by Charlotte Michael Versagi, L.M.T.
is Ayurveda? Is there a massage component, and if so, where can
I learn about it?"
Mamta Landerman, president of the California Association of Ayurvedic
Medicine explains that Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old healing system
from India, addresses the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical
processes of the human experience.
"It is a complete form of medicine
in that it deals with not only the physical body but also the creative
forces and components that make up that body," Landerman says.
The difference between Ayurvedic and Western medicine, she says,
is that Ayurveda addresses the spiritual, emotional, mental and
physical aspects that make up a persons life, not just the
symptoms of disease.
Landerman says Ayurvedic medicine has
a strong mind/body component and includes massage therapy. "Ayurveda
addresses therapies that relate to all the five senses, and a very
important component is the sense of touch," she says.
In Ayurveda, the type of touch, oil
and herbs used in massage are directly dependent upon the clients
personality type. For example, Landerman explains, "If a client
is prominently extremely active, creative, mental, inspirational
but out of balance, they will be hyperactive, overextend themselves,
get very quickly fatigued and have a mind that does not stop. We
look to balance this [by using] the kind of touch in the massage
which is very calming, very grounding. We would use warm oils, [to
quiet the] senses."
Can a massage therapist learn these
techniques in a weekend workshop and then apply them to her practice?
No, according to Landerman.
"Massage therapists need to be
properly trained to recognize the various [personality types], not
read books and arbitrarily administer therapies," she says.
"One needs to train to discern between what is a persons
constitution and what is the imbalance and how to go about invoking
balance back into that individual."
According to Jim Garrett, marketing
director of The Raj, an 18-room spa in Iowa that pioneered Ayurveda
in the United States (Deepak Chopra learned his Ayurvedic techniques
here), its not possible to just learn Ayurvedic massage and
then take it back to your practice. "[Ayurvedic medicine is]
a comprehensive rejuvenation program, everything is interrelated
and interconnected; you cant just take massage out,"
"The use of the word massage is
somewhat deceptive," Garrett continues. "[Technicians]
administer strokes totally in synchrony in a way that goes back
to ancient tradition. Some of our technicians are massage therapists,
some arent. We put them through our own specialized training
of about one month, and then they continue to learn after that."
So, how would a massage therapist who
is serious about learning Ayurvedic medicine receive education?
Landerman says there are about 200 colleges in India that teach
a four- or six-year medical course in Ayurvedic medicine and that
some authentic practitioners have come to the U.S. to teach the
techniques, work in spas or open up their own clinics.
She did agree that massage therapists
could take training in various aspects of massage as performed in
the Ayurvedic tradition, but this would not qualify the therapist
to say she or he is an Ayurvedic massage therapist. "Therapists
should not, in a superficial way, offer Ayurvedic massage as a way
to attract people [to their practice]. It is deep; it requires more
than this kind of oil and this kind of touch,"
she says. "However, just like massage therapists today learn
about different acupuncture points and they incorporate that in
a superficial way into their practice, there are certain components
of Ayurveda that will lend themselves to massage therapyas
long as you emphasize that it is very peripheral and not call it
an Ayurvedic massage."
- Charlotte Michael Versagi,
L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is a journalist, a lymphedema therapist who
also sees cancer patients, and a science instructor in a massage-therapy
program at The Carnegie Institute in Troy, Michigan.