Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Abhyanga and Swedana

Day 9-11
Abhyanga and Swedana may sound like two apsaras descended from Indra's court to seduce Viswamitra but to bring you back to terra firma the two words roughly mean massage and sweating. Note on the two terms follows, but my story goes first.

Elements of Abhyanga scene- Two swarthy (female) masseurs. Hard wooden bed. A bucket of warm oil. A loin cloth. And me. Just arrange these elements in your mind and I will come back to it for I am going to digress a bit now.
There used to be a huge mortar and pestle in my grandmother's house. Washing the mortar and pestle by itself used to be a separate chore and women of the house used to vie for it. Not without reason. It needed two to clean that mortar and pestle and that pair who were in most urgent need of exchanging gossip used to tumble out to clean those mammoth instruments. Standing close to each other the women would bzzbzzbzzbzz softly and if someone were to pass by they would restore their voices to normal decibel. High and low, high and low they would whisper, giggle, gossip and pour out the contents of their heart even while the mortar and pestle got cleaned automatically and expertly, without demanding too much attention from the bzzzbzzing women.

Cut back to the clinic with me on the wooden bed, flanked by the two masseurs. Up, down, up down their hands move briskly and deftly. Tup-tip-toop, they turn me front to back, front to back effortlessly, all the while gossiping in high and low tones, completely oblivious to me, as if I were a mere pestle :(
Masseur 1: "And then my husband came home drunk and flung her to the ground. I turned off the TV and waited for his next move."
Masseur 2: "But that's what happened last week also after she came home in that particular way."
Masseur 1: "Yesterday was different. She was wearing flowers and an alien fragrance wafted from her."
Masseur 2: "What does your husband care?"
Masseur 1: "No, no she is.....what can I say? She is....."
Masseur 2: "Okay forget it; tell me what he did to her?"
Me: "Er...excuse me, but who is this "she" you are talking about?"

No sooner did I ask the question than the two sheepishly shut up and looked to finishing the massage swiftly. My head was exploding with curiosity. It was obvious they were continuing the conversation from the previous patient's massage bed and the previous patient must have known more about the "She". "Er....who was your previous patient?" I wanted to ask so that the story may conclude in my head. No such luck, for the treatment of the day finished and for the next two days I had two other sets of masseurs who nevertheless gave me a peek into their worlds with their gossip.

After the massage, a tube pouring smoke at its mouth was brought to me. It smelt of pungent herbs. Hot vapour was coursed down my body from the tube and I began to sweat as if I had run 6 miles. "This is Swedana," said the masseur answering my unspoken question. Shortly after, unable to contain their tongues the women returned to their idle gossiping.
I was worried that Swedana might be a Vedana (pain), but it is turning out exceedingly interesting what with the number of stories that float around like the thick fog above my bed.

Abhyanga and Swedana

Abhyanga is a gentle but firm warm oil massage done by two masseurs. Oils for the massage are chosen according to the ailment or constitution (prakruti) of the patient's body. The prefix “Abhi” means “into or towards” and “ang” has a root meaning of “movement’. So “Abhyanga” is the process by which bodily energy is reactivated even while moving the "amam" or toxins towards the body’s eliminatory systems. Abhyanga I find is an extremely comforting and rejuvenating part of the treatment. My skin is glowing from all that oil I was dunked in. My body feels lighter and many of my aches have subsided. I am liking it :) The stories of the masseurs are of course a bonus.

Swedana is yet another process of detoxification where steam from herbal concoction is blown on your body to stimulate sweating. As you "cook" beneath the steam, the body will begin to release its accumulated toxins through its pores. Together, Abhyanga and Swedana help in balancing the doshas and restoring health to your body.


  1. Hi..

    Whats happening.. hope they aren't throttling u there :D havent seen your posts for sometime??

  2. madam,
    i really enjoyed a story , ghost call -after a long time. time.. time.. racing with time! what is the life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare - william wordsworth