If you go to an ayurvedic spa or pancha karma center, you will likely find a variety of body treatments available. Some treatments are meant to purify the body and to expel excess doshas. These are generally part of a pancha karma program. Also, there are a number of rejuvenation therapies in Ayurveda. These treatments may or may not be part of pancha karma, and are meant to nourish the body and mind, reduce Vata dosha, and build ojas.
Since oil is deeply nourishing and Vata-pacifying, many rejuvenation therapies in Ayurveda involve the use of oils—both internally and externally. In fact, the Sanskrit word snehana means both “fat” and “to love.” Thus, the medas (fat tissue) of the body and self-love, nourishment and contentment are intimately linked. Let’s take a look at some nourishing rejuvenation therapies. Look for these treatments at an ayurvedic clinic or spa.
Abhyanga is a special ayurvedic form of massage. It typically involves a generous application of oil, and is classically performed simultaneously by two practitioners. However, abhyanga can be performed by a single practitioner, and self-oil massage is also known as abhyanga.
In fact, daily abhyanga is a wonderful practice for Vata types. Since Vata dosha is light, dry, and mobile by nature, the heavy, unctuous qualities inherent in oil are balancing for Vata. Warm sesame oil is ideal for Vata types, and can be applied daily from head to toe. For Pitta types, a lighter, cooler oil such as sunflower is preferable. Kapha types generally do not need much oil, but a small amount of safflower or mustard oil applied to the skin in the autumn may be helpful. All doshas benefit from a bit of extra oil massage in the fall, being that it is Vata season.
Shirodhara is another ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy that you will find at most ayurvedic spas and health centers. This therapy specifically targets the mind and nervous system. Shiro means head and dhara “to pour.” This nourishing, soothing treatment consists of pouring warm sesame oil over the head and forehead. Head and neck massage may also be a feature of shirodhara.
This rejuvenation therapy is incredible relaxing and quieting for the brain. It is indicated for chronic headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and nervousness (1).
Oil bastis are another type of therapy for rejuvenation. Anuvasana basti is essentially an oil enema. This is indicated for Vata imbalances and can be a stand-alone treatment or part of a pancha karma program.
There are other types of bastis as well. For instance, netra basti is when an oil-filled dough dam is formed around the eyes—thus the eyes are saturated in oil. Ghee is commonly used for this treatment, and the indications include glaucoma, eye strain, and other issues with the eyes (1).
Furthermore, katti basti is when an oil pool is formed over an area of the back. This can be done for chronic pain or issues with the muscles and joints. In this case, an oil infused with herbs may be used. The type of oil and herbs would selected be at the discretion of the ayurvedic practitioner.
There are many other nourishing, rejuvenation treatments in Ayurveda. This is simply a sampling of some of the ways in which ayurvedic treatments can help nourish ojas, calm Vata, and generally boost vitality. Many rejuvenation therapies involve oil—a tremendous asset in rejuvenation—soothing, calming, and reminding us to love and be nourished. Also, Chyawanprash is another way in which you can nourish and rejuvenate your body on a daily basis.
Halpern, M. (2012). Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine. Nevada City, CA: California College of Ayurveda.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.