As originally published on YogaTravelTree.com
India is a leading destination for Ayurvedic treatments and massage. There is no question of the benefits of an Ayurvedic regime, in fact, we could all benefit by incorporating some of these practices into our daily lives, the way they do in India.
Though the idea and practice of Ayurvedic massage is decadent, rarely have I had a massage outside of the United States that went anything like what I expected. My Ayurvedic massage in India was no different and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you what you’ll be getting into so you can lay back, relax and fully enjoy your experience.
Four Hands and a Language Barrier
As you enter the small, elaborately decorated and fragrant room, there will be two Indian women ready to disrobe you and begin their work. They do not speak your language and you, most likely, do not speak theirs. If you have any special areas of discomfort you’d like them to avoid, discuss it with the Ayurvedic doctor prior to your massage and make sure your concerns are communicated to the masseuse.
Have No Shame
The two women will motion for you to disrobe. They’re not going to leave and they won’t understand (or have much patience for) your protests if you have any. Just trust that they have done and seen this all before. As you stand there to undress, they will stand there too. We Americans like to leave on an item or two (a masseuse in New Zealand told me this is unique to Americans). Don’t be modest. Take it all off or it will actually be more awkward for all of you. Once you’ve disrobed, they (might) wrap a paper loin cloth around your parts and you will sit on a stool. They will ask you to take your hair down and begin massaging sesame oil onto your scalp. Once you get used to the idea of having warm oil saturating every inch of your face and hair, it is actually very enjoyable and relaxing. Close your eyes and succumb to the process.
After the scalp massage, you’ll lay on a long wooden table that has channels along the edges for oil and water to drain off. The four hands will begin massaging at your toes and move all the way up to your head. Then you’ll flip over and they’ll do the other side. There is no sheet, there is no towel over your rump, just you, your flimsy loin cloth and the four hands. Let go and let it feel good.
After the oil massage and what feels like four hours, they will rinse you off. You’ll think you’re done, but then your super soft, oily skin will be invigorated by a new sensation. The four hands will begin to scrub. You won’t know it’s coming, so you’ll try to lift your head and open one eye. What you’ll see is your body covered in brown sludge. Again, I am writing this article as a service, to tell you what to expect so you can enjoy your experience; so you’ll know what’s coming, appreciate the process and feel good. The four hands will not apply your mud-scrub gently unless you make a big reaction and scrunch your face in pain. Feel free to do just that, from experience, it works…kind of.
Now the Awkward Part
After what must be the fifth hour, they’ll start to pour warm water over the mud to rinse it away. It will feel amazing. It will also feel like you need about 15 more buckets. But you’ll be tapped on the forehead, open your eyes and be motioned to get up from the table. The four hands will usher you into the wet room where they will begin to douse and rub your naked body with buckets of warm water. Most likely, this will be the closest thing you’ve had to a hot shower in weeks and, as weird as it is, you will enjoy it immensely, even if it is administered by four hands that aren’t yours. The four hands still won’t be able to get all the scrub off though, so they’ll let you take over and you’ll dump a bucket over your head and rinse and rinse and rinse until the water turns light brown and your hair maybe doesn’t smell like peanut butter anymore. Then you’ll grab the tiny towel, pat dry and put on your clothes while the four hands stand by, demurely waiting to usher you out.
There are so many benefits of Ayurvedic massage for the mind, body and spirit. This technique is well known for revitalizing the body, balancing the doshas, eliminating toxins, boosting the immune system, relaxing tension and tight muscles, lowering blood pressure, cleansing the lymphatic system and easing stress. The list goes on and on.
Make sure you choose a reputable place and, if possible, get a recommendation from word of mouth. But make sure you get your Ayurvedic massage…in fact, don’t miss it. And know what you’re getting into so you can enjoy everything about the experience and relax into bliss.