The therapies in Ayurveda can be used for both palliative as well as curative purposes. Once the physician identifies your body’s constitution (Prakruti), and your particular ailment (Vikruti), they will carry out a suitable type of massage, following a particular pattern and pressure, and using specific oils and powders. Massage nourishes the body’s tissues, tones up the muscles, and stimulates the nerve cells.
The Sanskrit word Abhayangam means “to massage”. This is one of the most popular forms of alternative treatment procedures, and ispracticed throughout the world. In this, specific medicated oil is applied all over the body, in special rhythmic manner, for a duration of 45 minutes. This procedure helps maintain healthy skin, prevents early aging, and relieves muscular aches and pain.
The term Padaghata means “massage with foot”. This is one of the traditional Ayurveda massage which is aimed to stimulate the Marmas (vital points), in the body. This form of massage was practiced mostly by practitioners of Kalaripaitu (a traditional martial art). Now, in the modern era, this wonderful healing technique is more widely used, to treat various ailments. This massage includes a hand, foot and head massage by a trained therapist.
Udwartanam, or “Powder Massage”, is a special therapeutic massage in which herbal powders are used to massage the body, against the direction of the hair follicles with strong pressure. This procedure helps to cleanse and burn out excess adipose (fat tissue) and is thus very useful in reducing body weight and toning muscles.
This full-body massage is performed by two therapists working in synchronicity, for a duration of 90 minutes, using medicated herbal oils. The number of strokes and the amount of pressure both vary according to the patient’s condition. In classical texts, this massage is prescribed daily to slow the ageing and degenerative processes. It increases blood circulation, which in turn promotes the quick removal of metabolic waste. It also relieves anxiety, fatigue, circulatory disorders, rheumatic problems, backaches, and injuries.
The treatments in Ayurveda are mainly divided into Sodhana (purificatory), and Samana (palliative). For all types of Sodhana treatments, there are two pre-requisite options: Snehana (oleation) and Swedana (sudation). Most of the massages and treatments mentioned below are a combination of these two processes.
Pizichil is a salient among traditional therapies, and a specialty of Kerala.This therapy is a beautiful combination of the two classical Ayurveda treatments mentioned earlier, namely Snehana (oleation), and Swedana (sudation). The whole body is bathed in streams of lukewarm, medicated oil, with simultaneous soft massage in seven postures. More than three litres of medicated oil is used in this procedure. This therapy protects the body from illness, building up immunity for a healthy life. It is very useful against rheumatic diseases, arthritis, paralysis, sexual weakness, neurological disorders, blood pressure, and nervous weakness.
Njavarakizhi is a procedure in which small cotton boluses are filled with cooked Njavara rice and medicated oil, and then massaged over the body. The rice is first cooked in cow's milk mixed with a herbal decoction. The boluses are dipped in this mixture, and then applied all over the body to induce sudation (sweat). This procedure is highly rejuvenating and nourishing, and it makes the individual strong to handle stress. It enhances physical constitution, strengthens the nervous system, and improves the overall appearance of the skin. This is a strengthening fomentation which is employed against neurological disorders, rheumatism, arthritis and malnourished limbs.
The term Pathra means "herbal leaves", and Potali refers to bolus. In Kerala, this process is commonly known as “Elakizhi”. This therapy begins with the application of suitable medicated oil to the entire body. The body is then made to sweat profusely through a massage with boluses of chopped and fried leaves of specific medicinal herbs after dipping in advised medicated oils. This therapy is effective against various kinds of arthritis, spondylosis, back pain, sports injuries and all other soft tissue inflammations – particularly joint pains.
“Choorna Swedam” or “Podikizhi” is a treatment in which the body is made to sweat profusely after a thorough massage with warm boluses of herbal powders tied up in cotton cloth. This therapy helps in curing Kapha and Vata’s predominant conditions: arthritis, back pain, paralysis, and muscular pains. Depending on the patient’s condition, it can be done with either medicated oils, or special liquids like Dhanyamla.
The term Siro means “head”, and Dhara means “pouring”. In this procedure, lukewarm herbal oil is poured in a continuous stream onto the forehead with a pendulum-like movement, while the patient receives a gentle head massage. Sirodhara rejuvenates and revitalizes the body and mind. This therapy relieves stress-related problems, slows the aging process, improves memory, and has a curative effect on paralysis, insomnia, depression, anxiety, hypertension, and other neurological malfunctions. It improves vision and hearing, clears nasal problems, and calms the body and mind. Overall, Sirodhara strengthens the individual’s constitution.
This is the same treatment as Sirodhara, but rather than herbal oil, herbal milk is poured over the forehead or the whole body. This is a great therapy for people who suffer from headaches due to Vata and Pitta predominance, and also relieves insomnia and mental tension.
The term “Takra” means buttermilk and “Dhara” means pouring. In this therapy, medicated buttermilk is poured onto the forehead, just as oil is poured in the Sirodhara treatment. It relieves insomnia, depression, and other stress-related problems. It prevents greying of the hair, reduces headaches, increases digestive power, alleviates anorexia and relieves psoriasis.
