Curious to know what to expect at an ayurvedic spa? Here’s a rundown of the so-called purifying treatments typically offered. You can even try a couple of them at home, without shelling out a bomb!
Ayurveda, Sanskrit for “the science of life,” is a 5,000-year-old Hindu tradition. The major goal of Ayurvedic treatment is “to eliminate impurities from the system” and promote a lively balance of body, mind and spirit. Proponents of the therapy insist that good health is dependent on our capacity to fully metabolize the nutritional, emotional and sensory information that we ingest. In other words, the accumulation of toxins in the body leads to obstructions in the flow of energy, information and nourishment and is the basis of disease.
THE PURIFYING PROCESS
Physical For starters there will be herbal laxatives and enemas which are supposed to aid the cleansing process.
> Oleation is said to be the internal and external oiling process. Ayurveda asserts that oils, usually sesame, mobilize toxins so the body can flush them out. The dreaded vasti or enema may consist of a mixture of sesame oil, Ayurvedic herbs and sea salt. You sit with it for 15 minutes. Then you’re lubed and flushed out. Don’t try this at home, and especially without supervision!
> Shirodhara The treatment starts with a shoulder, head, hair, face and neck massage using warm oil, followed by a eucalyptus steam and a saltwater gargle. Then the oil dousing: A stream of warm oil is poured across the forehead for an hour: Afterwards you have a shower, but only to rinse. Oil is best left in the hair to aid in the oleation process.
> Pizichilli This consists of herbal oil being hosed onto the body while therapists massage in unison causing skin to turn velvety and nourished. Afterwards you’ve wiped down with warm towels.
> Vishesh is a friction massage designed to heat up the skin. It involves circular motions on the joints, long strokes on the bones, reflexology on feet.
> Herbal wraps encourage the elimination of toxins from the skin. You’re rubbed all over with an herb paste. Then wrapped in hot towels and a heated blanket.
Mental Physical impurities have their counterparts in “mental impurities” such as fear or guilt. Through yoga and meditation, you learn how to process and release negative emotions so they don’t clog your system. Primordial Sound Meditation is said to be a journey to reconnect to the true self or spirit. A by-product of this is deep rest, which releases stress and toxins. You may be given a mantra based on the time and place of your birth. Twice-a-day meditation sessions help you regain your balance and equanimity. Try this ritual at home: Take 2 candles and mark an X on the bottom of one. Holding candle X sit in a meditative pose and close your eyes and think about all the things you wanted to rid yourself of: fears, anxieties, anger. Then pick up the unmarked candle and think of all the things you want to enter your life: abundance, love, happiness. Before going to bed, light candle X and let it burn out. Symbolically erasing negative emotions from your mind. In morning light the other candle.
Ayurveda considers nutrition sacred. You’re reminded that food is a celebration to be prepared and eaten with a loving attitude. It is meant to be shared and happiness evolves from that. Fresh and organically grown foods is best – more prana, which roughly translates as “life energy.”
According to its adherents, incorporating Ayurvedic cooking methods into your life will restore your body to optimum health. It may also help you find and maintain optimum weight. There are many guidelines on how to eat: only when hungry, not when upset, only until two-thirds full.
Designing the right meal plan, however, takes some preparation. According to Ayurveda, each of us inherits three mind/body types called doshas. The three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – all exist in each person, with one predominant. The main goal of Ayurvedic medicine is to determine your type (see “Find Your Body Type”) and treat yourself accordingly to keep it in balance. Like you may be a Pitta with a Vata imbalance. Knowing yours will guide you to foods that support your metabolism and ease digestion and thus balance the doshas.
Ayurvedic Dietary Guidelines
Find Your Body Type
The prototypical Vata, the dosha governed by air, tend to be slender and delicate and feel cold, even in warm temperatures. Vivacious and imaginative, they also have a tendency to worry, and do well with warming and sweet foods.
Frame Thin, with a tendency to lose weight easily
Eyes/Skin/Hair Small eyes, dry hair and dry or flaky complexion
Sleep Pattern Light sleeper
Body Temperature Cold hands and feet
Temperament Lively and enthusiastic
Under Stress Anxious and/or worried
Pitta is governed by the element of fire, and such personalities are tempestuous by nature. Pittas tend to be medium in height and weight with an ardent sex drive. Intellectual, direct, courageous and brave, this dosha needs cooling foods; hot peppers and other warming spices exacerbate their tempers.
Frame Medium, gains and/or loses weight easily
Eyes/Skin/Hair Penetrating eyes, warm skin tone and fine hair
Sleep Pattern Sound sleeper
Body Temperature Warm, with a preference for cooler environments
Temperament Purposeful and intense
Under Stress Irritable and/or aggressive
Earth rules Kapha, the well-grounded dosha. Relaxed and graceful, Kaphas have a tendency to put on weight and require plenty of exercise and ample sleep.
Frame Large, round or stocky build; gains weight easily
Eyes/Skin/Hair Large eyes, smooth skin and thick hair
Sleep Pattern Deep sleeper
Body Temperature Adaptable to hot or cold
Temperament Easygoing, open and accepting
Under Stress Withdrawn and/or reclusive
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