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So, What Exactly Is Ayurvedic Massage?

So, you're over getting a typical Swedish massage. Maybe the pressure isn't intense enough, or you're looking for a more holistic approach to massage, or you're just bored of the same old thing. Enter Ayurvedic massage, a treatment based on Ayurveda, a system of alternative medicine developed in India nearly 3,000 years ago. According to WebMD, Ayurveda followers believe the body is comprised of five basic universal elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. But, what exactly is an ayurvedic massage? I went to Haven Spa in Soho, New York to try their new Harmony Massage to find out.

What is an ayurvedic massage?

Ayurvedic massages borrow from the principles of Ayurveda to create a unique experience that focuses on relaxation, stress relief and releasing emotional blockages. My Ayurvedic massage at Haven focused on the heart chakra (the Fourth chakra), as well as my "marma" points—energy points in the body used for healing in Ayurvedic medicine. The goal is to "manipulate these points to manually adjust the energy in your body so that you feel maximally relaxed."

What makes it different from a regular massage?

The heavy use of essential oils and focus on specific energy points in the body makes an Ayurvedic massage different from your run-of-the-mill Swedish massage. Plus, don't expect a ton of actual massaging—the treatment is much more focused on manipulating your energy fields and freeing emotional burden than working out the kinks in your muscles. My massage also used tuning forks, metal tools that vibrate and can be placed in spots on the body to relieveve tension physically and mentally. At Haven, they used a 136.1 Hz weighted fork that "helps to release strain and stress in the heart," according to Lara Katsman, Haven’s Head Massage Therapist & Creator, and a 174 Hz unweighted fork that "gives our organs sense of security, safety and love.”

Woman recieving tuning fork therapy Tuning forks are used in spots known to hold emotional stress.

SetsukoNGetty Images

What kind of oils do they use?

Ayurvedic massages rely on essential oils to maximize your sensory experience. My massage used grounding (Geranium-Rose, Cedarwood, Ylang Ylang,) and uplifting (Sweet Orange, Lavender, Rhododendron) aromas "to release emotional burden and restore a sense of balance and harmony."

Does it actually relieve more stress than a regular massage?

That depends what kind of stress we're talking about. A traditional massage relieves physical stress caused by tension buildup in the muscles; ayurvedic massage takes a more holistic approach, focusing as much more on emotional stress as it does physical. I found myself so relaxed during my ayurvedic massage I started drifting in and out of sleep—something I can't usually do when a therapist is really working on my muscles.

So...how'd it feel?

Great! I immediately felt unburdened and lighter, albeit slightly disappointed that this massage didn't include as much, well, massaging. So, if you book an ayurvedic appointment, don't go in expecting a regular massage; instead, expect a relaxing treatment focused on helping you work out your emotional kinks and letting go of "stuck" energy.

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