She also poured hot oil in my butt crack!
After the massage, the therapist sat me on the table and used the towel to wipe off the extra oil. The massage was over. The therapist cleaned the table as I got dressed.
This Ayurvedic massage was different from Western massage. I felt like it was an oil bath! I felt good and oily afterwards. According to Vasant Lad (popular Indian author and Ayurvedic doctor), during an Ayurvedic massage, “oil is applied to the entire body with a particular kind of massage that helps the toxins move toward the gastrointestinal tract. The massage also softens both the superficial and deep tissues, helping to relieve stress and to nourish the nervous system.”
Oiling is important in Ayurveda to calm the mind and nourish the body. It also improves circulation, prevents dehydration, strengthens the nerves, and creates an electrochemical balance in the body. Ayurveda massage uses large amounts of oil. According to Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha (American Swami and author), “As with all Ayurvedic abhyanga, the main emphasis is on feeding the skin rather than on massage techniques. Oil penetrates the skin, all the tissues are fed, and the toxins contained within the tissues are released.”
As a massage therapist, I took special mental notes during my Ayurvedic massage. The therapist used long strokes and compression – like a Swedish massage. After the massage, I realized that it’s the oil that made the Ayurvedic massage so special. The hot oil electrified my skin. There is an electrochemical connection with the hot oil and the skin. It’s divine!