India’s traditional healing system, Ayurveda, is making a splash, or, well, more like a splatter, in the world of American massage and bodywork. It’s a hoard of outstanding, effective, thoroughly proven techniques that help people get healthy and stay healthy.
This primordial holistic healing system is a very comprehensive approach to health and lifestyle management. And massage therapy and associated bodywork techniques underpin a vast storehouse of Ayurvedic therapeutics. Probably more than any other global holistic healing system, Ayurveda has a long history of using sophisticated, albeit low tech, massage techniques as integrated parts of a total healing system for virtually every medical condition. Ayurvedic massage affects not only the physical body, but also the vital energy, the mind, the intelligence and the consciousness.
Thorough, vigorous Ayurveda massage is a type of passive exercise. Regular massage is the key to good health, and is indispensable for prevention and cure of diseases, so it is an important part of daily life in India.
Each of us is unique. As different as our body is, so, too, are our bodywork requirements. Ayurveda recognizes this, and advocates an individualized program for each client. Highly personalized treatment regimes are the essence of Ayurvedic therapeutics. Therapists develop each specific program from assessed imbalances of the primal metabolic forces (doshas).
Bodywork becomes therapeutic when we start to release deeper patterns and stresses in the body through the network of reflex (marma) points. The core of clinical Ayurvedic massage, these marmas figure into virtually all aspects of bodywork methods. Manual massage, deep pressure, essential oils, gems, herbal pastes and herbal oils may all be used in marma treatment.
Three of these marma points are so important that they are called the great marmas (Mahamarmas). One of these, called Hridaya, is located in the center of the chest over the heart, in the middle of the sternum, and regulates the heart in is role as the seat of the mind and consciousness. It controls the circulatory system, blood pressure, stamina, vitality and immunity. Similarly, it connects to emotions, including sadness, happiness, frustration and indecision.
Warm sesame oil massaged into hridaya reduces the sadness, confusion and indecision of vata dosha. Cooling sandalwood oil or the sweet oils jasmine or rose are useful in reducing the frustration of pitta and will help promote calm sleep.
A second great marma, called Basti, is located just below the bladder, about four finger widths above the pubic bone. It regulates apana vata (downward moving energy). Apana controls the large intestine and promotes the release of toxins and wastes. This marma balances the muscular system, adipose tissue, the urinary system and the reproductive system. It treats low back pain, constipation and range of urinary difficulties. Warm sesame oil or castor oil on this marma reduces vata dosha. Applying aromatic oils, like nutmeg, to the Basti marma, will be very grounding, while cardamom oil helps to reduce gas.
The third mahamarma, called Sthapani, is located between the eyebrows (the third eye). This point controls prana, the mind and senses and the endocrine system. This point helps develop concentration, clarity and focus in the mind and meditation. Massage at this point will calm anxiety, decrease depression, relieve mental stress, resolve headaches and promote sleep. Lavender oil is superbly calming at this point, while stimulating oils (camphor, mint or basil) exalt the mind and open the senses.
This topic will continue with information about different types of oil, and ways of applying these techniques.