As well as its wealth of historic temples and rich culture, Sri Lanka’s wellness traditions are a feast to discover on a trip to its picturesque shores. Among them is the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, which is still practised widely in Sri Lanka and neighbouring India.
Ayurvedic traditions are thousands of years old; some estimate they have been passed from master to disciple for more than 5,000 years and that Ayurveda is the oldest healing methodology in the world. The beliefs and practices central to Ayurveda have given birth to other natural healing methods, such as homeopathy and polarity therapy, while Sri Lankan massage therapies use the age-old healing techniques of Ayurveda to restore the body and balance the mind.
Indeed, Ayurveda means ‘knowledge of life’, and the core philosophy of the Ayurvedic system is that the key to health is a balance of your three doshas – energies we all have in our bodies, known as Vata, Pitta and Kappa.
As a form of traditional medicine, Ayurveda uses plant-based treatments to heal and boost physical and mental strength to prevent illness. For many locals in Sri Lanka, Ayurveda is a total way of life that incorporates diet, daily yoga practice and regular meditation. But you don’t have to go the whole hog to appreciate the benefits of Ayurveda. Massage therapies are an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, and as well as having many reputed health benefits, they are also deeply relaxing.
We’ve got the low down on ayurvedic massage treatments and what to expect.
Ayurvedic Body Massage
Ayurvedic massage is a great introduction to the ancient practice of Ayurveda. Aficionados believe massage plays an important role in healthcare, helping to detoxify the skin and body and improve digestion. Hard-core Ayurveda purists will have a full body massage – known as abhyanga in Sanskrit – every day, for general mind/body support.
We’re not saying a daily massage is de rigueur (although there’s no reason why you shouldn’t –you’re on holiday after all, so why not treat yourself?). One will be enough to give you a taste of the traditions that are interwoven in Sri Lankan culture, plus it’s a wonderful way to relax on vacation. That said, once you’ve tried it, chances are you’ll soon be booking another.
WHAT TO EXPECT: You may start with a consultation about your health, so your therapist can identify where your doshas are out of balance, and what needs to happen to restore that balance. Be prepared – Ayurvedic medicine focuses on healthy digestion, so you may get one or two personal questions in your consultation!
The treatment itself will usually begin with your therapist blending together oils and herbs to create a combination that’s right for you, based on the consultation. Then your therapist will begin the massage, which uses traditional stroking movements combined with techniques like kneading, tapping and squeezing the muscles.
It’s a full body massage – and we really mean full body. Ladies, if you’re not comfortable having your chest massaged, let your therapist know at the start of the treatment. It will also include your head and hair, so you may want to keep your schedule clear afterwards, given you’ll be oiled up from head to toe! Giving the therapeutic oils plenty of time to soak in is an important part of Ayurvedic practice.
Ayurvedic Head Massage
Ayurvedic head massage (also called Indian head massage) is a regular ritual for many people who practise Ayurveda. If you fancy ‘testing the water’ before going for the full body treatment, a head massage is the perfect way to get you started. From a healing perspective, Ayurvedic head massage is said to relieve mental stresses and fatigue, to help you achieve calmness and clarity.
WHAT TO EXPECT: As in the body massage, head massage uses oil to nourish and heal, so your treatment will begin with selecting the right oil blend for you. The oil will be warmed and massaged into the scalp, to encourage blood flow in the head and help you feel relaxed and stress-free. The oils are also an important beauty ritual in Ayurvedic practice, helping to nourish the hair like a super-powered conditioner.
We recommend booking this one in before bed – Ayurvedic head massage is a traditional treatment for insomnia. Plus, you can leave the oil in your hair overnight, to really get to work on any dryness or split ends in your locks.
Why not get an ayurvedic massage in the comfort and privacy of your own Sri Lanka villa?