Ayurvedic Massage: A (Worthwhile) Trip Into The Unknown

May 16, 2014 9:42 am

Thai massage and Ayurvedic massage; they both fall into the category of ‘massage therapy’, but how do they differ in terms of the experience they create and the benefits they generate?

ayurvedic massageUntil recent years I tended to think of massage as being a one-size-fits-all approach, merely for the purpose of relieving pain in an area of discomfort; in my case my shoulders. Well; shoulder (singular) to be exact. In the absence, however, of being able to book in for just a ‘right shoulder massage’ I would have to go with the narrowest option on the treatment menu which was always the ‘back, neck and shoulder massage’ (for lazy reasons, this will be referred to as a BNS massage from this point on).

Risking sounding like a massage floozy, I was never loyal to a particular massage therapist – or even venue – but that’s because wherever I went, the BNS massage was a pretty standard experience: therapist leaves room, ‘top half’ comes off, I jump on bed, face goes in hole, therapist re-enters, lights get dimmed, music comes on, massage begins, pain kicks in, massage ends, mascara is smudged, face is creased.

As far as I was concerned, the only real challenger to the BNS was the full-body massage. This, however, never overly appealed to me as it seemed like a lot of money to cover areas of my body that I didn’t have problems; for instance, my legs. I therefore spent many years handing over circa £30 in return for what was ultimately 25 minutes of attempted knot releasing from my right shoulder. It was never a particularly relaxing experience; in fact, it was often an excruciating one, but that’s all I knew and wanted at the time; that, for me, was a massage.

Thai Massage Discovery

So, it wasn’t until a city break in Prague a few years back that I’d sampled anything in the massage department other than my ye-old-faithful BNS massage. Whilst leisurely strolling the Czech streets, a couple of friends and I stumbled across a place that offered Thai massage. With none of us knowing anything about it; let alone having sampled it, we decided we’d give it a shot as they were able to fit us in there and then. Not really knowing what to expect (or admittedly, how legit this place actually was), one friend and I were guided into a room and pointed in the direction of some paper pyjama-like clothing to change into. With no treatment table in sight; just two mats side-by-side on the floor, no words were needed as our faces said it all; was it too late to run?!

ayurvedic massagingThai Massage Experience

As I lay on the floor I felt a mixture of intrigue and panic; I’d ventured into the unknown and I wasn’t sure I liked it. There was no turning back, though; I now had a petite Thai lady crouching over me, who I had a feeling was probably going to be a lot stronger than she looked. And, boy, I was right; she spent 45 minutes yanking my arms, pulling my legs, twisting my body, bending my back; from memory I think she even stood on me at one point. But I’ll tell you something; I felt amazing afterwards – my body and muscles so unbelievably relaxed. And I mean ‘unbelievably’ given some of the positions that the deceptively dinky lady had me in at times would be grounds for assault in any other situation!

Thai Massage Conclusion

Although not necessarily the most pleasurable of experiences at the time, the after effect of a Thai massage is amazing. As soon as it’s over you just feel so relaxed and calm. I’ve treated myself to several Thai massages since my first encounter in Prague and have found that the experience itself is somewhat gentler here in the UK (which is a good thing, in my opinion!) but the result – a deeply relaxed body – is just as rewarding. This incredibly powerful type of massage is also great for those that are keen to reap the benefits of massage but without the greasiness of oils.

Ayurvedic Massage Discovery

About a year ago I was introduced to something called ‘Ayurveda’. After a fair bit of research I discovered that Ayurveda is a form of natural, holistic therapy that draws on ancient Indian techniques to help heal the sick and empower the healthy. These techniques have been around for over 5000 years but are still relatively unheard of in the modern, western world. One of the therapies used in Ayurveda is massage. Typically, Ayurvedic massage uses warm, herb-infused oils but there are other types of Ayurvedic massage too; the most ‘well-known’ being powder massages and hot-poultice massages. The discovery of Ayurvedic massage greatly surprised me as I had never even heard of it; or ‘Ayurveda’ for that matter.

Ayurvedic Massage Experience

Based on a recommendation, I was lucky enough to experience a full-body Ayurvedic massage (of the oil variety) for myself at a place called Ayurveda Retreat in Reading. As per my first Thai massage, I didn’t really know what to expect; especially when I walked into the treatment room and was faced with a wooden table that I didn’t think would be remotely comfortable to lie on. But, it was highly in-keeping with the rest of the room and so at least looked the part. Once stripped down and donning the paper pants provided, I tried to make myself comfortable on the treatment table which was, surprisingly comfortable!

The oils came out, the music came on, the masseuse got to work….but something was different. I had no pain. I had no thoughts. Crikey – I was actually relaxing and enjoying the massage. This was a first for me. Every inch of my body (bar the rude bits) was being massaged and I was enjoying every second; giving in to every long, rhythmic stroke. Wow; this was something special. This, I had never experienced before. The experience finished with a 5-10 minute session in an authentic-looking (if not slightly scary-looking) steam chamber, which was the perfect end to a ridiculously relaxing massage.

Ayurvedic Massage Conclusion

If you’re looking for a treatment that you don’t just enjoy the benefits of but also the experience of, then an Ayurvedic massage is definitely for you. It was, by far, the best massage I have ever had; I’m just disappointed that more places don’t offer them as they really are in a league of their own. I suppose in a way, however, that the lack of places in the UK offering Ayurvedic massage makes it all the more desirable…

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