Ayurvedic treatments and massages
Ayurvedic medicine relies heavily on the use of oils, and recognises them as carriers of healing substances. There are particular oils assigned to each Dosha. Oils can be applied to particular body parts or to the entire body. Abhyanga is a traditional Ayurvedic massage with warm oils.
Shirodhara (shiro-forehead, dhara-flow) is an Ayurvedic treatment in which oil is poured onto the forehead and is acknowledged as the best-known Ayurvedic practice. It is performed with a special mixture of oil and herbs. The recipes vary and some of them are over 2,000 years old! The head massage and continous oil flow calm the nervous system, reduce stress and relieve headaches.
According to Ayurveda, the eyes are linked to the sun, so in order to sooth eye complaints, the Pitta Dosha must be brought into balance. During a Netra Basti treatment, the entire eye socket is bathed in a pool of warm ghee, which has a nourishing effect and helps sooth itchy eyes. The treatment usually lasts between 5 and 20 minutes.
Massages with hot cotton bags filled with herbs are called Pinda Sveda. They are often performed by simultaneously applying two bags to both sides of the body, as shown in the picture. Sometimes two Ayurvedic therapists use four bags to give a full body massage. The aim of this Ayurveda treatment is joint and muscle relaxation, tension release as well as the opening of pores to allow medicinal substances to be absorbed and remove toxins through sweating. There are herbal mixtures with different flavours, tailored towards specific dosha types or ailments.
Ayurvedic Head Treatments
Ayurvedic head treatments are versatile. You have already discovered Shirodhara above, but there are also other types of applications with oils and herbs, as seen on the right. There are also many massages of the head in a sitting and lying position. Two well-known names in Ayurvedic head treatments are Shiroabhyanga (massage) and Shirovasti (head treatment with oil). Shiroabhyanga is a head massage, which can be performed lying down as well as in a sitting position. Shirovasti is an oil treatment which uses a wrap to prevent the oil from pouring down your face.
Ayurvedic Herbal Baths
Ayurvedic baths are used to soothe your muscles and relax your body. Flowers are often added to the water along with herbs and oils. The pleasant aroma and warmth of the water allow for revitalisation and pure indulgence.
Pictured is an Ayurvedic flower bath prepared by SpaDreams partner Life Ayurveda Resort in Sri Lanka.
Ayurvedic treatments include a variety of wraps and body scrubs, with use of natural ingredients which correspond to your dosha type. The main ingredients are herbs and oils. Wraps can be complete body wraps or partial wraps; they vary according to the purpose of the treatment but the ingredients are always natural.
Ayurvedic face masks work in a similar way to conventional face masks. Typical ingredients include healing clay, herbs and oils as well as other natural elements such as algae. The masks soothe, nourish, revitalise, rejuvenate and detoxify skin as well as contributing to mood enhancement and supporting Ayurvedic treatments.
Yoga and Meditation
Ayurveda doctors will usually recommend yoga and meditation as part of a well-rounded Ayurvedic treatment. Yoga is practised to relax and strengthen muscles through controlled use as well as to increase flexibility. Mental relaxation is attained through meditation. Here you are taught to control emotions and increase mindfulness through practicing awareness and breathing techniques.
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FAQ - Ayurveda Treatments
What are Ayurvedic treatments?
What types of Ayurvedic treatments are there?
Each treatment is individually adapted to the host, the longer the duration of the treatment, the better the fine adjustment and the result obtained. Due to this degree of individualisation, many hotels, resorts or clinics offer a single programme, which is generally called "Classical Ayurvedic Treatment". However, as not all visitors understand exactly how the individualisation of treatments works and therefore want to know in advance "exactly what they have booked", many hotels have started to directly advertise different programs. The most common are:
- Panchakarma Treatment - the fivefold Ayurvedic purification, also called detoxification treatment
- Rasayana Treatment - also called wellness, rejuvenation or relaxation treatment.
- Langhana Treatment - Ayurveda Treatment for weight reduction
In addition to these main foci, there are of course countless other focus areas of Ayurvedic treatments, as diverse and individual as people. Therefore, our advice to you is not to feel irritated by the names of the treatments, the Ayurveda houses that offer a single programme do everything well if this programme is a "classic Ayurvedic treatment".
Are "Ayurvedic Treatments" and "Ayurvedic Applications" the same?
By "Ayurvedic applications" we mean the individual components of Ayurvedic treatments. These are the daily curative treatments, of which there are a large number. Well-known examples are the pouring of oil on the forehead (Shirodhara) or the different oil massages (Abhyangas). For more information on individual Ayurvedic treatments, please visit our Ayurvedic treatments gallery.
What's so special about Ayurvedic treatments?
Where do Ayurvedic treatments come from?