In the Sirovasthi procedure, a cap is fitted onto the head, and medicated oil is poured onto it, so that the oil remains next to the scalp. The treatment’s duration varies based on the patient’s condition. Massage and fomentation of the head and neck are done prior to the procedure. This is a great therapy for treating paralysis, insomnia and depression.
In this procedure, specially prepared warm herbal oil is poured over the neck, and retained inside a black gram paste boundary for the required duration. This therapy uses herbal oils, the healing properties of which do wonders; they deeply clean and enrich the blood, build and maintains strong muscle and connective tissues, and lubricate the joints to keep them flexible and pain free. Greevavasthi alleviates neck and upper back conditions like cervical spondylosis, stiff neck, pain due to overstrain.
In this procedure, specially prepared warm herbal oil is poured over the lower back and retained inside the black gram paste boundary for the required duration. The healing properties are similar to those of Greevavasthi. Kadivasthi alleviates lower back conditions like lumbar spondylosis, inter-vertebral disc prolapsed, lumbago (lower back ache) and sciatica.
This procedure is similar to Kadivasthi but is done on the chest, with special medicated oil that is useful in treating conditions like coughing, bronchitis and bronchial asthma.
In this procedure, the whole body is bathed in streams of a lukewarm, special herbal decoction, with simultaneous soft massage. This procedure is very useful for all types of skin problems. The nature of herbs used varies depending on the type of skin problem. The treatment is also very relaxing and rejuvenating.
This treatment, and its benefits, are similar to those of Kashaya Dhara’s. Here, instead of a herbal decoction, medicated liquid prepared from grain (Dhanyamla) is used. This treatment is additionally useful in reducing body weight.
Lepam is a procedure that is similar to a body pack. Medicated powder is mixed with a suitable medium to make a paste, and then applied all over the body. This herbal paste can also be applied to a specific region of the body. This therapy has a wide range of uses, from cosmetic improvement to the alleviation of severe skin conditions. It is very effective in the treatment of psoriasis, pimples, problems with the skin’s pigmentation, arthritis, swelling and pain, injuries and skin infections.
In this procedure, medicated ghee is retained in a boundary formed over the eyes with black gram paste. This has a cooling effect on irritated and stressed eyes. Netratharpanam relieves eyestrain, improves eyesight and helps with other eye-related problems.
In this procedure a herbal decoction is made to flow from the medial canthus to the lateral canthus of the eye, thereby cleansing the eye. This is followed by relaxing herbal eye drops.
This procedure is performed after the eyes are washed with a herbal decoction. Then, a special herbal paste is applied to the eye like coryillium. This is followed by the application of eye drops. This procedure is very helpful in the treatment of various eye ailments.
This therapy is famous for relieving pain and swelling, and for nourishing the tissues. A herbal paste is applied over the affected area;this paste is then covered with medicinal herbal leaves, and then bandaged with cotton cloth. This application is removed after a few hours, as per the requirement. This therapy is very effective against osteoarthritis, joint injuries, and localized pain and swelling.
A thick layer of cotton wool, soaked with warm medicated oil, is applied over the affected area. The oil is recycled periodically to keep it warm. This therapy is very effective for degenerative and painful problems like back pain, osteoarthritis, spondylosis and injuries.
This therapy begins with applying suitable medicated oil to the face, neck and chest. The face and neck are then made to sweat profusely, through steam generated from a combination of cow's milk and herbal decoctions. This therapy is effective against facial paralysis, trigeminal neuralgia, pimples and other skin problems.
This is a traditional herbal face pack, in which herbal medicines, selected according to the skin’s condition, are made into pastes and applied to the face. This procedure is preceded by facial massage and fomentation. This treatment opens skin pores and removes toxins therein, thereby toning the facial muscles and enhancing complexion.
In this treatment, the scalp is first given a liberal massage with oil. A special herbal paste is then applied, after which the scalp is covered with either lotus or banana leaves for 30-45 minutes. This procedure treats insomnia, hair loss, premature greying of hairs and depression.
This procedure is one among the five Panchakarma treatments. Medicated oils, decoctions, fresh juices, and/or powders are given through both the nostrils. Based on the patient’s condition, different kinds of preparations are used. The procedure is preceded by a facial massage and fomentation. This procedure relieves conditions like sinusitis, headache, migraine, cervical spondylosis, frozen shoulders, as well as premature greying and hair loss.
In this procedure, warm herbal oil is first gently applied over the body. The individual is made next to sit within a chamber containing steam, keeping their head outside. This steam is infused with medicinal herbs. This makes the individual perspire profusely, opening all the pores in their body and thereby removing all wastes and toxins. This is a great therapy for toning the skin, and giving you a special glow.
In this procedure, herbal oils and decoctions are applied through the vaginal route. This treatment is good for certain gynecological disorders, and for purification of the genital organs.