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Ayurveda Massage © karma-kerala.blogspot.ca

Oiled in India

Dr. John Towler

Ayurveda Massage © karma-kerala.blogspot.ca

He told me to close my eyes; then he poured warm oil all over my head and began to rub it in. As it dripped down my face, he scooped it up and worked it into my forehead, nose and cheeks. This went on for several minutes before he asked me to lie on the hard, bare and unpadded teak table. It was obvious that getting an Ayurveda massage, viewed by many as “the mother of all healing,” was going to be a totally new experience. It was the tenth day of our month-long tour of India when my wife, Lorna, and I arrived at the Spice Village, an exotic resort in Kerala where Paul McCartney spent his honeymoon with Heather Mills. In fact, we were given the same lovely bungalow. Lorna, who has a fondness for sensual pleasures, suggested that I try an Indian massage. I agreed.

I was shown to a large, bright room with floor-length windows on two sides. It contained a teak table, a stool and a young man who told me to disrobe – completely. As I stood self-consciously by the windows, he fastened a thin paper belt around my waist. Reaching between my legs, he grasped the long strip of paper hanging down in front and tucked it into the waistband at my back. Feeling only slightly more presentable, I was led over to the stool, where I sat and waited while he left the room. Sitting there with the door open and in front of the windows, I felt exposed and on view, but no one seemed to be around, not even my masseur. A few minutes later, he returned with three pots of aromatic oils and the slathering began.

After my head and shoulders had been saturated, he asked me to climb onto the table and stretch out. It was smooth and burnished to a rich dark colour by who knows how much oil – and it was very hard. The small pad he placed under my chin did very little to alleviate the discomfort. He proceeded to oil every available inch of my body, and believe me nearly every inch was available. This required copious amounts of oil, but he had an endless supply. Instead of kneading my muscles and massaging areas of stiffness, he simply moved his hands gently all over me, adding even more oil as he slathered away.

Our Cottage Residence © Dr. John Towler

After 20 minutes of this, he indicated that I should roll over onto my back. Let me tell you, this is no mean feat when you are covered with oil, lying on a slippery slab. The masseur was no help as he was as oily as I was, and neither of us could find anything to hang on to, no matter how appropriate or inappropriate it may have been. I probably would have seen the humour in this had I not been so concerned about slipping onto the floor. After a few tense moments, I managed the maneuver and watched as he renewed his efforts with even more oil. This continued for another 20 minutes, when I was told to sit up. If I had thought turning over was difficult, it was nothing compared to my next circus act. A great deal of gliding and sliding, accompanied by some skillful prodding and pushing, eventually got me sitting up with my legs over the edge. My man carefully wiped my feet and asked me to follow him to the shower room. Clutching each other like a pair of drunks, I oiled-skated my way across the tiles into the room next door, where I was told to sit on a stool in the shower.

I watched curiously as he mixed several gallons of herbs and warm water, never suspecting what would happen next. Picking up a pitcher, he filled it with this muddy mixture and poured it over me, explaining that it would remove the oil. But not only did he pour it on, he massaged it all over me. After each body part was thoroughly muddied, he sluiced me off with pitchers of warm water. My paper belt had completely disintegrated by this time, and I found myself sitting completely nude in a puddle of mud. When he was satisfied that no oil or herbs remained, he gently dried me off using a miniscule cotton cloth smaller than a hand towel. I have no idea how he managed this.

Next, he said that if I wished, I could have a real shower and he would bring me a fresh towel. I jumped at the opportunity. Despite the new towel being the same size as the previous one, I managed. Finished at last, I padded nude but clean back to the massage room, thanked my masseur, got into my clothes and left in search of my wife and a cold drink. I had experienced just the massage component of the ancient Ayurveda approach to wellness. The other aspects of this 6000-year-old holistic process involve diet, meditation, and exercise, with an emphasis on the link between mind and body. My body felt that it had been washed, polished and given a complete lube job and oil change. All of my fluids had been checked and topped up. I think I took four quarts. There is no doubt that this introduction to Ayurveda had left me relaxed and rejuvenated, but I think I prefer the Swedish massage and a lot less oil.

Dr. Towler has traveled to, lived in and written about more than 60 countries. His travel articles have appeared in print and electronic magazines worldwide, including the Globe and Mail and the Owen Sound Sun Times. He is a regular contributor to a variety of business and regional publications and is an award winning digital photographer. He divides his time between Canada and his home in Spain