Enjoy these Ayurvedic therapies at a Wellness Retreat: The ancient art of Ayurveda has several treasures embossed into its faded pages, an anthology of treatments and massages, each with its own benefit. Here are some of the better-known therapies that many Ayurvedic spas around India provide these days thus leading you into a healthier lifestyle:
The act of self-massaging your body with warm oil that is often infused with herbs is known as Abhyanga. An act appropriate for all ages and genders; the Abhyanga has several scientific advantages as well, apart from the stress relief which becomes a necessity to keep your body functioning properly. It is also used therapeutically for several cognitive disorders and can relax the mind through the gentle touch of the herbs and the warmth of the oil.
According to the Sutrasthana (the first chapter of the Charaka Samhita), Abhyanga should be resorted to daily. It wards off old age, exertion and aggravation of Vata. However, it is advised not to apply oil over broken skin or lesions.
The subtle art of massaging the oil gently allows it to penetrate into the deepest tissue layers. According to Ayurveda, a 15 minute long Abhyanga can make all the difference by rejuvenating the body and the mind and for keeping yourself healthy physically and mentally, along with the added benefit of leaving you with refreshed, supple and soft skin.
Warm oil is gently rubbed onto the skin. The Abhyanga has various types according to the part of the body where it is applied. Such as the padabhyanga (for feet) or the karnabhyanga (ear).This is a very simple procedure that nevertheless provides subtle relaxation and relief to the body thus calming it.
As is evident from the name itself; Shirodhara is an act of massaging oil onto the forehead and scalp which has a multitude of benefits such as lowering anxiety, reducing hypertension and even helps with some serious disorders such as PTSD.
Hardly any western medicine has such a proven impact on the nervous system as does this Ayurvedic massage.
In this ancient Ayurvedic massage, warm oil (often herb infused) is poured in continuous streams onto the forehead where the nerves are highly concentrated. Gentle pressure is then applied onto the forehead which helps the oil to penetrate into the skin and the nervous system, thereby calming it.
The soothing comfort that this ayurvedic massage provides, gets the mind and the body into a calming sleep, a state similar to that gained by meditation. It is an important part of the Panchakarma cleansing process that is done using the specially prepared Shirodhara oil. Apart from its immense usage by amalgamating into other treatments, Shirodhara is safe and effective even as a stand-alone therapy.
This Ayurvedic therapy is derived from the Sanskrit word “swid” (Meaning: sweat). It involves inducing the sweat with the help of steam that is generated from medicated herbal decoctions. It is a part of the regime in most Wellness centres. This method is often used as a predecessor to other treatments such as Ayurvedic massages. This method unclogs the pores and thus helps the oil to penetrate more effectively into the deepest tissues of the body.
There are two types of Swedanas- The Bashpa swedana and the Naadi swedana. The modern-day saunas are the former whereas the latter is a more concentrated form where steam is released onto the body using specialized tubes- putting special attention to the body joints and denser tissues.
Oil is first applied gently on the body often with herbs specific to each person. A cloth is usually tied around the eyes and the head to protect them from the heat and the person is allowed to sweat profusely from the forehead till the torso; which is followed by a warm bath. This scientifically beneficial Ayurvedic therapy also helps with conditions such as Hemiplegia, arthritis, sciatica, constipation etc.
Patra, Pinda, Sweda
Patra Pinda Sweda or the “Leaf (Patra) Bundle (pinda) massage” is a special Ayurvedic massage that works as a therapy primarily on the nerves and the muscles of the person.
Plants having anti-inflammatory, anti-degenerative and analgesic properties are heated together till they’re warm and are mixed together in oil and medicinal herbs and this concoction is tied in a cloth which is then applied on the body continuously thus resulting in several advantages.
This Ayurvedic massage lowers arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis problems and also helps to reduce sciatica problems. Like the other Ayurvedic massages, it also enhances the circulation and reduces stress, thereby improving sleep and combating insomnia.
The cloth containing the medicinal leaves is heated in a pan containing the herbal oil. It is heated until it reaches a constant temperature and then the extract is used as a massage oil, which is now infused with the medicinal properties. This massage lasts for about half-to-one hour and can be safely continued as a lifelong treatment to relieve pain and stress.
Meant exclusively as a treatment of rheumatic (vasta) diseases; vasti is an extremely important treatment in Ayurveda. However, this treatment is best done under the guidance of a vaidya or an Ayurvedic expert. In Panchakarma, the Vasti relieves vata disorders and removes toxins from the human body through the anus. Vata dosha is the main factor in the culmination of a multitude of different diseases and hence, this Ayurvedic treatment is effective in several aspects.
Vasti is often done in two stages: an oil stage and a decoction stage. In the first stage, warm sesame oil is induced into the rectum and retained for ten minutes. Then, without expelling the oil, an emulsion of oil and a herbal tea is introduced and retained for another half an hour. With the fluid still being retained in the body, the abdomen is massaged in fixed intervals in counter-clockwise motion so as to allow the passage of the concoction into the intestine.
This can be performed in case of constipation, slipped disc, hernia, insomnia or rheumatism. Performed properly, this can result in an easy bowel movement and a sense of lightness.
It is however advised to refrain from this method during pregnancy, menstruation, diarrhoea and other such conditions.
Udarvatana is an Ayurvedic massage that makes use of powdered herbs. In this massage, the strokes go in a direction opposite to that of a conventional massage and help to remove toxins from the skin. The unique techniques of performing this massage executed by an Ayurvedic expert helps to tone the body and strengthens the muscles, thus improving skin complexion, providing skin exfoliation along with providing stress relief and relaxation.
This method is also recommended for removing the cellulite accumulated under the skin and thus helps in fat reduction.
This Ayurvedic massage is also of two types; Snigadh and Ruksha. The former is the oily type while the latter is a dry type; depending on the property of the powder used. Snigadh is used on people with sensitive skin whereas Ruksha is recommended for fat reduction.
The body is first massaged with therapeutic oil follow by either of the above two mentioned methods according to the person’s preference. This Ayurvedic massage also helps to relax and distress along with rejuvenating the skin.
Njavarakizhi or the Shashtika shali panda shweta is another method of inducing sweat, thereby detoxifying the body along with several other benefits such as relaxation and skin rejuvenation due to its exfoliating action. This is a highly nourishing procedure that strengthens the nervous system as well. It improves the overall appearance of the skin. It helps combat many systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and helps ease swelling, pain and muscle stiffness. Cotton boluses filled with cooked rice, milk and herbal decoctions dipped in medicated oil is applied to the body to induce sweat. It is also helpful in stabilizing neurological imbalances, rheumatism, arthritis and malnutrition of limbs.
A special type of rice called Shasti rice is used in this Ayurvedic massage. This type of rice is harvested in two months and is processed with herbal decoctions. Milk is then tied to a bolus and the rice is rubbed against the whole body to relieve inflammation and to heat the afflicted muscles of the body. The nutritional benefit of the milk and rice help to combat degenerative tissues and can aid those suffering from musculoskeletal and neuromuscular diseases. It is thus basically a strengthening and nutritious treatment that also has tremendous soothing effects on the body, physically as well as mentally.
A combination of these Ayurvedic treatments, offered in several leading wellness centres can lead to a multitude of benefits resulting in a tremendous improvement, in overall health as well as mental peace. These treatments embossed in the ancient scriptures have stood the onslaught of time because of their immense usefulness and their extreme versatility. Most of these treatments have nil side effects and are suitable for everyone. These Ayurvedic treatments are true treasures that the ancient Ayurveda has provided us for a healthy state of living.