Where can I perform Ayurvedic treatments?
Who benefits from Ayurvedic treatments?
How many Ayurvedic applications are performed per day with a classic Ayurveda treatment?
- Ayurvedic treatment is performed in stages, each stage has its own applications with their own meaning. Since not all stages are equal, not all applications are equal in complexity and duration. If you are talking about a 3-week treatment with approximately 3-4 applications per day, you should be dealing with an approximate average, with 5 applications on one day and 2 on the next.
- Ayurvedic applications themselves have different durations and intensities. A good example:
- Two friends book an Ayurvedic holiday together. Although they are the same age, they have different health problems, one is tense and very stressed by computer work and constant pressure, the second fights against allergies, frequent headaches and sinus inflammations.
- The first receives an Abhyanga on day X, a synchronous full body oil massage, a massage by two therapists for just over an hour on the whole body. Her friend has performed 5 treatments at the same time, a head massage, a foot massage, a nasal rinse, a sinus massage and a packet of herbs on the neck.
- Both feel great afterwards because the treatments were tailored to their specific needs. Now, can you tell if 1 or 5 treatments are better?
Who decides Ayurvedic treatments I receive?
The decision about which Ayurvedic treatment is best for you rests with the Ayurvedic physician. He also determines the number and order of Ayurvedic treatments. This occurs after the so-called "initial consultation". This can be compared to the "anamnesis" when you visit a new doctor. Together they talk about their medical history, their current health problems and what they expect from the Ayurvedic treatment.
Tip: Be prepared, open, and honest. If you don't tell the doctor that you’re suffering from lower back pain, he won't be able to help you get rid of this pain.
The treatment plan established by the doctor is usually not carved in stone, and the doctor will usually talk to you every few days to ask how the current treatment is affecting you, what is good for you, and what is not. The plan will be adjusted according to your comments. The longer the treatment, the better the outcome.
Who performs Ayurvedic treatments/applications?
Attention: In India and Sri Lanka in general men treat men and women treat women. If men should massage women (because they have more strength), then women are asked beforehand and should agree. For cultural reasons, women never massage or treat men. Nor is it appreciated when men explicitly ask women to massage them.
Why is the Dosha type important in Ayurvedic treatments?
As an experienced Ayurvedic physician once explained to us, Doshas are actually like glasses through which one looks at certain aspects of a person to learn something about their health. There is absolutely no question of dividing people into groups and no Dosha is better than another. The highest goal of Ayurveda is the healthy balance of all the Doshas with each other.
During Ayurvedic treatment, Dosha is used to determine certain herbs and oils that have a high probability of being beneficial and are meant to rebalance the body.
In addition to these considerations, which for the host usually take place almost invisibly in the background, the type of Dosha is usually relevant at mealtime. In most hotels there is an Ayurvedic buffet and dishes are labelled according to Doshas, for example with colours. The Ayurvedic doctor will tell you which dishes are suitable for you.
What is the best time for an Ayurvedic treatment?
When are Ayurvedic treatments particularly medically effective?
The most important aspect is moisture. The more humid the air, the better Ayurvedic oils can get into the skin and do their job. Therefore, many experts recommend Ayurveda in the rainy season. Since the occupancy rate in hotels is usually not as high at this time, doctors and therapists often have a little more time for each guest.
What is the best time to combine Ayurvedic treatments with a holiday?
Most guests do Ayurvedic treatments in India and Sri Lanka from November to March. Christmas and New Year's Eve are especially popular. It's just so much fun to escape the cold and grey winter and let yourself be pampered at almost 40 degrees.
When are Ayurvedic treatments particularly economical?
The Ayurvedic low season coincides with the rainy season. Although a treatment in a humid climate is better for the body, most guests simply don't want tropical rain during their vacation. Therefore, the months from May to August are often the cheapest and tend to cost half as much as December/January.
Are Ayurvedic treatments unpleasant or tiring?
Yes, sometimes, but only a little. With the classic 2-3-week Ayurvedic treatments there is a phenomenon called "memory pain" in the first phase, which usually lasts 2-3 days. Through special applications in this phase, everything that is not in balance appears in the body. It's perfectly normal that you don't feel so good these days.
As soon as the next phase of treatment begins, all these things are immediately balanced and improved. At the end of the treatment, the guests feel revitalized and in great shape.
Tip: Does Ayurvedic Massage Harm You? Every person is unique when it comes to massage. Some like it really firm, others just like to be gently stroked. The feeling is just different. If the Ayurveda therapist massages too hard or too weakly, just let them know. He likes to adapt to what is pleasing to you.
What diseases are treated with Ayurvedic treatment?
