Join Ananda as she scours the planet for traditional medicinal and healing practices

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Brush with Ayurveda

So much has happened since this next story, that it feels like a far off memory, even if it was only a week ago.

While in a small beach resort called Varkala, I had the opportunity to check out one of the therapies in South India's traditional medicine Ayurveda. It's history was first documented in the Rig Veda - one of the holy Vedic Indian texts dating to around 3000BC. Apparently the oldest Indo-European text in existence. Ayurveda is probably the oldest existant medical tradition in the world. And it has become one of the primary tourist attractions in Varkala.

Varkala has over 46 ayurvedic clinics and hospitals, so after a long day riding on a scooter through the rough backroads of Kerala I decided to see if an ayurvedic massage would do me some good.

I had just come from the beach as I walked through the door of the clinic looking for the Doctor. I had read all about her, she had been practising for about 10 years and had been an attending physician at several hospitals. So I asked for a massage. she told me what I would get, I negotiated the price with her and she guided me to a small room with a massage table that looked more like an instrument of torture. With a hole for the face, and a cross bar on which to rest the arms. (earlier that day we had come across a more traditional table made of wood, hmmm comfy. I'll post a pic of it soon).

I was then instructed to get naked - and there I was standing in my birthday suit with the door wide open (there goes any sense of Indian modesty). Her assistant then tied a little loin cloth to me - a g-string loin cloth who's point I guess was to protect (just barely) my tender parts. The doctor then stepped out the door and the assistant began to vigurously scrub my head with copious amounts of oil. I was then instructed to lay down and the rubbing of my entire body begun. Nothing was missed not even a butt cheek.

However I felt the massage was rough, I could feel the rough skin on the hands of the masseur. I even felt littel bits of grainy skin coming off on me - yuck! I even complained to the Doc. who said I was the first ever to complain of such things.

I was given a warm bucket shower. I then went to my room in the guest house and noticed my feet were still covered in sand from the beach. Oops! I rushed bak to the clinic and apologized profusely - explaining the roughness must have been from the left over sand. My apology was warmly accepted with a hug. No hard feelings!

I do have to say I felt great! My neck was loose and every muscle was content. Many foreigners silike this type of massage however because of the huge amounts of oil used (it took 2 days of washing for my hair to stop like I was from the cast of Grease) and it's not the deep tissue massage that we are used to. the point of ayurvedic massage is to stimulate and sooth the nervouse system. An I have to say it really does work.

Next post I'll talk about the hugging Amma's Ashram.

Tomorrow we're heading to an Ashram in the middle of the Keralan mountains for Yoga and good tea.

Love n light

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