What to Know Before Getting an Ayurvedic Massage

This week in Miami, Joe and I were able to enjoy the Lapis Spa at the Fontainebleau for a few hours.  Typically, when we get spa treatments on vacation, we always opt for deep tissue couples massages.  This time however, something else caught my eye on the spa menu and I'm glad I tried it.  After all, it is part of my job!  With an open mind and spiritual interest, I tried an Ayurvedic massage called Abhyanga, which is an ancient Indian massage therapy that uses a combination of oils according to your Dosha type in order to unblock your chakras and relieve stress.  Dosha? Chakras?  Allow me to explain.  Here's everything you should know before trying an Ayurvedic massage.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Spirituality plays a big role.

In order to fully appreciate this type of treatment, you have to have some knowledge of the spirituality behind it.  Of course because of my strong interests in this field, I went in educated and it paid off.  The specific oils used as well as the massage technique strategically help to balance your energy systems and in turn, aid in overall health.

Each of us is made up of three doshas, or spiritual energies, that heavily influence our physical and mental state of wellbeing.  I'm mostly made of Vata energy, because I'm a creative type with lots of energy bursts (but also loves to nap), always cold and constantly on-the-go.  When my energy is off balance, I suffer from extreme anxiety.  This awareness of my dominate dosha has enabled me to keep it in balance best I can.  Then there are Pitta and Kapha doshas, which are very different.  If pitta is your dominate dosha, you're typically an intense person and Kapha dominated people are generally calm, loving and balanced.  Of course, we're made up of all three, but understanding how to keep the dominate one in balance will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

For my massage, I was immediately drawn to the Vata oil.  I've been experiencing a lot of anxiety this past month and knew I had to get my Dosha energy in check.  For more on Doshas, and to find out which you have the most of, check out this article.  

We each also have seven chakras, which are energy centers throughout the body that begin at the crown of your head and run down your spine.  It's important for these energies to remain open in order for energy to flow freely through the body.  For more on chakras, here's a great article that explains the system in more detail.

You're practically naked.

When I entered the room for my service I noticed the bed had only a regular sized bath towel on top.  My masseuse, Claudia, explained that unlike a regular massage where the only body part out at a time is the one being worked on, Ayurvedic massages use minimal draping that only cover your private parts.  For example, when I was laying on my stomach, the towel was folded into the tiniest rectangle you can image and placed over the center of my butt.  That was it!  I was extremely thankful to have a female masseuse who talked me through each step of towel folding and draping to ensure my comfort level.

It begins with a breathing ritual.

The massage began with me sitting on the edge of the table wrapped in a bath towel.  After choosing my Vata balancing oil, Claudia asked me to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I breathed in the scent of the oil as she placed one finger on the crown of my head and then in my palms.  The amount of pressure was just right as I was instantly relaxed.  This part finished with the sound of Tingshaw Bell (those tiny ones sometimes used by yoga teachers) and I was instantly transported into a more blissful state.

And includes a belly rub.

I don't know about you, but I hate having my stomach touched.  I know some regular massages include a good belly rub, but it's always one area I ask masseuses not to touch.  Since I was trying this one for the sake of research and so completely comfortable and relaxed, I let it happen.  Was it weird?  Yes, but I don't regret it.  At this point, the bath towel was folded into the tiniest V and placed you know where and a hand towel was added and draped over my breasts.  If you're like me and feel a bit uncomfortable when people touch your stomach, you may want to tell your masseuse upfront that it's a no fly zone.

The Abhyanga massage I received at Fontainebleau's Lapis Spa used warm herb-infused, medicated oils that subtly brings balance to seven layers of the body, the chakras. It's known for helping to stimulate circulation with long, dancelike strokes that ease discomfort and lessen fatigue as well as calm the spirit and renew physical energy, mental focus and clarity.