How Is Ayurvedic Massage Different From Other Kinds of Massage?

Several factors set Ayurvedic massage apart from other kinds of massage, such as Thai and Swedish:

Ayurvedic Oils

In Ayurveda, the five elements that are found in all living things—space, air, fire, water, and earth—are considered the building blocks of life. These combine to create three mind-body principles, known as doshas, within the body: Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas, although one is usually more dominant. Ayurvedic practices balance of the doshas to govern one’s physical and emotional health.

During an Ayurvedic massage, organic oil blends are infused with Ayurvedic herbs and heated to promote relaxation and detoxification. The oils are chosen to balance a person’s dominant dosha. At the right temperature, these oils enter the body through the skin and pores, bind to the ama (toxins), and are released to detoxify the body.

In comparison, Swedish massage incorporates oil primarily to facilitate relaxing strokes on the skin. And Thai massage uses no oil, which is why people are able to leave their clothes on during this kind of massage.

Energy and Intention

An Ayurvedic therapist focuses on clearing the energy channels in the body, moving and dislodging toxins, and balancing the chakras (energy centers).

Thai massage also works with the energy centers of the body. With Swedish massage, however, the approach focuses more on core anatomy and physiology rather than body energy lines.

Specific Movements

The style and flow of an Ayurvedic massage are determined by what an individual needs. The massage therapist will typically use massage techniques including tapping, kneading, and squeezing, as well as traditional massage strokes. Movement flow can be quick or drawn out, depending on a person’s needs. The overall approach increases circulation and lymphatic drainage. Some spas provide two therapists working on one person simultaneously.

Thai massage works with compression—in addition to pulling, stretching, and rocking—that’s directed into muscle tissues by either the hands or fingers. Thai massage usually takes place on a mat on the floor, and the person receiving the massage wears loose or stretchy clothing. The massage therapist is also on the mat and moves the person’s entire body into various stretches and positions. Swedish massage centers on relieving muscle tension through soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic, tapping strokes, on the topmost layers of muscles. This is also combined with movement of the joints.

What Are the Various Kinds of Ayurvedic Massage?

There are several kinds of Ayurvedic massage. Among some of the more popular therapies are:

ABHYANGA -a massage of the body with warm herb-infused oil. Traditionally, the base oil used is sesame. Abhyanga aids joint health and nourishes the body tissues.

PODI KIZHI - dried and powdered herbs are tied in using suitable cloth. Medicated oil may be applied over the body as per the individual conditions or the physician’s advice. The herbal powder bolus is heated and applied over the body or affected area in soft punches. It is beneficial in treating arthritis, paralysis and muscular pain. It removes the toxins, clearing the channels, imparting blood circulation.

PADA ABHYANGA- Foot massage is a highly revered therapy in many cultures as the feet contain millions of marma points (also known as pressure points) that promote good health and healing when stimulated. Ayurvedic foot massage is done with gentle pressure so as to preserve the sensitive nerves and points in the feet.

UDWARTHANAM (Dry massage) - a special therapeutic deep tissue massage using heated herbal powders.The massage is done in the opposite direction to hair follicles by two therapists. As a result it reduces the excess fat accumulated in the subcutaneous tissues; tones up the skin and muscles after the child birth; removes cellulite and helps in weight reduction.

KHADI BASTI – a procedure in which comfortably warm medicated oil is kept over the lumbosacral area or any adjacent part for a certain period of time with the help of a specially formed frame ring. The procedure helps to relieves pain, stiffness swelling and inflammation in the low back and lower limb, sa well as in the bones and soft tissues of the low back.

ANNALEPAM - Ayurvedic treatment where rice is directly applied to an individual’s body. It heals and rejuvenates the whole body. This treatment is used for inflammatory and degenerative diseases.

SWEDANA – a form of therapy that uses herbal steam to release toxins from the body through the skin. During this therapy, sweat is released through the pores in the skin which release toxins that are rooted deep in the body. This therapy is thought to relieve muscular tension, restore flexibility, clear energy passages, detoxify the body and help with muscular inflammation, hypertension, blood pressure and circulation.

SHIRODARA is a process of purifying that helps us release the emotions and stress of our daily life. Heated healing oils that help relaxation any purifying are gently poured in the middle of the forehead. It is recommended to be used after Abianga massage and minimum 3 treatments are recommended.

NETRA VASTI – Bathing the eyes with clarified butter. Cleans the dust and other substances that get trapped in the eyes. The treatment has a directly nourishing effect on the optic nerve and the nervous system. It is used for many eye complaints and other medical, therapeutic, and aesthetic benefits. Best for treating dryness, irritation and tired eyes from long hours in front of a computer screen. Recommended usage after ABIANGA and NASYA.

NASYA is administered through the nose to remove residual doshas and toxins from the head and neck area. Nasya is used in cases of migraine, chronic rhinitis, epilepsy.

VASTI – medicated enima. The medicines used can be decoctions, pure / formulated oils, milk etc. It is used to cure arthritis, backache etc. Could be done any time.

  • ANNUVASANA VASTI – 40-80 ml
  • YAPAN VASTI – 40-100 ml
  • NIRUHA VASTI – 400-600 ml (soap water)

WIRECHENA – Planned laxative therapy for eliminating the accumulated toxins in the gastrointestinal tract has been denied.  Different products are used depending on the action to be triggered. Regularly practicing Vreçana helps to improve metabolism. As a result of the administration of this therapy, the liver functions are maintained in optimal condition in a healthy organism or significantly improved in the presence of disorders. Therapy includes two abianga massages and two swedana procedures. It is recommended to have at least 4 days of preparation.

RAKTA MOKSHANA – (Blood letting of 60 to 100 ml) Is done either with the help of venesection, or using leeches. It is mainly used to cure gut, skin and blood disorders (pigmentation). The procedure should not be done to the very young or the very old or during pregnancy and should always be administered under a physician's supervision. It is recommended at least 4 days of preparation.

VAMANA means therapeutic vomiting which is a medicated emesis. This treatment dislodges the toxins mainly from the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. This therapy is done for preventive & curative purposes. It is recommended to have at least 7 days of preparation.


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