I stripped down to my bikini and lay face up on the hard wooden bed. He began rubbing my head with spiced oil, flowing his palms and fingers with light pressure against my cheeks, eyes and bones. Over the span of an hour, he migrated his hands to the exposed surfaces of my body down to my feet.
“Ayurvedic massage is all about helping the mind and body become one.” He intoned while I was half-meditated on his table. “The mind is affected negatively when the body is stressed, too much nonsensical noise is trapped inside. By relaxing, that is how they return to harmony.” I like how Ayurvedic medical treatments involve soothing massages.
Then for a secret exchange of ten dollars which he pocketed for himself, he extended my massage regime with a herbal poultice of garlic, ginger and other Sri Lankan spices. Dipped in hot oil and patted against my flesh, any last shreds of subconscious stress was slapped out by rhythmic force.
The facial was just a basic skin care routine – a sandalwood mask was left to dry on my face, and the residual powder wiped off with a warm cloth. A moisturising layer of aloe purchased from a local shop was then slathered on.
I left the musky room with oil dripping from my hair, and a body wiped down yet still cloyed with herbs, but at a tropical beach village in South Asia you simply don’t care.
Yoga Sessions at Sunrise
I met my Ayurvedic masseur cum doctor at sunrise the next day, to add yoga teacher to his repertoire of skills.
We began a repetitive flow of easy stretches, which encouraged me to assess the condition of my body. Aches I could not pin down were made stark and I remoulded my posture each time, until oxygen flowed to these areas without triggering pain.
“Your vatha-pitha body type is sleepy, easily tired.” He droned on while I tried to imitate the alignment of his new pose. “Some Hatha yoga will be good for you. Not so much Ashtanga, for it requires too much energy and will only tire you out again.”
The sun curved upwards from behind tall coconut trees with unhurried grace, and my body grew warm with the gentle movements and non-movements. The suffusion of peace was finally broken with my stomach’s crude, undeniable demand for food.