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What is Ayurvedic Massage? That’s the question I had when I went to the Svata Katerina Resort in the Czech Republic to try their Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Program. In a nutshell, it’s a great treatment but it might not be for everyone.
Disclaimer: I am not a practitioner of Ayurvedic Massage, nor have I officially studied it. I write this from an observational standpoint after receiving one and compared it to my own knowledge of medicine and as a Thai massage therapist.
Where Does Ayurvedic Massage Come From?
To keep in line with other forms of massage such as Swedish and Thai, perhaps Ayurvedic massage could be over-simplified by calling it Indian Massage. There could be other forms of massage from India, but Ayurvedic is definitely Indian and has its roots in ancient times.
Ayurvedic massage is just one part of Ayurvedic treatment which is a system of healing in India. The massage concentrates on rehabilitating the lymphatic system of the body and thus helps to detox the body and build up its immunity to diseases. I was interested in their use of oils to detox the body, which was very similar to another detox program I know of which, in part, uses healthy oils to replace bad oils in the body.
The entire team of Ayurvedic massage therapists, and one chef, at the Svata Katerina Resort are all Indians from the Kerala region of India and are trained by the Kairali Group. Kairali is a century-old Ayurvedic health and training center, and one of the top Ayurvedic destinations in India (and probably the world).
Ayurvedic Massage at the Svata Katerina Resort
The Svata Katerina Resort in the southern Czech Republic offers several different Ayurvedic treatment packages. These include weight loss, Panchakarma (a five-fold detox program), back pain, yoga detox, and a general rejuvenation program. Most of the programs last from 8 to 15 days, except for the rejuvenation program which is 4 to 8 days. I was on a bit of a time crunch and thus had a tailor-made 3-day rejuvenation program.
My schedule consisted of consultations, yoga, special meals and massages. The usual rejuvenation package has three types of massages – Abhyanga, Shirodhara and Podikizhi. I only had the first two. There was also an hour seminar describing Ayurvedic treatments by the Indian doctor.
I seemed to hit a snag when I received my entrance consultation. Basically, the doctor couldn’t find anything really wrong with me. It wasn’t that this was bad, but I got the impression that Ayurvedic treatment was more for people with ailments, both physical and mental, and not necessarily for people already in good shape. This could be a completely inaccurate description of Ayurvedic medicine, but that’s how it came across to me. I was recommended a few basic practices of a general nature, such as gargling coconut oil each morning for fifteen minutes and scraping off my tongue afterward to get rid of toxins. Of course, yoga and the Ayurvedic diet as part of my prescription were a given.
Other than that, the program ran rather smoothly. I didn’t get up as early as the doctor had wanted me to (he said 6 a.m., but I had difficulty waking up before 8), and I didn’t manage to find the standing stones on the property where I was recommended a meditation session, but between the massages, meals, yoga and relaxation, I can say it was a great three days!
There are four different Ayurvedic massages offered by the Indian masseurs and masseuses at the Svata Katerina Resort. I only received two of the four, so I’ll only mention those. The massage therapist is always the same gender as the client. The rooms are set up with original wooden massage tables imported from Kerala, India. They are beautifully crafted and functional for the oil used in the massages.
The first I massage I received was the Abhyanga massage. This is the full-body oil massage of Ayurvedic therapy. The oil is a proprietary blend (I couldn’t actually find out anything beyond that the ingredients come from India) and is intended to balance out the systems of the body. The warm oil is applied to each limb, the stomach and the back and thoroughly massaged in with long, deep and vigorous movements. It was a huge counterpoint to Thai oil massage, which uses slow and precise movements to manipulate the muscles, although both massages used a comparative level of pressure.
After the massage, I was sent to the bathroom where the shower had been converted into a steam chamber. Basically, it was a one-man sauna. Very cool! I spent 10 minutes flushing out my pores and sweating off the oil and then took a shower to clean everything off.
The massage lasted roughly 50 minutes, plus 10 in the steam chamber. I was provided with underwear to keep my own from getting full of oil during the massage and steam chamber. Meditative music was played throughout. There was no question that I was relaxed by the end.
