Health experience: Ayurvedic treatment pours soothing oil over troubled body
I’ve always liked to mark my birthdays with different experiences. However, this year’s one, of being massaged with warm rice and hot milk by four Indian masseuses, will be hard to beat.
I am in the final week of my four-week inpatient hospital treatment in an Ayurvedic hospital in India. And it is an experience unlike any other I have ever had.
Coming here was a blind leap of faith, as I chose not to research Ayurveda in advance. All I knew was that I had to try something completely different.
After years of the best efforts of doctors, my life was increasingly squeezed by pain from fybromyalgia, which is a chronic syndrome that causes a stiff, burning pain in or near the joints like the pain of arthritis. Unlike arthritis, however, the joints are not deformed or damaged.
The core of my treatment in India is a one-hour daily session of a mixture of massage and physiotherapy, with every muscle and joint massaged and manipulated.
For the first two weeks, the massage medium was pungent, hot, medicated oil. A big pot of it is used during the session as it is continually poured over me.
The four masseuses work very quickly and rhythmically and one hour of this is unbelievably intensive. I am completely wiped out after each session, so I have no difficulty complying with the recommended two hours of bedrest afterwards.
This week and last week, the masseuses are using open-mesh cloth bags of warm cooked rice to massage and hot milk is poured on instead of oil.
After years in which any attempt at massage or physio had me jumping off the treatment bench in pain, these daily sessions are bliss. I do feel pain, but it is subsumed by the heat.
Another very pleasant treatment involves a constant stream of warm oil being poured over my forehead for one hour – the sensation is hypnotically soothing. I also have one hour of yoga daily and, between this and other treatments, the day passes very quickly.
Not all the treatments are pleasant. It’s no fluffy towel resort here and I have to accept the package deal of “purification and pacification”.
While the massages are wonderful, over the past three weeks my treatment has involved an increasingly intensive regime of “cleansing” – this has meant staying very close to the loo.
I am glad I did not know about this in advance. However, after that experience, I am relieved that this week, cleansing only involves getting nasty smelling oils up my nose.
Also as part of the cleansing, I am on a prescribed patient diet. It’s completely vegetarian, with not even cheese or eggs, but it’s an education on how interesting and varied this can be.