What if your doctor, instead of prescribing a packet of pills, would prescribe yoga and massage? Ayurvedic massage is a part of the traditional Indian medical system, and an Ayurvedic doctor can prescribe massage together with herbs and other remedies, dietary changes and exercises such as yoga.
What Is Ayurvedic Massage?
Ayurvedic massage uses oil – a lot of it. I’ve only had Ayurvedic massage in India and it was the oiliest massage I’ve ever had. A typical massage covers every part of the body including the head, so be prepared to have loads of oil in your hair. The oil is nourishing to the skin and to the hair so I wouldn’t wash it off immediately after the massage.
The massage oils are chosen based on your constitution and to balance your doshas – vata, pitta and kapha. Cooling oils, such as coconut and sunflower oil, are used to cool down excess pitta. For kapha types light and spicy oils, such as mustard and safflower, are better. Good options for vata types are heating oils such as sesame or almond. Special medicated oils are also used in Ayurvedic massage. These are made with herbs and sometimes aromatic ingredients, such as sandalwood.
Marma Point Massage
Marma points are similar to the acupuncture points in Traditional Chinese Medicine. These pressure points can be manipulated to direct prana (life force: Chinese Medicine would call it chi or qi) to remove blockages and to stimulate energy flow in the body. Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Subhash Ranade and Dr. Avinash Lele: Ayurveda and Marma Therapy: Energy Points in Yogic Healing (Lotus Press, 2003) says: “Marmas are part of a greater ‘sacred physiology’ that maps out the body according to subtle energy currents and power points.”
A doctor can also use them as a diagnostic tool. Toxins (and stress) can build up at these points as blockages and lead to swelling and pain. An Ayurvedic doctor may palpate marma points as a part of the diagnosis. The points can be stimulated to clear energy blockages and this can be done with herbs, oils, heat or pressure during massage.
Ayurvedic massage aims to remove toxins, rejuvenate and relax the body, increase energy, clear blockages and strengthen muscle tone. Each massage treatment should be tailored to the individual and to his or her specific combination of doshas. A popular Ayurvedic massage treatment is Abhyanga, a full-body massage that uses oils and is generally performed by two massage therapists at the same time. Now does that not make you wish your doctor would prescribe a weekly massage?
Dr. David Frawley, Dr. Subhash Ranade and Dr. Avinash Lele: Ayurveda and Marma Therapy: Energy Points in Yogic Healing (Lotus Press, 2003)
Photo by Kerala Tourism