Like many millennial American females, I’ve dabbled in the use of coconut oil for hair, skin, and sometimes for oil-pulling purposes. I use a facewash with tons of olive oil in it. I try to use beauty products and makeup touted as all natural and not tested on animals, but I haven’t delved as deep into herbs and oil as I’ve wanted to. But this week, I’m working with Arth Ayurveda, in Indira Nagar, Bangalore, as part of my partnership with Leave UR Mark. I didn’t know much about Ayurvedic medicine before coming to India aside from that it’s a holistic, natural, ancient, proven way of caring for the body – “ayur” meaning “life”, and “veda” meaning “knowledge”. I’m here to learn, and since the best way to learn is to experience, I was given a few of the treatments that Arth Ayurveda offers, which meant for me a full-body rejuvenation therapeutic massage. This included three parts – Shirodhara, focusing on the forehead, Abhyanga, focusing on the full body, and Shastikah Shali Sweda Pinda, similar to Abhyanga, but with bags of rice and herbs. The majority of my massage experiences have been either in a nail salon chair or a mat on the floor in Southeast Asia. This was nothing like those. Therapeutic massage is a lot different than what an American might imagine. Therapeutic massage makes a difference in your health, and thus, your life.
When I entered the treatment room, there were three women who met me. One handed me a pair of underwear and a robe that I couldn’t figure out on my own – it was strapless and scrunched up on the sides. I was asked to sit down in a chair alongside a wooden table, where the treatment began. I could smell hot oil, which I later learned was sesame oil with herbs, and closed my eyes as one woman slipped my hair out of its ponytail and started to scoop oil on my scalp and rub it in. I hadn’t realized that there would be oil in my hair and worried my hair would look bad for the rest of the day, but then I remembered there was a bathroom off to the side and thought there was most likely a shower there. I later was 100% confident that there would be a shower because of the amount of oil that eventually came my way.
My scalp was worked on and massaged for a few minutes, my hair tugged gently as the oil was massaged throughout. Ayurvedic benefits of oiling hair include: increased shine, reduced hair loss, strengthening, reduced greying, and eliminated dandruff. The oil also made its way onto my neck, back, and inner ears – the ears I wasn’t expecting. I then was asked to get on the wooden table and my robe was removed in favor of a sheet. I laid down my head, and closed my eyes as instructed. What felt like cotton rounds were placed on my eyes and cotton balls were placed in my ears to protect them from what was to come. Hot -and I mean HOT – oil started to gently drizzle down on my hairline from above. This treatment went on for maybe a half hour which induced me into a deep relaxation and even made me accidentally doze off for a little bit. Shirodhara is the deepest relaxation technique in Ayurveda and soothes the brain – I can certainly vouch for that.
After Shirodhara, the oil moved further down my body and two of the women started rubbing it into my body quickly, rhythmically, and in synchronization with each other. The movements were not slow and painful, as I’d experienced in spa massages, but quick and closer to the surface. I’ve tried to explain the amount of oil that was used during this portion and the best way to describe it is “buckets”.
Shastikah Shali Pinda Sweda
Then began my Shastikah Shali Pinda Sweda treatment, also referred to as SSPS. Benefits of SSPS include relaxation, rejuvenation, exfoliation, nourished and moisturized skin, reduction of fungal issues, and reduction of sunburn. In Sanskrit, Shastikah means 60, Shali means rice, Pinda means bolus, and Sweda means steamed – so what that all means together is; steamed rice that is older and in a bolus (small round ball). That small round ball is dipped in a milky substance and rubbed all over, in a similar synchronous manner to Abhyanga. When two of the women started working on my legs, I lifted my head to see what exactly was being rubbed on my body and the other woman gave me a gentle smile and a “no, no” wag of the finger for me to lay down again. Then they moved to my face, which I wasn’t expecting. You know in bad movies from the ‘90s, when someone gets a fastball or a pie to the face and the camera slows down and shows every movement of their reaction and their cheeks, lips, and nose go out of whack for a few seconds? That’s how I imagine I looked during this part of the treatment.
After the final treatment, I was led to the shower as expected and instructed to use a brown powder that one of the woman mixed with water to turn it into a paste, which was to be used as a scrub. It felt glorious to get all of the oil off my body and especially out of my hair. I used an excessive amount of shampoo to get the deed done and some of it fell out in my hands, but I knew what was left would be healthier after this treatment. When I met my friends for dinner that night, they told me my skin was glowing. I definitely felt better after my treatments than I’d felt in the last few days, especially since I’d been quite jetlagged after arriving in India. Arth Ayruveda also offers cosmetology treatments, and even what I received worked wonders on my looks, if I do say so myself. The amount of oil that was on my forehead seems to have reduced my forehead wrinkles and even a week after Shirodhara, my hair has never before been this voluminous!
For a consultation, analysis, or to book your own Ayurveda treatment visit: http://www.artworld.com/contact-us.php
Erin Faherty is a travel blogger from New York City who spent time with us at Arth Ayurveda in Bangalore this autumn.