More Than Skin Deep
We come from a long tradition of massage. At every stage of life, for rituals and festivals, we’ve found ourselves liberally doused in oil. Whether with a regular maalishwali at home, or with designated spa days and salon visits, it has stayed an integral part of the Indian beauty regimen, but chances are, you could do things a bit differently to optimise the results. The first step in doing so would be to figure out your Ayurvedic body type before a massage. Your dosha will determine the diet, oils and therapies most beneficial to you. If you’re used to deep tissue massage, you could be in for a bit of a change. “In Ayurveda, the massage oil plays the key role for the benefits to the body, to rejuvenate the joints and sore muscles. Whereas in a therapy like Swedish massage, the oil works only as a lubricant and the actual technique contributes to its whole experience,” says Tricia Bannister, group spa manager for The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. “A classic Ayurvedic massage can be recommended for all age groups, and pregnant women as well, with minor variations. On the other hand, Swedish deep tissue massage is not recommended for older guests, children below 15 years of age and during pregnancy. In a nutshell, Ayurvedic massage provides medical returns and Swedish massage provides more of wellness benefits,” she says.
Traditional oils for massage include Dhanwantaram oil, which provides relief in osteoarthritis, spondylosis, and neurological conditions like paralysis; Ksheerabala oil which helps with insomnia, arthritis, muscular pain and neurological disorders; and Murivenna which is good for muscle sprains and lumbar spondylosis, amongst other benefits. “Cumin oil helps open up your blood vessels and helps to reduce mucous and relax your airways, making it perfect for the treatment of asthma and chronic bronchitis. It is a tonic for the nervous system, aiding with migraines and nervous exhaustion, but is also a remedy for dry skin, dandruff and vitiligo,” recommends Hayley Dack, director at The Imperial Spa & Salon, New Delhi. “Holy basil or tulsi oil is helpful in dealing with nervous system disorders like depression, headaches, hypertension, insomnia, migraines, nervous tension and stress, and it’s a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic treatment at The Imperial,” she says.
“One of the greatest benefits of Ayurveda and other holistic forms of medicine is that it allows for individualising treatments and improving the whole body a little at a time. It is a lifestyle as much as a complementary and alternative medicine, so within reason and depending on health needs, it is practical for every day. A lot of the work of even the most traditional physician’s treatments involves getting rid of junk that makes our bodies sick, and Ayurveda complements that basic approach to healing by helping us de-junk and de-clutter the mind and spirit while taking care of our bodies,” says Dack. Classic Ayurvedic therapies include Njavarakkizhi where a bundle of boiled rice is dipped in milk and applied on the body, to strengthen muscles and improve skin tone, and Tarpana, an eye procedure which uses medicated ghee. Shirodhara too is an ever-popular therapy that aids complete relaxation.
A head massage is ideal for dealing with hair loss. Rubbing, kneading and applying pressure to the skin of the scalp with the fingers and hands results in an increase in blood flow to the hair follicles and surface of the skin, conditions the scalp and enhances root strength. Rubbing during a massage helps relax you and reduces stress, this helps the body function with increased efficiency, thus promoting hair growth. Warmth generated by the massage will also open up the blood vessels in the scalp, resulting in increased nutrient intake at the hair follicle, leading to better growth. “Make sure you don’t have a cold, fever or cough while getting a head massage with oil – it will aggravate the condition,” cautions Bannister. “Massage using Ayurvedic oil like Ksheerabala or Neelibhringadi enhances hair growth and circulation to the hair root, thereby reducing hair fall,” she recommends. The right diet and hair masks, oils and protein packs all help maintain healthy hair.
So the next time you want to indulge in a massage, make sure you’re reaping all the benefits by incorporating a bit of Ayurveda.