Ayurvedic spa treatments are unique and deeply relaxing spa procedures that originate in Ayurvedic medicine. Under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner however, Ayurvedic body treatments have deeper, therapeutic intentions for health and healing. Let us explain.
A spa may offer you Ayurvedic spa treatments for relaxation and rejuvenation and you may find them quite amazing.
Typical spa treatments are non-medical procedures. They include processes like bathing or soaking the body through various means. Steam, sauna, hot tub, massage and aromatherapy are some typical spa experiences you’re probably familiar with.
According to the International Spa Association, a spa is devoted to overall well-being through a variety of professional services. The goal is renewal of mind, body and spirit.
Ayurveda is gaining popularity in many types of spas. You can now find Ayurveda’s influence at club spas, medical spas, mineral spring spas, resort or hotel spas, mobile spas, cruise spas, day spas and destination spas.
The purpose of Ayurveda goes beyond relaxation. Ayurvedic medicine aims to maintain the health of the healthy and mitigate the diseases of the sick. It’s a complete holistic medical system.
In India, you can find Ayurvedic medicine at Ayurvedic hospitals and panchakarma centers, retreat centers for lengthy wellness stays. Spa treatments at these centers are intended to reestablish equilibrium of the Ayurvedic doshas. Equilibrium is equivalent to health.
Ayurvedic spa treatments mainly include various types of abhyanga or massage. But these massages are different from conventional massage.
Ayurvedic spa treatments have a therapeutic value that is tailored to each individual’s dosha or body type. They may use copious amounts of herbal oil or activate specific marma points on the body. They can also be used with therapeutic intention in a particular series to promote healing.
Benefits Of Ayurvedic Spa Treatments
Ayurvedic medicine is more than 5000 years old. It’s a holistic science with several branches of medicine from surgery to obstetrics and toxicology.
Many traditional procedures and treatments are used throughout Ayurvedic medicine. These treatments are being adapted to fit the needs of modern, western spas. Though it’s wonderful that many more people can now experience the benefits of Ayurvedic body treatments, the authenticity of the procedures or medicine should not change.
These are the benefits of Ayurvedic spa treatments.
Processes Tailored To Your Body Type
Ayurvedic spa treatments utilize medicated herbal oils. Oils are selected according to the client’s body constitution or prakriti and health issues, if any. In Ayurveda, every person has a unique body constitution. No two Ayurvedic treatments are the same.
Pacifies Vata Dosha
Ayurvedic spa treatments are helpful in various Vata disorders. Vata dosha is considered to be the major cause of pain in the joints and muscles. Oil is believed to pacify vitiated Vata dosha when used superficially over the skin. Your Ayurvedic practitioner can guide you as to which oil is best for you.
Pacifies Pitta And Kapha Dosha
Besides helping Vata dosha, Ayurvedic spa treatments also help Pitta and Kapha disorders. Other than oil, herbal powders, herbal pastes, ghrita or clarified butter are used in abhyanga or massage. They are helpful in pacifying vitiated Pitta and Kapha dosha.
Detoxification (With Qualified Professionals)
Abhyanga may be done as part of snehan karma or oleation. This is a preliminary act before panchakarma therapy, the Ayurvedic detoxification process. It is believed that it helps in bringing doshas from the periphery of the body towards the core, where they can be eliminated through the natural orifices.
Panchakarma therapy is a group of five procedures which are used to clear the channels, detoxify the body naturally and balance the vitiated doshas.
Marma Point Therapy
Ayurvedic practitioners or trained Ayurvedic massage therapists who do abhyanga will also take care of marma points. Marma points are 107 anatomical points on the body, each of which are of utmost importance.
Marma therapy is a type of Ayurvedic therapy in which marma points are gently massaged in different manners. The purpose is therapeutic, for relief from particular diseases. Marma therapy has evolved over time.
It was initially practiced during periods of war. Marma therapy provided relief from injuries and informed the practice of surgery. With time and practice marma therapy evolved, mainly in South India through traditional practitioners. It is now practiced and passed on to younger generations. Sincere students of Ayurveda learn how to improve various health conditions and their own overall wellbeing.
In the renowned Ayurvedic texts Charaka Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya, there is a description of abhyanga and its benefits. The techniques used today however are a combination of both guidance from these texts and the experience of different Ayurvedic schools passed on from generation to generation.
READ MORE: 29 Marma Points For Pain Relief
Ten Types Of Ayurvedic Spa Treatments
This list of Ayurvedic spa treatments is based on external use of oleation therapy according to the Ayurvedic texts.1 Additional procedures related to Ayurvedic spa treatments are also available through qualified centers, hospitals and practitioners.
Abhyanga is an oil-based full body massage with medicated herbal oils. The use of herbal oils varies from person to person according to their physical constitution or prakriti and any disease involved.
