Monday, September 17, 2012

The Daily Destination- Cochin, India: Ayurvedia

Ayurvedic Massages or Awkwardly Hilarious Nudist Rubbing Massage

One of the most relaxing things about Asia is it's cheap massages. Yes, you have to deny 100 people a day for their 'masaaaaage'. Yes, about 50% of the time the woman giving you a massage is not enjoying her job that day. Yes, 25% of the time there is a dude or ladybody giving them. But you can't deny that ~$5/hr is an incredible deal! Getting a Thai massage is an experience no backpacker misses. So it is ingrained in my mind that I can assume the same principles for India. I was wrong. Go figure!

There is an ancient healing practiced in India called Ayurvedic medicine that bases on Hindu principles of treating the mind, body, and spirit all in one. Just the idea of a natural holistic medicine practiced for over 6000 years adds to the mystique for me. Read through India's books of wisdom, 'The Vedas', Ayurveda is living through principles of a balanced life found in the simple and permanent laws of nature. Therefore it is thought by many as the first form of medicine, the one we were born instinctively with. Everyone is treated as an individual and therefore everyone is placed in three basic body types with a margin for body combinations of the three. It is said by those who practice to be considered the fountain of youth in it's simple yet affective way of treating ailments. Basically the way we look physically, move, and behave is directly correlated to the way we treat our bodies. Changing your diet and exercise to match your body type is natural science, the Science of Life.

Whether you're a believer in these holistic approaches or not, I'm not here to judge, but I'd love to share my story with you.

Me being me I decided to have a day of New Experiences in Cochin, India. I went and got fitted for a saree, then went to see a Keralan Kathakali dance performance, and topped the day off with an Ayurvedic 1.5 hour therapeutic massage. So I have it all booked out at this lady's house who was recommended to me by my rickshaw driver-turned impromptu friend. I go there and everything seems ok. She makes me fill out a questionnaire filled with all sorts of questions from eyelash thickness to stool frequency.  I am then lead into a room where she closes the door behind her and shuts the curtain. She instructs me to take off all my clothes and lie down on her wooden table. She doesn't leave the room. I didn't even get a towel or anything. So I'm down to my granny panties and she say something along the lines of "yes all of it, it's nothing I haven't seen before" in that Indian-Brittish accent. I don't think I've ever been fully naked in front of my doctor before, never mind a random Indian lady in a strange country. Naked. And of course I went for the hour and a half treatment!

 I should've known better to do something like that here, but I just couldn't resist. I just couldn't believe that Indian people, who by culture could not be any more conservative in their beliefs and behaviours, were rubbing close to the private parts of people with hot oil! You can never expect what is expected in India. Take my advice.

To be honest, it was hard to relax at first. I started the massage lying on my back, legs slightly spread while she did some routine prayer and dabbed my pressure points with scented oil. I'm just naked and uncomfortable at this point. There was no bedside manner, there was no protective towel, and there was nowhere to focus my eyes except the back of my eyelids. I actually opened them once or twice, got freaked out when she caught my gaze, and promptly went back to fake-relaxing. And then a thought occurred to me that I will never see this person again in my life. Who cares if she is erotically massaging me? I might as well enjoy it because I paid for it!

You know what? It worked. I just relaxed and let her do her thing. It wasn't erotic at all when I just stopped panicking in my head and let go of my insecurities. She was a professional and was doing her job. When the massage was finished she started her home-made steam bath made out of a wooden box, I sat with just my head poking out-absolutely roasting in the Indian summer heat. As a finishing 'touch' she toweled me off (all the dead skin came with it) and I can promise you that I've never felt better in my entire life! Although it was a 10 minute walk back to my guesthouse and by the time I arrived I was already dusty. That's India for you!!

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