Today, I went for my first ever Ayurveda treatment. I won’t pretend to know anything about this, so most of what follows I have lifted straight off the leaflet….
Ayurveda is the oldest continuously practiced system of health care in the world. According to Ayurveda, the health of the body relies upon the alignment of three doshas (psycho-physiological principles). Ayurveda uses different therapies, massages and treatments to restore balance in these three doshas, thereby boosting the immune system and rejuvenating body and mind.
Some of the treatments on the list sound pretty crazy:
Sirodhara: Medicated oils or butter milk are poured onto the forehead in a continual stream for 45 minutes
Njavarakizhi: A process by which the body is made to perspire by the external application of medicinal puddings (?)
Pizhichil: Lukewarm herbal oils are drizzled over the body simultaneously by two technicians in a continuous rhythmic way for 60-90 minutes
Nasyam: Herbal juices or medicated oils are applied through the nose
None of these really appeal, so I plump for Marma Siddha: “An acupressure massage in which pressure is applied to the marma points in combination with massage strokes. This treatment is beneficial for any back or skeletal weaknesses, sports injuries and those wanting a harder massage”. Sounds perfect, doesn't it?
What it translates to, in reality, is that I walk into a straw hut and a friendly but slightly odd-mannered, pot-bellied Indian guy with an orange sheet wrapped around his waist spends an hour and a half rubbing ghee all over my naked body with his feet.
The guy is called Libin, and he's been doing this a long time. It starts out inauspiciously enough, with me sat in a plastic patio chair in my underwear, while he pours a warm, thick oil over my head. Before long my pants are on a stool in the corner and I’m lying face down, legs akimbo as he alternates feet in long, firm arcs from foot to hand on each side. I’m grateful my genitals landed in a safe place when I laid on the floor, because he is soon standing on my buttocks.
He continues, and the massage is incredibly good, and I do indeed feel rejuvenated and replenished. But all the while I am smiling to myself and wondering what Karl Pilkington would make of it all as he slid around the rubbery floor, greased up like a pig. It’s not just me who is getting a going over here – Libin is sweating and grunting noisily as he grapples with my slippery, inflexible body, attempting all kinds of stretches and chiropractic adjustments. (He later confesses to someone else that I was "Hard work").
We continue to dance the dance for an hour and a half. Libin has me on my back for a while, his feet back and forth over my shiny body, and he nonchalantly flicks my cock out of the way every time he changes sides. It’s always a worry, in any massage, that one might get embarrassingly and unwittingly aroused, but I can safely say that we were never in danger of that.
All the while the herbal smell of the “oil” is getting stronger and stronger and I’m mentally drifting through the library of aromas stored deep in my nostrils or wherever, trying to figure out what the main scent is. I finally, if unsatisfactorily, settle on naan bread.
I leave the hut after a rigorous toweling down, glistening with oil, rejuvenated, restored and thoroughly entertained. And smelling. Smelling good enough to eat.