Here is a list of diseases or symptoms that can usually be treated with Ayurveda:
- Rheumatic complaints and pains of the musculoskeletal system
- Symptoms of menopause
- Stress and exhaustion
- Migraine and sleep disorders
The classic contraindications of Ayurvedic treatments are the following:
- Severe acute infections
- Open wounds
- Cancer (if chemotherapy is not completed)
Is Ayurvedic treatment useful soon after chemotherapy?
Do Ayurvedic treatments also benefit healthy people?
Are Ayurvedic treatments also suitable for European patients?
How can I prepare for Ayurvedic treatments?
In any case, it makes sense to prepare for the initial examination with the Ayurvedic doctor. Make a list of your most important health problems and consider what you expect from the treatment. Since doctors often speak English, it is also a good advice to have the most important medical terms in English. If you have recently had surgery or broken bones, x-rays will also help your doctor.
For travel clothing during an Ayurvedic treatment, the following applies: naturalness and relaxation. Ayurveda vacations are not a beauty contest and hotels are rather natural and casual. Wear comfortable, wide clothing made of natural fibres such as cotton. Remember that especially underwear can become very greasy due to massage. For yoga and meditation, which usually take place in the morning at dawn or at night at dusk, you should also plan on comfortable and flexible clothing and a light jacket (if the sun is gone, it often cools quickly). You can take extra yoga clothing with you if you already have it, but you don't need to buy it.
Also consider mosquito repellent or mosquito spray. Since mosquitoes are usually active at dusk, the wide, light clothing that covers the arms and legs also helps here. We invite you to see our detailed list of what to bring to your Ayurveda trip.
What should I bear in mind when booking an Ayurvedic treatment / How can I recognise professional Ayurvedic treatments?
Due to the popularity of Ayurvedic treatments, offers have increased considerably in recent years. Unfortunately, not all of these offers are serious and reliable. Therefore, we will give you some tips that will help you identify serious and authentic offers:
- Ayurveda hotels in India and Sri Lanka must be inspected and certified by the respective government authorities.
- Upon request, you should receive information about the Ayurvedic doctors and, if applicable, their training and professional experience.
- At least one Ayurvedic doctor and several therapists should be permanently in the house and not just come for treatments.
- Ayurvedic treatments will only be determined after the initial consultation with the doctor. (If the applications have already been determined in advance, it will be a wellness stay, not authentic Ayurveda).
- In addition to treatments, Ayurvedic cuisine should also be offered. (This is sometimes not valid for European hotels, when it comes to Ayurveda wellness)
- A truly effective Ayurvedic treatment should include daily yoga (and/or meditation), but at least 4 times a week.
- Taking Ayurvedic (herbal) medications may be part of the treatment, but it is never mandatory. If Ayurvedic medicines are available, the hotel should be able to provide information on their provenance and production.
By the way: When you book with SpaDreams, of course we have already checked the hotel for you and you can be sure that both the hotel and the reserved Ayurvedic treatments actually exist.
How do you recognise questionable Ayurvedic treatments?
After we've explained earlier how to recognise good programmes, here's a list of tips you should be suspicious of:
- There is no Ayurvedic doctor in the hotel.
- The website seems very dubious, is poorly translated and the information is sometimes contradictory.
- Emails to the hotel are not answered at all, incompletely, maliciously or only after several days.
- Only the Ayurveda hotel can be found on the hotel website itself, it is not mentioned or listed anywhere else.
- You will not receive any information about certification by Ayurveda authorities in India or Sri Lanka.
How much does a (good) Ayurvedic treatment cost?
It is impossible to give a general average here. The following factors have a decisive influence on the price of Ayurvedic treatments:
- Seasonality: In the rainy season (usually from May to August) it is very possible that you will pay only half of what you would pay during the high season (December to March).
- Hotel facilities: There are many very small and very simple Ayurvedic houses. Often with less than 20 rooms. The equipment is therefore rather rustic, much wood and not particularly luxurious. In these hotels the Ayurvedic treatment usually costs considerably less, which does not mean that it does not have to be of absolutely good quality. Tip: Take a close look at the photos of the simple hotels, so you can check details such as cleanliness.
- Hotel comfort: If you want a little luxury, you have to pay something for it, also in Asia. There are luxurious Ayurvedic dream hotels and some of them still offer good and authentic treatments despite all the luxury, but these also have their price. Where 5-star Ayurveda is offered at a discounted price, you should be sceptical.
- Prestige of hotel or doctor: Some Ayurveda houses and/or their doctors enjoy a great reputation all over the world. This leads to a strong demand and, therefore, higher prices.
Are non-vegetarian foods prohibited in Ayurvedic treatments?
Is alcohol forbidden in Ayurvedic treatments?
Is smoking prohibited during Ayurvedic treatments?
Perhaps you should use an Ayurvedic treatment for several weeks to get used to not smoking.