This massage was a bit more interesting. For the first part, I just lay on the bed while a brass pot slowly dripped warm oil onto my forehead. Over a gallon of oil was used, intending to stimulate various hormones in the head and thus relax the body. This was followed by a head massage and the steam chamber. While I had a hard time sensing how my mind or my immune system were improved by the oil on my forehead, I was certainly relaxed by it. It was a struggle not to fall asleep, and I actually might have for a few minutes.
The diet which went with the Ayurvedic rejuvenation program was incredible. The doctor had informed me that I had to be off coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks – not that I drank a lot of those anyway. I later had a chance to meet with the Ayurvedic chef, Rahul, who has trained all over the world in his craft. His creation of Ayurvedic meals without using oil (except coconut oil) and very little dairy products was amazing. Oh, and it was all vegetarian too. It was probably the first time I consistently ate vegetarian without feeling like I was starving.
Here’s my menu:
- Friday lunch: minestrone soup; cucumber, capsicum and celery salad; tomato rice; shallots and tomato curry sambaram; banana sago in coconut milk.
- Friday dinner: greens and lentils soup; bean sprout and capsicum salad; dal mughlai; steam rice carrot halwa.
- Saturday breakfast: carrots, apples and ginger salad; red aval upma; spicy carrot chutney; fruit fillets.
- Saturday lunch: palak soup; baby corn, bean sprout and cucumber salad with lemon basil dressing; zucchini rice; masala bell peppers; palada payasam.
- Saturday dinner: tamatar ki shorba; beetroot and tomato salad; chole palak; roti; rice and sago kheer.
- Sunday breakfast: sweet orange and lime juice; upma; sambar.
- Sunday lunch: vegetable clear soup; beetroot and gherkins salad; lemon rice; suhki (dry) green dal; majjiga (andhra spiced buttermilk); coconut balls.
- Sunday dinner: green gram soup; cucumber salad; pumpkin erissery (curry from Kerala); roti; ada pradhaman (Indian rice pudding).
- Monday breakfast: pear, mint and lemon salad; oats kitchadi with fruits.
A lot of those dishes were Kerala in origin, and I honestly didn’t have any idea what spices were used, let alone how they were made. But I didn’t need to know what was in them to tell how healthy they were. A couple were a bit strange (the buttermilk was hard to get down), but nothing was overly spiced, and my plate was clean after every meal.
My Opinions on Ayurvedic Massage
I’m with mixed opinions about the Ayurvedic treatment system. With my own background of studies in the mind and spirit, as well as formal medicine, I don’t like some of the materialistic views of Ayurvedic treatment, such as how the seasons affect the body and immune system. On the other hand, I do understand the benefits and healing properties of Ayurvedic medicine, including the healthy lifestyle,
As to the comparison with other forms of massage, I still prefer traditional Thai over all others. I look at massage as a direct address to the muscles and through them the other organs of the body. When there are problems with the body, it’s difficult to repair the mind or the spirit, so bodily ailments are obviously the first target of address. I feel the deep tissue techniques of Thai massage help this the most.
While the techniques of Ayurvedic massage might not have readily apparent benefits to me, I can’t deny that it does relax the body, and I’m sure the oils and herbs used help with the immune system of the body. There honestly doesn’t seem to a lot of information on-line about Ayurvedic practices. Perhaps this is simply a lack of translation of materials which date back into ancient times and were written in Sanskrit.
The Ayurvedic meditation style differs from mine, but I’m not going to tromp on the toes of the millions of people around the world who find benefit in a meditation which looks inward. Personally, I prefer to meditate by putting my attention outward into the environment.
Do I recommend getting Ayurvedic massages and therapy? Sure! I don’t see anything detrimental in the treatments. At the very least, you’ll walk away ridiculously relaxed and probably healthier just through the menu alone. Although the Svata Katerina Resort is the only center in the Czech Republic which delivers true Ayurvedic treatments by Kerala-trained massage therapists, the subject is growing like wildfire and new centers are opening up all over the world. Perhaps next time I can do a longer program to see if I notice more benefits.
If you’re not familiar with Thai massage, here are some articles.
- What is an Authentic Thai Massage – As Taught By Wat Pho
- Why You Must Become an Authentic Thai Massage Therapist
- Don’t You Dare Think of Getting a Massage as a Luxury
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.