The word abhyanga is composed of two Sanskrit words, abhi and anga. Abhi means towards and anga means movement or limb. The literal meaning of abhyanga is synchronized movements of the body.2
The benefits of abhyanga according to the Ayurvedic texts are as follows.3
- Imparts anti-aging properties
- Relieves tiredness of the body
- Pacifies Vata dosha
- Improves eyesight
- Improves strength and makes the body stronger
- Nourishes the seven Ayurvedic body systems and as a result increases longevity
- Induces sound sleep
- Makes the skin softer and stronger
- Makes the skin beautiful and lustrous
2. Pad Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Foot Massage
This is a type of Ayurvedic foot massage which utilizes medicated herbal oils.4
The benefits of pad abhyanga are as follows.4
- Helpful in dryness and roughness of the feet
- Useful in cracks on the feet
- Helpful in relaxation
- Relieves foot fatigue
- Helpful in stiffness of the feet
- Helpful in numbness and tingling of the feet
- Strengthens the feet and increases stability of the feet
- Maintains the tenderness of the feet
- Helps in maintaining eyesight
- Helps in prevention of sciatica
- Improves peripheral circulation
- Helps in prevention of spasm of the ligaments and tendons of the feet
3. Lepa: Herbal Paste
Lepa is the application of herbal paste onto the skin. In this procedure, one or more herbs in powdered form is mixed with milk, buttermilk, ghrita (clarified butter) or water to make a paste. It’s then applied to the skin under the supervision of a qualified professional. Fresh herbs can also be used in ground form to serve this purpose.5
Here are some uses of lepa according to the Ayurvedic texts.5
- Helpful in burning sensation of the skin
- Helpful in relieving pain
- Useful in pacifying vitiated Vata dosha
- Helpful in pacifying Pitta dosha
- Some preparations are helpful in diseases like facial paralysis and gout
- Helpful in increasing density and strengthening hair on the scalp
4. Udwartana / Utsadan: Dry Powder Massage
In this type of massage, the strokes are performed in an upward movement, from below upwards. This is the opposite direction that is used in traditional abhyanga. A paste formed from powdered herbs and grains is used.
There are two types of Ayurvedic dry powder massage – snigdha or oily and ruksha or dry.
In snigdha udvartana, a paste is made from herbal powders with medicated oil or ghrita (clarified butter). According to the Charaka Samhita, it is advised to do this process on emaciated people.
In ruksha udvartana, dry herbal powder is rubbed or stroked over the body in an upward direction. According to the Charaka Samhita, this process is advised in the management of obesity. 
These are the benefits of udvartana.6
- Helpful in pacifying Kapha dosha
- Helpful in reducing fat accumulation
- Make body parts strong and stable
- Make skin lustrous and glowing because it does exfoliation of the skin and remove the dead skin cells
- Helpful in pacifying Vata dosha
- Useful in removing blockage from channels
- Removes body odor
- Helpful in severe itching
- Helpful in getting rid of lethargy
READ MORE: Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know
5. Mardan / Unmardan: Pressure Massage
Mardan is a type of pressure massage. It is performed after local application of oil, lepa or udwartan. However it can also be done without any local application of oil or other substance. Unmardan is the opposite of mardan and means lifting the body part in opposite directions.7
The benefits of mardan-unmardan are as follows.7
- Relaxes tired muscles
- Reduces neural pain
- Brings lightness to the body
6. Padaghata: Massage Using Feet
Ghata means to impart pressure and pada means foot. This massage is done with the help of the feet.7 However it should be done in a gentle way by a trained massage therapist.
Medicated herbal oils are applied over the body first. After that, abhyanga of the body and head should be done and then mardan. After that padaghata should be done by a trained massage therapist only. This therapy is popular in South India.7
These are the benefits of padaghata.7
- Makes the body stronger
It is mentioned in the Sushruta Samhita that he who receives padaghata daily will never fall sick. Disease will avoid that person ‘like a deer does not come near the vicinity of a powerful lion’.
7. Parisheka: Pouring Of Liquids
When medicated oil, ghrita, herbal decoctions, buttermilk or other liquids are poured over the body it is called parisheka. Parisheka is also known as seka, sechan or parisechan.8 It provides simultaneous snehan (oleation) and swedan (steaming). The sprinkling, showering and stream-pouring of medicated liquids is known as parisheka.
These are the benefits of parisheka.8
- Relieves tiredness of the body
- Pacifies Vata dosha and Vata related disorders
- Helps heal fractured and dislocated joints
- Helps in debility and loss of strength
- Helps in traumatic pain and contusion pain
- Relieves burns (medicated buttermilk can be used)
- Nourishes the seven body systems (sapta dhatus)
- Gives relief in pain related to gout
8. Samvahan: Gentle Massage
Samvahan is a type of gentle, mild massage. The therapist uses oil and his or her hands to do the massage.9 Slow and rhythmic stroking is done.
