Ayurveda is the 5,000-year-old medical system of India. It is also a philosophy that offers keys for creating harmony and balance in life. The ayurvedic physician studies for five years and is supervised for one year in a hospital.
Although there are some spas in the United States that are designed as ayurvedic medical centers, most ayurvedic spas do not focus on the treatment of disease. Instead they adopt elements of ayurveda that focus on positive life choices, general detoxification, relaxation, enhanced spiritual awareness, and gentle exercise.
An ayurvedic massage is one part of the traditional detoxification and rejuvenation program of India called panchakarma, in which the entire body is vigorously massaged with large amounts of warm oil and herbs to remove toxins from the system. With the client’s permission, oil is also poured into the ears, between the eyebrows, and at specific chakras, or energy points, during techniques known respectively as karna purana, shirodhara, and marma chikitsa. These treatments have been modified to meet the needs of the West and have been powerful in their effects on the mind and nervous system—calming, balancing, and bringing both a heightened sense of awareness and deep inner peace. The techniques can be done either as stand-alone treatments or in conjunction with the ayurvedic body massage.
The basis for effectively performing all of the various ayurvedic massage techniques is a thorough understanding of the primordial energies of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) and of vata, pitta, and kapha—the three basic constitutional types (similar to the ancient Greek method of mind/body classification). This knowledge allows the therapist to determine not only which ayurvedic massage techniques to use, but also how to customize treatments by selecting the proper oils and herbs and the rate and pressure of massage strokes to maximize the benefits for each client.