independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ayurvedic Treatment: An oily experience with the 'science of life'

Ayurveda – said to be one of the oldest therapies in the world

IRELAND sure has changed in our lifetime. When I was growing up – which is not that long ago, she says firmly – religion ruled, you ate spuds with nearly everything, and health remedies came from the doctor or the chemist.

Now the power of the churches has been broken, you can get every cuisine from European to Asian, and we have exotic healing systems ranging from yoga in Youghal to Chinese herbs in Chapelizod.

Ayurveda – said to be one of the oldest therapies in the world – is gaining a strong following here and around the world. Everyone from Hollywood celebs to us mere mortals are talking about our "doshas".

Our what? Let me translate: ayurveda comes from India, and means "science of life". It's based on an ancient system that says our personality or constitution is based on three doshas (forces in the body): kapha, vata and pitta.

"It's a gentle and balancing philosophy that works on everything from your digestion to boosting your energy points, or marmas," says Orna, who spent many months in India learning the technique.

And if she's anything to go by, ayurveda is worth learning about. Slim and lithe, Orna looks at least 10 years younger than her 40 years, and has clear eyes and glowing skin.

If you want an introduc- tion to the treatment, a massage is a good place to start. "An ayurvedic marma massage encourages the movement of your vata and energies, enabling the body to come back into harmony, detoxify and function normally," says Orna. There are 110 marma points along your body, she says.

It all sounds a bit mysterious to me, a girl from Howth who thought pitta and vata meant news a baby was on the way. But the chance to relax and feel more balanced sounds good, so up on to the massage table I go.

Here's a tip: If you do have the treatment, expect to get oily. Your therapist will mix up a nice warmed herbal oil, blended according to your dosha, and will usually rub it over the entire body, including your head. You'll need a good shower and shampoo afterwards.

Ayurveda is more subtle than deep-tissue massage, and the strokes, pressure and speed vary, depending on your dosha type.

In Ireland, there are a growing number of ayurveda therapists, or GPs qualified in the technique.

Orna's clinic is a welcoming space in her Galway home, where enticing smells waft from the jars of spices and remedies lining the neat shelves. She takes a thorough client history before starting the treatment, and gives helpful advice on diet.

Ayurveda has a long and sacred history. Part of the Vedas, the divine texts of Hinduism, it dates back nearly 4,000 years, and is claimed to be the world's oldest medical system.

Orna says the aim is not just to treat the symptoms, but to prevent illness and sustain life. Its roots are intertwined with those of yoga and meditation, and both play a key role in ayurvedic treatment.

A typical massage and consultation takes about 90 minutes, and Orna warms the herbal oil and deftly applies it with gentle strokes. The head and foot massage felt the nicest, and later she explains she found my energy levels were depleted, and working on legs and scalp can help to restore balance and calm a busy mind.

And if you want to work out your own dosha type, here are some guidelines.

Vata people are restless with twitchy, active minds. They tend to be slightly built and suffer from stiff joints, rheumatic problems and constipation. They have a tendency to insomnia and depression. Typical vatas? Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Roberts.

Janey, I think – I wouldn't mind having their problems, or their bank balance.

Kapha types are big-boned and often overweight, with a pale and smooth complexion. They can suffer from sinus problems, excessive mucus, lethargy and nausea. Typical kaphas? Kate Winslet, Christina Ricci and Oprah Winfrey.

Pitta people are of average build and have a ruddy complexion or red hair, with moles, freckles or acne. They are intense, argumentative and precise, with a sharp and critical intelligence. Typical pittas? Madonna, Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Aniston.

The verdict

We tried: Ayurvedic treatment

Did it work: Helps restore balance

Pluses: Boosts overall health and helps you relax

Minus: Doesn't have reach of deep-tissue massage

Cost: About €70 for 1.5-hour treatment and consultation

Contact: orna@ayurvedagalway.ie or www.ayurvedagalway.ie Tel 087 6312242.

For national contacts, see www.whatclinic.com/holistic-health/ireland/ayurveda or www.holisto.com

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