It seems to me there are two types of massage that people get when they come to Mysore.
Thai Massage and Ayurvedic Massage
I’m not the biggest fan of massage, someone getting into my personal space doesn’t fill me excitement nor does the prospect of someone feeling all the lumps and bumps that I generally try to hide from the naked eye. But hey this is Mysore and it seems to me the place for new things and pushing boundaries of comfort, spirituality and physical capability.
So in the name of research (you’re welcome) I tried out both, my good friend Jill who’s a Thai Massage therapist gave me my first and ‘Swastha’ across the road from the main Shala gave me my Ayurvedic massage.
I’m not a skeptic when it comes to massage, but I was however not the biggest believer that they were anything more than a way to relieve stress and tension in your muscles. When people started saying they were breaking into tear mid thai massage or having mini epiphanies however I started reaching for the crazy pills.
And then I had mine.
Thai massage is done fully clothed (where’s the fun in that I hear you cry?! I hear you) and with nothing but a little essential oil on the feet. It’s a very active massage, more for the masseuse than you as you basically lay there and get thrown about like a rag doll.
I was fearful, as I say people touching my body for massage I could just about do but have them move me about I feared I would be like a piece of wood, embarrassingly unable to relax. Jill however took it so much in her stride I was literally like putty within minutes, I talk about it with awe as I was honestly amazed!
The massage continued with continued amazement.
I wasn’t aware I wasn’t meant to be in pain, unaware it wasn’t supposed to hurt all the time, it felt right then that all this suffering was by choice after all, I just hadn’t realised I had the choice. As a hamstring released I literally felt the tension ease and the physical give was at first painful and then incredibly wonderful!
She worked around my body like she was doing a little dance, at one point I was so out of it with relaxation I hadn’t even realised I’d been turned on my side.
Jill explained before she started and again as we were going through that I was in a ‘safe place’ and that any release of emotion was a ‘good release’, at first I felt confused, why did I need to know I was in a ‘safe place’ with ‘no judgement’?
Everyone I’d talked to had mentioned that it was during the work around the hips and belly they had felt emotional, having gotten through that I was relatively sure they were just dramatic and possibly a little sensitive, being a Northerner I simply assumed I was immune.
And then she started on my back, firstly up the left, or was it the right? I can’t remember, but as first it felt like a deep tickle and then it came, the laughter, unapologetic and unstoppable. I laughed all the laughs I’d missed, forgot all the times I’d muted myself and just laughed, it actually felt like such a wonderful release like it was part of the massage itself, as if the only way to release the tension was to have this burst of emotion.
As the pressure continued up to my neck massaging in an upward motion from the base of my neck to the top, squeezing upwards every time I’d bitten back my emotions, too scared to put myself on the line, wanting to speak but not having the words, not knowing the worth of my voice. I felt her squeeze from that little knot that still remained in my chest. Every so gently plucking the pieces that had fused it together, my little reminder.
Fingers pressed in around my jaw and cheeks and I felt every time I’d kept my mouth closed, every tear I hadn’t cried, I felt my shame and my anxiety but not as I’d felt them before, I felt outside of them, or them outside of me I can’t be sure.
Hands cupping the back of my head, “Give me the full weight.” And I did, I let her have every heartbreak, every rejection, every self loathing and repressing thought I’d ever felt, Now it feels, if I let it, as if it could be but a scar, and scars are rarely painful, they generally sit quietly as reminders, life’s little teachings, the proof that we have lived at all.
I lay, weighted down by the experience and yet feeling the lightest I’ve felt in years, no idea where any of my limbs were in relation to my body, I wiggled my toes and fingers almost to reassure me of their existence and relaxed.
The best savasana of my life.
And that’s how I had an emotional breakdown on an unsuspecting Monday morning on a thin mattress on the floor of an Indian annex. I walked into practice the next day with more clarity and focus than I ever had, I’m not sure whether my physical practice changed or whether it was just my approach to it but I was definitely kinder to myself.
Diane informed me when I first arrived in Mysore when referring to Ayurvedic massage, “You do realise you’re completely naked don’t you?”, well with this in mind I braced myself… nope didn’t work I was totally not prepared for this.
Stepping from the bright sun through the yellow curtain and into the dimly lit room was a little bit of a shock but seemed to set the tone for the (unbeknown) intimate experience I was about to have.
Two small indian ladies, probably not much older than me, only just reaching my armpit in height stood eagerly encouraging me to de-robe.
Watching with beaming smiles as I shly folded my clothes and put them on to the shelves. All you wear for an ayurvedic massage is a small string around the waist with a skinny piece of cloth to cover your (already fleeting) dignity. Let me put this clearly, you have no where to hide!
First directed to a small stool I sat gingerly looking, I presume, like a deer in headlights, the more smiley girl parted my legs with her hands making me feel I was about to receive some kind of lap dance, and emptied a small pot of oil on my head. At this point I have to put all joking aside, it was bloody lovely, if not a little reminiscent of ‘The Grudge’ shower scene, with multiple hands running through my hair massaging my temples.
After I’d almost fallen asleep where I sat, I was escorted onto a varnished wooden table, which I must admit didn’t fill me with the comforting thoughts of relaxation I’d been imagining. As heated oil was poured onto my body and four hands simultaneously worked on my achey limbs I couldn’t help but imagine myself sliding straight off the table with every assertive pull.
This was not by any means the deep tissue massage I was expecting (hoping) to receive but the rhythmic movements helped to relax me none the less. They say an oil bath a week is good for the joints and I’m sure it has it’s benefits but I couldn’t help but feel like the christmas turkey being prepped for dinner… I’d like to say there weren’t herbs involved but at this point I really can’t be sure.
The basting complete I’m sat up and transferred to the
oven steam bath where a towel is placed around my head making it all feel rather reminiscent of E.T in his basket, allowing the steam to envelope my slippery body. My basters set to cleaning the table for the next before settling down on two chairs, whispering in hushed voices and giggling like school girls, maybe at a funny joke or perhaps at my pasty mosquito bite covered ass, one can never be too sure.
I’m just about to slip off the now well lubricated stool in my steamy coffin when I’m patted on the cheek and the towel removed from my head, the metal encasement is opened introducing my body to the cool air and releasing a cloud of steam into the dim room and no, unfortunately the chapati belly I have formed is still there, I’m feeling floaty and light but my little Buddha Belly gives away my late night escapes for ice cream at corner house.
At this point I’m ready to receive a towel and squeedgy of the excess oils draped over my body but no, it’s as if I’m 3 again having my mum carefully and tenderly dry me off after a bath, plaiting my hair and helping me get into my pyjamas, why the hell not the past 90minutes have been passed with hands rubbing more of my body then I think anybody has since, well my 3year old self getting dried off.
I was left feeling deeply relaxed even if my muscles weren’t as unknotted as I’d of liked, after almost 4 months of travelling I’d be lying if I didn’t kind of enjoy the intimacy of someones touch, an admission which seems to be repeated with most other people who’ve experienced the massage.
I was pleasantly surprised at the ease I felt in my joints the next day, the stiffness in my right knee having eased as too had the dull ache, my hips seemed more leanient when I pressed forward in my bends. A win I’d say, proving I guess that you don’t have to feel tortured after a massage to benefit, definitely a more physical outcome than my Thai massage, thank goodness, I don’t think my emotions could of handled it!
I wasn’t sure whether to post this blog or not, I am after all travelling not evaluating beauty treatments (although the thai felt more like therapy), but I realised this is more about travel, anyone can write about that, this is about my journey and that’s what all the great blogs include, little pieces of the person.