As an Intrepid leader in India long periods of time spent travelling on rickety buses and bum-numbing camel safari jaunts can, over time, prove to be a little taxing on the body and mind. But Felicity Turland discovers the special treat of living in a country with an enduring history devoted to the healing arts – there is always an Ayurvedic masseur or clinic close at hand…
“Having experienced plenty of massages outside of India, coupled with a fairly extensive layman’s knowledge of, and interest in, Ayurveda (a 2,000 year old Indian holistic system of healing), I approach my first session of Shirodhara with glee. ‘Shiro,’ meaning head and ‘dhara,’ meaning flow, this treatment involves warm herbal oil pouring in a steady stream onto the ‘third eye’ chakra or forehead, for 30 to 45 minutes, followed by gentle scalp and shoulder massage. Regular sessions of Shirodhara claim to improve the function of the five senses, help in fatigue and make oneself calm, fresh and rejuvenated…just what I needed.
I enter the small white room, inhabited only by the special wooden table on which I was to lie. Unlike many other types of massage, Ayurvedic massage and oil treatments tend to require all the clothes off. I soon understood why as things are about to get very messy. The table I lay down on is smooth and infused with healing oils and although I initially feel a pang of modesty in my state of undress, the therapist gently covers my eyes with a soft cotton strip to catch dripping oil and I start to focus inwards, forgetting my trepidation. Prior to my eyes being covered, I notice the shining brass vessel hanging above my forehead that will soon release its soothing flow of warm herbal oil through a very small hole in its conical base, inducing me into a deep state of serenity. As the warm flow descends, I find myself relaxing into the experience and it is truly blissful!
The table I lay on is designed to collect the oil neatly around my head, which then falls into another vessel below the surface. This residue oil is collected towards the end and massaged luxuriously through my hair, into my head and over my shoulders. As I also asked for a body massage, this oil is used to cover me in a deliciously warm, slick film with the fluid strokes of my therapist’s hands and then I am enveloped in warm wet towels to let the oil soak into my being. At first my head races with the fear of how I will ever get all this pungent, yet sweet-smelling oil off my skin, but the fear subsides into a divine sense of comfort and contentment to which I could easily develop an addiction.”