From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Ayurvedic Massage Therapy,” by Subhash Ranade and Rajan Rawa in the June 2009 issue. Article summary: The aim of Ayurveda is to balance the energies inside the body for optimum health. To achieve this balance, the study of the fundamental concept of prakruti, your constitutional uniqueness, is essential.

by Subhash Ranade and Rajan Rawat

The direction, rate, oil and amount of pressure vary depending on the constitution and current balance, or imbalance of the client.

A. Massage for vata constitution: Vata type people are dry and cool by nature. To balance the dryness, larger amounts of oil are used. To balance the coolness, warming oils, which have been heated, are preferred. Sesame oil is best for reducing Vata. It removes dryness, coldness, stiffness and pain, lubricates dry skin and protects the joints.

Medicated oils, such as dashamula oil, which is a preparation made from 10 different roots, or oil prepared from the group of herbs included in Jeevaniya or Brimhaniya are the best for vata. Similarly, ashwagandha (withania somnifera), bala (sida cordifolia), narayana or mahanarayana oil, which includes shatavari (Aaparagus racemosus) along with 23 other herbs and milk, can also be used.

Essential oils, such as ginger, basil, camphor and eucalyptus, which have a hot potency, are typically used.

Vata types are very sensitive to touch, so a gentle massage with warm oil should be given. Massage should be done daily, in the early morning or before a warm bath in the evening. Massage strokes are given in a direction away from the heart.

B. Massage for pitta constitution: Pitta types have a rapid metabolism and a tendency toward fever and inflammatory diseases. Their skin is sensitive and easily gets rashes or inflammations.

Cooling massage oils should be used. Coconut or sandalwood oil is best. Both of these oils calm the mind and cool the body. Sunflower oil is also useful for inflamed skin. Medicated oils can be prepared from cardamom (ela), jatamansi, myristica fragrans, musta, chandana, nagakeshara and karpura.

Essential oils, such as lemongrass, lavender, jasmine and sandalwood, are also useful. Massage for pitta should have a medium pressure, with strokes alternating away from and then toward the heart.

C. Massage for kapha constitution: Kapha types have thick and oily skin and need massage to improve their circulation and lymph drainage. The best massage for these people is with powders of herbs with a dry and hot potency.

Oil should be used sparingly and should be of a hot potency, such as mustard or sesame. Powders of such herbs as calamus (vacha), dry ginger or dashamula and the powders of various lentils, such as chickpea or bengal gram, are typically used.

Medicated oil can be prepared with bilwa, dashamula, guggulu, shilajita, devadaru and tagara. Essential oils, such as basil, ginger, clove or eucalyptus, can be used.

The massage should be vigorous and deep with strokes toward the heart.

Dual dosha constitution
In the case of a healthy client with a dual constitution, the direction of massage should be according to the predominant dosha. Therefore, for a pitta-vata constitution where pitta is predominant, the direction of massage would alternate away, then toward the heart.

Vata/pitta. Use less oil than a pure vata. Olive, coconut or sunflower oil should be used. The direction of massage should be away from the heart (anuloma).

Pitta/kapha. Use sunflower or coconut oil with dry powders of legumes. The direction of massage should be away from the heart (anuloma).

Vata/kapha. We use a small amount of oil along with a large amount of powder. Using dry powders alone would aggravate vata, as vata naturally has a dry quality. Using oil alone would aggravate kapha due to the naturally oily quality of kapha.

Use dry powders of various hot herbs, such as calamus (vacha-acorus calamus), or dry powders of lentils and legumes, such as chick pea. The oil can be sesame or a hot and penetrating oil, such as mustard or medicated calamus.

First apply the oil; then apply the powder. The direction of massage should be away from the heart (anuloma).

Reproduced with permission from Ayurvedic Massage Therapy, by Dr. Subhash Ranade and Dr. Rajan Rawat, Lotus Press, a division of Lotus Brands, Inc., P.O. Box 325, Twin Lakes, WI 53181. ©2008. All Rights Reserved.