The benefits of samvahan are as follows.9
- Gives pleasure
- Induces sleep
- Pacifies Vata and Kapha dosha
- Gives relief from tiredness
- Gives relief to muscle tissue
- Makes the skin healthy
9. Murdha Tail Shiras Tarpanam: Head Massage
Murdha means head. Tail means oil. This is a procedure done over the head with herbal oils for a fixed time period. Vagbhata further divided murdha tail shiras tarpanam into four categories.
Shiro Abhyanga: This is head massage done with the help of herbal oils.10
These are the benefits of shiro abhyanga.10
- Helpful in various diseases related to the head
- Makes the hair soft
- Makes the hair long
- Increases density of hair
- Keeps hair black and prevents dry hair
- Provides nourishment to the head
- Makes facial skin soft and lustrous
- Helps maintain healthy sensory organs
- Relieves dryness of the head and scalp
- Useful when excessive dirt is collected on the scalp
- Helps in itchy scalp
Shirodhara Or Shiro Sek:This is a procedure where herbal decoctions, oil, milk, buttermilk or ghrita (clarified butter) are poured over the head and forehead in a particular manner with the help of an apparatus for a fixed time period.10
These are the benefits of shirodhara.
- Helpful in pricking pain in head10
- Helpful in burning sensation in the head10
- Helpful in boils on the head and scalp10
- Helpful in wounds of the head and scalp10
- Helpful in suppurative condition (where pus is formed) in the head10
- Helpful in various diseases related to the head and useful in headaches due to various etiologies11
- Useful in headache related to temple region 11
- Helpful in diseases of the head due to vitiated Vata dosha (as degenerative diseases) and Pitta dosha (as inflammatory diseases)11
- Helpful in premature greying of the hair12
- Provides relief from body fatigue12
- Useful in low immunity because it helps in increasing immunity12
- Useful in preventing cracks of hands and feet 12
- Helpful in urinary tract disorders12
- Helpful in laxity or looseness of joints12
- Useful in diseases related to the heart12
- Helpful in problems of slow metabolism12
- Helpful in tastelessness12
- Helpful in problems related to the ears12
- Helpful in problems related to the eyes12
- Helpful in calming the mind12
- Improves intellect and memory12
- Increases voice stability and improves voice quality12
- Increase strength and stamina of the body12
- Makes the skin soft12
- Helpful in glaucoma12
- Improves blood circulation12
- Improves quality and quantity of semen and acts as an aphrodisiac12
- Helpful in increased body heat and burning sensation in the body12
- Helpful in inducing sound sleep12
- Provides longevity of life12
Shiro Pichu Dharan: Oil Cloth
In this procedure a cotton pad dipped in herbal oil or herbal ghrita is placed over the head for particular time period.12
The benefits of shiro pichu are as follows.12
- Helps hair loss
- Helps dry scalp
- Helps in premature greying
- Helps with wounds over the head
Shiro Basti: Head Cap Of Oil
In this procedure a cap is put over a person’s head and filled with herbal oil or herbal ghrita for a fixed time period according to the problem at hand. The junction of the cap around forehead is sealed with wet gram flour.12
These are the benefits of shiro basti.13
- Helpful in facial palsy
- Helpful in numbness or reduced sense of touch in the head or body
- Helpful in insomnia (lack of sleep)
- Helpful in glaucoma
- Helpful in boils over the head and scalp.
- Helpful in hemicrania (persistent unilateral headache)
10. Sneha Avgahan: Oil Bath
In this Ayurvedic spa treatment, a person is made to sit or lie in a tub filled with herbal oil or herbal ghrita (clarified butter).14 Sneha avagahan improves the strength and stamina of body.14
Precautions And Contraindications For Ayurvedic Spa Treatments
Ayurvedic spa treatments are based on traditional Indian medicine and so this science has some precautionary measures before performing every procedure. Be sure to seek out a qualified professional if you’re in need of medical attention.
Also, not every Ayurvedic medicine or Ayurvedic procedure has the same effect on everyone.
The Ayurvedic texts include contraindications for people and diseases, in which Ayurvedic spa treatments should not be performed.
Always perform any Ayurvedic spa treatment under the supervision of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner. Avoid any kind of problem and reap the health benefits to the fullest with proper application of these processes.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.82, published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.83, published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.84,85, published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.87, published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.87,88, published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.88,89 published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.89 published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.90,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.91,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.93,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.94,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.96,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.98,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.
- Ayurvediya Panchkarma Vigyan by Vaidya Haridas Shridhar Kasture, page no.100,published by Shri Vaidyanath Ayurveda Bhavan Pvt. Ltd. 2018.