What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, also known as Ayurvedic medicine, is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole body) healing systems. The ancient system developed thousands of years ago comes from traditional Hindu medicine native to India. Massage has always been utilised as part of the Ayurvedic healing system as a form of medicine to promote health, but also to treat illness and disease. Traditionally, there are different styles of massages that are used to treat patients, with the type selected depending on the person’s constitution and imbalance.
Concepts Behind Ayurveda
Ayurvedic medicine, including Ayurvedic massage, is based on the belief that wellness and health are dependant on a special balance between the body, mind and spirit. It is also important for one to be living in harmony with the universe. Disruptions to this inner balance and overall harmony are can cause poor health. This is why massages are utilised as part of Ayurvedic medicine – to keep your emotional, spiritual and physical self in balance and in harmony with the universe.
Universe Elements and Doshas
In Ayurveda, it is believed every person is built from a combination of five basic universe elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. Together these elements combine in the human body to create life forces or energies called doshas. There are three doshas, which are Vata dosha (space and air), Pitta dosha (fire and water) and Kapha dosha (water and earth). Every person has their own individual combination of the three doshas, with one of them being the most dominant. Each dosha controls a different function of the body, causing out of balance doshas to lead to sickness.
Vata dosha, space and air, has control over all of the basic body functions. This includes the division of cells, breathing, blood flow, heart function, removal of waste and the mind. Things that are believed to disrupt the Vata dosha are fear, grief, staying up late and dietary factors. If the Vata dosha is your dominant energy force, you are believed to be more likely to develop problems such as heart disease, asthma, nervous system disorders, anxiety and skin problems.
Pitta dosha, fire and water, controls other bodily functions linked to the digestive system. This includes metabolism, hormones linked to appetite and more. Factors that can cause trouble for the Pitta dosha include sour or spicy foods, fatigue and over exposure to the sun. It is believed that disruption to this dosha can cause anger and negative
emotions, high blood pressure, Crohn’s disease and infections.
Kapha dosha, water and earth, has control over things like body strength and stability, muscle growth, weight and the immune system. The Kapha dosha can be disrupted by dietary factors like eating too much and eating and drinking the wrong things, as well as bad sleeping patterns, greed and more. If Kapha dosha is your main energy force, you are believed to be more likely to develop cancer and diabetes, or be at risk of becoming obese.
Ayurvedic Massage Techniques
During Ayurvedic massage, these three doshas are worked and repaired to ensure wellness and health. As does the majority of Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic massage incorporates techniques of yoga and meditation, and also uses herbs, oils and sometimes bolus bags. Every Ayurvedic massage should be personalised to the patient’s needs, as everyone’s doshas are different and different techniques will be required to harmonise the mind, body and spirit.
Throughout a Ayurvedic massage, the massage therapist will use a variety of techniques with the hands. This can range from rubbing, tapping, kneading, squeezing and traditional massage strokes. Sometimes, the feet, elbows, forearms and warm stones are also used to help deeply work the muscles and whole body. What is known as “marma points” (similar to pressure points in reflexology, acupuncture and acupressure) are a focus for a Ayurvedic therapist.
Although Ayurvedic massage is known to be a hard body massage, it is also meant to be soothing and can be done with a style and intensity suited to the patients needs. The essential oils and herbs used in the massage are also chosen to suit the individual’s doshas.
Benefits of Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurvedic massage is a full rejuvenation of the body. It helps to relax muscles and strengthen muscle tone, increase the regulation of blood and eliminate toxins through purification. In addition to physical health, it also greatly aids mental health and spiritual wellbeing. Finally, Ayurveda is a system of healing that is considered very safe and beneficial for people of all ages.