The opportunities to increase my serenity continued in Kumarakom with an offer to enjoy one of the resorts ayurvedic body treatments. Before I get into the specifics of my 60 minutes of bliss, let me give you a brief primer on one of the world’s oldest medical systems.
Ayruveda is based upon ancient writings that rely on a holistic approach to physical and mental health in order to attain the perfect balance of body, mind and soul. Ayurveda is derived from Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge) and Ayurveda translates to knowledge of life. There are three basic pillars: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The Vata element represents control and it treats all parts of the body through smooth, coordinated movements to improve functioning of neuro-muscular-hormonal mechanisms. Pitta helps the transfer and flow of energy within the body and deals with digestive elements in the body. Kapha goes deep into cells, tissues, muscles, etc. to develop growth and healing of wounds and disease. The goal is to cleanse the body and to restore balance to the body, mind, and spirit.
To live an Ayurvedic lifestyle these are daily activities that should be taken:
1. Rise before sunrise – best levels of energy, peace and freshness
2. Rinse your face with cold water to become alert – also clean out your sinuses, etc with a neti pot
3. Cleanse your senses – wash eyes with rose water, ears with sesame oil, brush teeth and tongue
4. Drink warm water to flush kidneys of toxins
5. Evacuation – a most important pillar of Ayurveda so that digestion is not slowed down, creating more toxins in the body that can lead to chronic disease
6. Oil massage using essential oils to keep body moisturized and help circulation
7. Exercise using any form – yoga, jogging, pilates, weights, etc to strengthen muscles and remove fat
8. Bathe to remove excess oils and dirt to help energize you
9. Meditate to help concentration on goals, create a balance between mind, body and soul, creating peace and serenity
10. Unwind to relax you body at the end of the day – use scented candles, calming music and lie down to bring you peace, release stress and tension from your body and then spend time with your loved ones
I already subscribe to many of the above activities – except neti pot (although friends do swear by its benefits) and I don’t necessarily keep to the above order. Number 6 was of particular interest to me, for while I do try to keep my skin moisturized and maintain a schedule of monthly massages, I have never tried the very popular hair care technique of head and hair massage with essential oils. Most Indian women (and other cultures as well) oil their hair on a regular basis and indeed almost every woman I met had glorious luxuriant hair.
I have always been particularly obsessed with my own hair. My hair had never been cut from birth to about age 8 or 9 – it was below my knees, auburn in color, thick and wavy. But my mother, who honestly had great difficulty in washing, combing and creating a long braid for me, took me to a barber and lopped it off to chin length. I was traumatized and my dad didn’t speak to my mom for a week. I have never had a major cut since- in fact in my teen years it was so long that the weight pulled all the wave out of it – here is a somewhat fuzzy photo that my brother took of me back then:
As you have seen from my sari picture it is now about mid-back length. I scrupulously maintain it to keep it healthy so after looking over the menu of treatments available, I found what I was looking for – Kesini: Ayurvedic Hair Care for thick, strong glossy hair by moisturizing and massaging the scalp and hair with herbal oils.
Inside, I expected to see a room similar to the one at top of this post. A table set with various balms and oils and massage equipment, including the bowl with a pipette that will drip warmed scented oil onto my scalp:
However, rather than lying down, I was told to undress, wrap a sheet around my body and sit on a low stool:
Despite what I initially assumed would be an awkward position to be in, once the therapist started to pour the oil and massage my scalp, hair and shoulders I fell into an instant dreamy languorous state.
Somehow I did keep enough consciousness not to fall off the stool, but I was not really aware of doing so. The massage was deep, both stimulating and relaxing and I could feel every strand of my head drinking in the hydration and the smoothness of the oil. Finally, my hair was wrappped in a turban and with the instructions to leave it on for one hour only – as being a newbie having it on longer could be uncomfortable, the session was over.
Getting up, dressed and then walking back to my villa was not an easy task as I was in a trance like state, but I succeeded in getting back without mishap.
And my hair looked and felt glorious that night.