Ayurveda Pura – Day Spa, North Greenwich, London
Anyone up for an “Abhyanga”?
Yes, an indulging full body massage based on the five-thousand-year ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda. Go on, you know you want to. Described as “A relaxing massage that can help to improve lymph flow, stimulate the immune system and revitalise the entire body”.
I thought to myself, YES PLEASE; I’ll have some of that!
So what is Ayurveda? (आयुर्वेद)
Ayurveda, Ayur (life) and Veda (knowledge) is a Sanskrit word (आयुर्वेद,) which means ‘the knowledge or science of life’.
Ayurveda is a holistic health practice which seeks to maintain a balance between the individual’s physical, mental and spiritual characteristics. Disease and illness are a result of an imbalance between these aspects. Prevention is key. Rather than just treating the symptoms, Ayurveda targets the underlying cause of disease.
The principles of Ayurveda?
The basic principles of Ayurveda are that everything in the universe, including human beings, is made up of five primary elements:
1) Ether (space)
4) Water and
These elements combine in varying degrees to create the three basic body types or ‘doshas’ in Sanskrit. Everyone has some features of each dosha, with most people having one, two or all three that dominate. Each individual is born with their own unique blueprint of each dosha, which makes up their ‘Prakriti’ or unique body constitution. Ayurveda states that for one to achieve balance they must maintain their Prakriti or distinct constitution. This is achieved with a person following a prescribed lifestyle routine or behaviours, diet, herbal remedies, detoxification, yoga and of course Ayurvedic massage.
The three doshas translate to various physiological, psychological, emotional and biological functions as well as how we interact with the environment and everything around us.
The three Doshas or basic body types are:
1) Vata, predominantly air and ether based;
Responsible for bodily movement, breathing, blood circulation etc
People who dominate in Vata tend to be lively and creative thinkers. When out of balance, Vata types can suffer from dry skin, constipation and anxiety.
2) Pitta, predominately fire and water based;
Responsible for digestion and the endocrine system of the body.
People with a dominant Pitta dosha are fiery, intelligent and fast-paced. If one’s Pitta is out of balance, they can suffer from arthritis, inflammation, heartburn, digestive problems and anger.
3) Kapha, predominately water and earth based;
Controls human growth and strength
Individual’s dominating in Kapha tend to be strong and solid in constitution with a calm demeanour. However, if Kapha is out of balance, this can result in diabetes, obesity, insecurity and envy.
If you are interested to know your unique dosha or body type, you can visit an Ayurvedic practitioner or here is a quiz you can take from the Chopra Centre website; http://doshaquiz.chopra.com/
OK, so lets jump right in, how was the actual Abhyanga experience for me?
Total and utter bliss
Yes, after the week I had, my mind and body were screaming for an Abhyanga and loudly!
I strolled into the warmth of the North Greenwich London spa on a rainy, cold wet day.
I was greeted by the lovely doctor herself, Dr Deepa Apte who is also the founder of the Ayurveda Pura health spa and beauty centre.
I was given a general health questionnaire form to complete and then invited to an uplifting herb scented, calming, candle-lit room. Dr Deepa sat me down and asked me some general health and lifestyle questions. After feeling my pulse and examining my tongue; the doctor conveyed some very accurate revelations.
She informed me that that my ‘Prakriti’ or body constitution was mainly the Pitta and Kapha doshas and that I had an imbalance in the ‘Vata’ dosha and I may be feeling some constriction in the chest region. Impressed with the accuracy of her diagnosis, I jaw-droppingly confessed to the doctor that it was true I was feeling a lot of tightness in my upper back and shoulders.
The doctor prescribed the Abhyanga treatment for me to bring balance to my Vata and left me in the care of the Abhyanga maestro and spa manager herself, Colette.
OIL is KING
This massage is all about the OILS used and their healing properties which get deeply absorbed into the skin and hence the body. So be prepared to get oiled up and lots of it. But rest assured, there is a shower room available which you can use after you have had your massage.
Ayurveda Pura also have their own range of special formulated natural and certified organic oils which all use Sesame oil as the base combined with other aromatic healing herbs. Colette used the De-stress Formula oil on me, which definitely did its job.
Dr Deepa told me that in Ayurveda you do not put anything on your skin that you cannot put on your tongue as everything gets absorbed into the body via the skin and into our cells and tissues. That is why Ayurveda Pura’s products branded as the ‘Holistic Essentials range’ are SLS, perfume and paraben-free and handmade in the UK.
Get your birthday suit on, and yes I really mean that bar some trendy paper undies you will be gifted. The towel comes off too. After all, you want your entire body to absorb all that therapeutic oil! Plus the massage is delivered with the utmost professionalism and is so lusciously relaxing that you will lose any reservations you may have once had.
The added bonus was that the oil was luke warm which felt VERY inviting on the skin. Colette generously applied the oil all over; my skin must have been really dry as I was soaking up the oil as soon as it was being applied.
My Abhyanga massage was an hour long, although you have the option to extend the massage to an hour and 30 minutes for a little extra cost if you wish to do so.
From what I can recall, the Abhyanga was a gentle but firm flowing massage as I was knocked into a deep dreamy state during the treatment. It felt as if the therapist’s hands were doing a head to toe rhythmic dance all over my body to match the trance like ambient music playing softly in the background.
The Abhyanga works with meridian or acupressure points which are called ‘Marma’ energy points in Sanskrit. My therapist Colette explained to me after the massage that she was working on these points in a figure of eight motion to bring balance to the body. This stimulates the movement of Prana or ‘life force energy’ in the body which improves blood circulation, immunity and other bodily functions.
What makes this massage so exquisite is how the therapist concentrates on the whole body with long gliding strokes. Don’t ask me how my therapist managed to move from one end of the massage table to the other and then back again so effortlessly. Unlike most other massages which focus on one given area of the body at a time, the Abhyanga’s distinct feature is that it incorporates repeated long sweeping ‘figure of eight’ strokes all over the body which makes the whole experience oh so divine!
I especially loved how my hands and feet were also massaged at frequent intervals during the treatment – absolutely magical! Oh and that tension I had in my upper back and shoulders, all but gone! Here is a very happy chilled out Shabs; transformed. 🙂
With the massage over, my therapist gently awoke me and advised me to have a shower, get dressed and that my herbal tea would be waiting for me outside.
It seemed a shame to wash all the oily goodness off, but I had a quick shower nonetheless to rinse off the excess oil. Feeling all fabulous, scented and as if I had been given a new layer of silky smooth skin, I went outside to enjoy my calming tea.
Ayurveda Pura is an award winning health spa and beauty centre offering a wide range of beauty, Ayurvedic and other holistic treatments. It also has a yoga studio and a café offering healthy food options. It is also home to the Ayurveda Pura Academy, which offers various Ayurvedic courses and training for therapists and health practitioners. For more information, visit, http://www.ayurvedapura.com/
I am left wandering, I have sampled one treatment at Ayurveda Pura yet there are body scrubs, facials, and other interesting Ayurvedic treatments to try. I smile as I know I will be back for more.
All my readers will be entitled to a 20% discount on any treatment at Ayurveda Pura. Please mention the code ‘HHR Shabs’ when calling them to book your appointment.
Reviewed and written by Shabs Ash