The only real time writing I”m doing in Mexico this week is topost my daily Instagram.I hope you’re entertained by the old posts I’m hashing up for you. This was my spa treatment in the Andaman Islands. A Wish List destination I’m hopeful to return. Ayurveda spa treatments in India:
I knew this was going to be a meaningful experience simply based on how I felt when I walked into the treatment room. The whiff of sandalwood or other rich exotic bark incense burning in effort to cleanse the air, making sure the client before hadn’t left traces of negative energy he or she might have released during their own Ayurvedic treatments. I was a little tentative about doing this massage; I’m not too keen on massages and I’ve never really uncovered why because in other parts of my life I’m decidedly not modest. And it wasn’t because of the bizarre experience I had when a masseuse unwillingly crossed sexual boundaries. My discomfort existed long before that terrible memory. I was 100% certain nothing untoward or unwelcome would happen today in the small house set against the beginnings of Japan Hill on Havelock Island. If anything, maybe that damaged part of myself would be healed and I could finally enjoy and appreciate therapeutic bodywork. How could I not be healed set among the lush bromeliad, bamboos, jasmine, and towering ancient trees? I hoped for rain, because that sound on the canopy was the most beautiful sound I had heard in many years. Never mind the post massage dash down the hill to our tiny villa.
It was hot and close but I felt chilly and exposed as I sat on a chair before the tiny young woman—a vaidya–dressed a spotless white pantsuit. She bowed her head, hands templed under her nose, and she invited me to close my eyes and join her prayer. I prayed this sacred form of bodywork would move the old memories out and away from my psyche and leave my muscle memory. The prayer–like most–wasn’t instant and even though I really wanted to experience the two-handed massage and the oil on my head I fought the urge to run and hide as I self-consciously hoisted up my jiggly, chubby, middle-aged body. I was clad in only a Sumo wrestler type loincloth that resembled a surgical mask. The table didn’t help matters, a gorgeous teak table with ancient symbols and artistic flourishes on the edges, along the sides and the legs only served to point at my ugly pasty skin and my neglected muscles. The room was completely silent except for the insects, breeze, and frogs outside the open window. The ocean offered up a constant ohm for me to concentrate on rather than my completely vulnerable body laid out on the shiny and hard teak table, which was mercifully long enough to accommodate my rangy frame. That alone melted away a portion of my self-consciousness as one of the vaidyas massaged my head with oil. I felt anointed and deeply cared for.
The Abhyangam, a four-handed massage, is vigorous and gentle at the same time. The only disconcerting part of the experience was being doused with what felt like an entire can of oil. My monkey mind had a difficult time shutting off and she started racing with all sorts of questions: is the floor slippery…isn’t it dangerous for the ladies as they work on a slippery stone floor…how the Hell am I going to get off the slick table…where does the extra oil go…ewww…do they use it again on someone else…how many people had this particular oil flowed over…The practitioner must have read my mind because I swear she gently poked near my belly button in such a way I gulped down a giggle because I was afraid I wouldn’t stop giggling. Usually my emotional release is crying or gastric purge. But the four hands expertly easing muscles threatened to make me laugh spontaneously. In the middle of the treatment, I could no longer feel the wood against my spine; I was held on a thin cushion of oil between my skin and the teak. My mind stopped jumping, my body eased and I was conscious of nothing. It didn’t matter if the oil had graced one hundred bodies, it was gracing mine.
My abhyangam lasted almost an hour and I was mildly dazed when she tapped me, as a signal the next part of the treatment would begin, Shirodhara. The third eye treatment of Lord Shiva, the act of pouring oil steadily over my forehead, which serves to open my third eye. The treatment can be specific for neurological ailments that relate to dizziness and vertigo or ringing in the ears. In this case, it was for pure relaxation. It was the step of the treatment I was most looking forward. Something about having warm oil slowly and steadily poured over my forehead sounded deeply therapeutic. I am woo-woo enough to believe if the body asks for a particular treatment, something will heal. For two months after my treatment, the lowish but persistent hum in my ears has disappeared. I was also hopeful opening my other energy centers and then the third eye would help release creative energy and I could write. I felt victim to aphasia in India. I was overwhelmed an unable to express myself aside from pedantic notes about sites or snippets of thoughts. I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed the words didn’t come until the day we were waiting for our ride to the ferry at the end of our Andaman holiday. But they did finally arrive and for weeks I haven’t been able to stop writing about India. Like most of me, my third eye is a late bloomer.
The final part of my treatment was an herb infused steam bath while I sat on a hard stool, encased in a wooden box with only my head exposed. I could feel the sweat running out of me, I couldn’t imagine how putrid it must smell; the handwork over my body opened my lymph system making it possible for me to expel toxins through my skin. I pictured the sweat running off of me the grayish-red color of the dust that cloaks everything in Delhi and then settles into people’s throat so their conversations are punctuated by a gentle but persistent catarrh. I sweat a years worth of stress and grief in that box. I felt sorry for the next person who was having a treatment. It would take a sandalwood tree to dispense with all the bad energy I was leaving in that room.
After I gamely tried but failed to rinse all the oil off my body in the tepid shower, I solemnly dressed; my body feeling like my body but just slightly different. A better different. Not a violated different. But a small transformation and I guessed it was what people rave about when they gush over massages. I bade the ladies good bye and tripped down the hill. The skies still threatened rain but it hadn’t happened yet. I was still hopeful. The frogs were singing their melancholy love songs to one another, birds chided from high in the canopy, as the sea whispered ohm. I still didn’t feel like expressing myself but I felt like I could see more clearly and remember more deftly.
And I did.