Stay in Touch With ... Ayurveda, Part II

By Karyn Chabot
May 29, 2009

Stay in Touch With ... Ayurveda, Part II

By Karyn Chabot
May 29, 2009

"Stay in Touch With..." is a periodic column designed to provide an overview of a particular technique or modality. If you would like to contribute to this column, please e-mail

Editor's note: Read part one of Karyn Chabot's article in the March issue at

Dr. Vasant Lad taught his staff of massage therapists to say (or chant) the sounds of Hari Aum to make the experience more powerful and auspicious. Aum or om is the sound that contains all possible sounds made by all possible creatures through all possible times, and the sound made by Gaia (Mother Earth) herself as she dances her dance of creation, sustenance and absorption. It is the sound astronauts have reported hearing when they are launched into space. Alexander Graham Bell was perplexed and intrigued by this sound. While he was inventing the telephone, he noticed that the sound of aum was always present when he tapped into the "airways," regardless of his geographical location. Saying the name of God with great reverence is auspicious, no matter what name you're saying. "Hari" translated from Sanskrit has many meanings: 1) Pure existence without thought; 2) The end of knowledge; and 3) Choice-less, passive awareness. Hari is Shiva, king of oneness and it is also Vishnu, the protector. It is also Krishna. Silently saying the sounds of Hari aum or chanting them out loud before each healing session invokes a loving, gentle force where no duality exists. The sounds of Hari aum create a sacred space in the room. The actual sound of "aaahhhh" is the sound of the Creator. You will find that in every culture and religion the name for God has the sound of aaahhh somewhere in it. If you question where the sound aaaahhhh is in Jesus, keep in mind the Hebrew pronunciation was "Yesh-u-ah." Wayne Dyer, an internationally renowned author and speaker, advocates using the sounds of aaahhh during meditation to manifest and create the things you desire in your life. Bodywork techniques that will sooth the vata dosha include:

  1. Slow, confident effleurage strokes using wide hands covering as much surface area as possible.
  2. Wringing and squeezing motions as if you are gently squeezing the air out of the body.
  3. Very defined draping techniques to create trust and eliminate any fears of possibly being exposed and embarrassed.
  4. Defining the beginning and ending of each massage session using the same signal or modality every time. For example, connecting with your client's feet while silently setting a prayer of intention before the session starts and using Tibetan bells to signify the end and whispering, "Thank you, take your time getting off the table. Go gently."
  5. Focusing each stroke to move out toward the feet, hands and root chakra, which are some of the terminal ends of the body. Ayurveda calls this "Terminal Clearance."
  6. Activating the downward flow in the body called "upana vayu," which is a Sanskrit word meaning "direction towards the earth." Instead of using strokes toward the heart, use strokes toward the feet.
  7. Use copious amounts of warm, edible oil.
  8. Use soft lights, soft pillows and cushions, a soft voice, soft music and a soft heart because people with excessive vata are like delicate flowers.
  9. Keep the room warm and use a fluffy blanket instead of a thin sheet to cover your client.
  10. Gentle compression.
  11. Swedhana Steam Therapy.
  12. Thermotherapy such Hot Stone Therapy.

"One of the most important things I've learned from Ayurveda in regards to bodywork is that the oils, stones, herbs and techniques applied during a session are all secondary to the therapist's state of consciousness. If the vitality of the therapist is not strong, clear and centered in a space of balance and wholeness, which can easily be actualized by following simple Ayurvedic principles, even the most well intended treatments may fail to give results."

- Ryan Kurczac, LMT

Compression therapy, using 10-pound handmade heated sandbags will initiate the relaxation response. You can fill them with sterile sand from any hardware store or with volcanic black sand. Compression immobilizes the muscle, so there is a surrendering that must occur on the part of the client. When the body stops twitching and wiggling to find comfort, only then can we attain the inner stillness we all seek.

Sandbags create a perfect amount of pressure and can be heated on an oil heater. Laying sandbags on the top of the thighs will encourage the femurs to ground more deeply into the hip sockets. When the hip sockets are not in perfect alignment, it increases the likelihood of disturbing vata because spaces within all joints belong to the vata dosha, especially in the hips. It also helps redirect the energy downward by simply increasing body awareness in the legs.

The roots of hot stone massage therapy can be found in India. Stones are the ancient bones of the earth. There is an ethereal pulse within the earth and within each stone, and this pulse will harmonize perfectly with the human pulse, if we allow it. Dr. Naina Marballi, BSAM, DAC, owner of Ayurveda's Beauty Care in New York City, a sister school to Sacred Stone Center for Holistic Education and Therapy in Middletown, RI, reports that part of her curriculum at Poddar College and Mombai University in India was a course called "Shila Abyhanga." Shila is a Sanskrit word for stone and abhyanga is a Sanskrit word for oil massage. She told me that this course dates back more than 5,000 years as part of the standard protocol for most medical Ayurvedic physicians.

Another profoundly effective healing modality is Swedhana therapy, which integrates steam tent that fits perfectly on the massage table. It's a powerful addition for those therapists who need to save their hands. Shirodhara therapy is an ancient sacred treatment to the forehead and crown of the head. Shiro means "head" and dhara means "flow." Warm, herbal oil is poured in a continuous stream over the client's forehead and crown for 20-50 minutes. Shirodhara helps disperse negative electrical impulses that accumulate at the skull from stress. It opens the third eye, increases intuition, and renews the sweetness of life. It also has powerful medical value for healing neurological disturbances and chemical imbalances within the brain.

There are many books on the subject of Ayurveda that include lists of foods that pacify the doshas. Let these Ayurvedic food lists be your "training wheels." These training wheels will assist in developing your intuition. Living intuitively is synonymous with living in harmony with nature, which is the very foundation of Ayurveda. Do not get caught up in food lists and lifestyle rules. Educate yourself with the knowledge of Ayurveda, apply the principles to your life, then learn to eat and live intuitively.

Become aware of how your body feels after you eat a certain food or do a certain exercise, or if you go to bed by a certain time. Each person is a conglomerate of many attributes and a beautiful mixture of the Five Great Elements. You are not just a vata person, a pitta person or a kapha person. We contain all the doshas within us. Yet, we are all genetically predisposed to one - maybe two - doshic attributes that will have a preponderance to go out of balance more easily than other doshic qualities. Knowing how your body tends to go out of balance is extremely helpful. This is something that can be observed and intuited through meditation and keen body awareness or with the help of a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor.

Determining your imbalance is just as important - if not more important - as determining your Prakruti (constitution). Your Prakruti may not always be the same as your imbalance. The Sanskrit term "Vikruti" refers to imbalance. Most Ayurvedic self-tests are designed to determine your Prakruti, not your Vikruti.

Observe your actions and thoughts without judgment. Know your body; know yourself. When you observe yourself this way, observe the observer. "Watch the Watcher," as my teacher Dr. Lad would say.