Top 10 Ayurvedic Terms for Spas to Know
Melanie Sachs, Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor, Diamond Way Ayurveda
Ayurvedic services are increasingly in demand from a discerning clientele. What was thought to be a passing fad has become an established part of the growing trend toward more natural products and holistic services. Ayurvedic products are popping up at health food stores and Indian ingredients are even finding their way into shampoos at local drug stores. And in our monthly classes, our students tell us that their clients know about Ayurveda and are hungry to learn more.
To help you speak with more confidence to your clients about Ayurveda, we’ve compiled a list of words you really should know.
1. Ayurveda is pronounced differently in North and South India but most commonly here as “are-you-vay-da.” This term is given to the ancient traditional healing of the Indian subcontinent. It’s particularly of interest to the spa and beauty industry, as it includes reliable, time-tested information about simple daily rituals that help maintain youthful qualities of mind and body. It offers unique ways to better understand your clients and helps them discover their own personal perfection.
2. Dosha, pronounced “doe-shah,” is the body’s own natural intelligence, the subtle energy that directs all bodily and mental functions. You may have heard of the three types of doshas by name: vata (pronounced “vah-tah”), pitta (pronounced “pih-tah”), and kapha (pronounced “kah-fah”). To be alive, we must have all three at work in our body, but the amount we have of each varies. This is why we’re like others in some ways, but we each have a personal uniqueness. It’s this unique, very personal blend of doshas that determines how we look, act, and feel inside.
Understanding the doshas helps the therapist customize treatments by matching our touch, music, aromas, and even snacks to the individual needs of the client.
Ayurvedic beauty care is the art of keeping the doshas in balance so every client can look and feel beautiful.
3. Vata, pronounced “vah-tah.” When this energy is in balance, we feel centered, vital, and able to cope with anything. When it’s out of balance, we feel distracted, restless, and like we are running on empty. Vata energy increases when we are stressed and as we get older.
We can help keep vata in balance by gentle exercise, meditation, regular warm meals, and sufficient sleep. If we can do this, the face will have fewer wrinkles, our hair will regain its natural luster, and our body will experience less pain and stiffness.
4. Pitta, pronounced “pih-tah.” When this energy is in balance, we feel passionately in love with life, we seem to glow with health, and we act like the sky is the limit. When it’s out of balance, we’re easily angered or frustrated, flush easily, and experience breakouts or rashes. Pitta increases in hot weather and exposure to chemicals in the air.
Pitta is balanced by drinking plenty of water, keeping cool, and eating lots of greens. If you keep your pitta under control, you’ll always have a twinkle in eye, a song in your heart, and a clear vision about your future.
5. Kapha, pronounced “kah-fah.” It’s this energy that gives the body and mind power, endurance, and stability. When it’s out of balance, we gain weight easily, feel lazy, and think of only of our own comfort. Kapha increases naturally in spring and on cool damp days.
Kapha is balanced by regular exercise and eating light, especially in the evening. If you can keep motivated and keep moving, kapha will provide you ample love and energy for everyone and everything that you do.
6. Shirodhara, pronounced “shih-row-dah-rah,” is one of the most popular and unique of Ayurvedic spa treatments. After any relaxing service for the face or body, a fine stream of warm oil is allowed to flow over the forehead through the hair and over the scalp. This deliciously comforting sensation takes the body and mind to a place of deep peace, renewal, and effortless clarity.
7. Abhyanga, pronounced “ah-bee-yahn-gah,” is another very popular Ayurvedic treatment that’s given by one, two, or up to ten massage therapists. The client is massaged with a generous amount of aromatherapy or herbal oil using long stokes on the limbs, with particular attention given to the joints and special “marma” points. The massage aims to increase circulation, decrease dryness in the body, and help bring all the doshas (subtle energies) into balance. This treatment is often followed by a full body steam or herbal linen wrap. Any excess oil is best removed at the end of the treatment with an herbal powder, leaving the skin soft, supple, and refreshed.
8. Marmas, pronounced “mahr-mahs,” are points that awaken the body to engage in its own balancing process. There are 107 points that are used therapeutically. Interestingly, 37 of these marmas are on the face, head, neck, and shoulders, which is one reason I believe facials are so particularly beneficial to our total well-being.
Using marmas in treatments makes the work deeper, easier, faster, and offers profound results. They can be learned in sequences (such as in what are called Tibetan Dzub-Nyin or acupressure series) for common problems, such as for better sleep, stress reduction, or simply as the use of one or two at a time to help rejuvenate the skin on the face.
9. Kansa Vataki, pronounced “kahn-sah vah-tah-kee,” is a new Ayurvedic treatment in the Unites States that uses a small metal bowl to massage the soles of the feet. This treatment delicately takes even the most difficult client to a place of peace, sends energy streaming to the toes, and puts a smile back on their face. It makes an excellent add-on to any facial or massage and helps to normalize skin tones. Combined with a foot bath and reflexology, it makes a very full spa experience. Given fully clothed, it makes a memorable introduction to those shy of the spa experience.
9. Pancha Karma, pronounced “pahn-chah kahr-mah.” These are the five deep cleansing actions used in Ayurvedic rejuvenative therapy to help rid the body of toxins and disturbed energies. These actions help the body-mind system to restore itself to a state of health and balance. The five actions include enemas, laxatives, therapeutic vomiting, sinus cleansing, and blood purification–all clearly not the type of treatments commonly available at a spa! Unfortunately, this term is frequently and incorrectly used for a treatment that involves full body massage and herbal steam or wrap. This treatment should correctly be called purva (pronounced “poor-vah”) karma. Traditionally a series of massage and steam treatments is given over a few days, sometimes weeks, before the more cathartic deep cleansing actions, or pancha karma.
While these explanations are not exactly what you will find in classical Ayurvedic texts, they’re accurate and more useful and relevant to the spa and beauty industries. And I hope that in understanding them, you’ll gain more curiosity for a system of well-being that will surely be a part of these industries for years to come.
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