Ayurveda is a system of Hindu Traditional Medicine that describes the body as a combination of three elemental substances called doshas. Doshas are comprised of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Vata is composed of ether and air, while pitta is made of fire and water and kapha of water and earth. Though we all have some of each dosha, most people are born with a constitution that is dominant in one or two doshas. The balance or imbalance of these doshas defines the prakriti (nature) of one’s body. In order to raise or lower these doshas to maintain balance in the body, Ayurveda focuses on diet, eating and sleeping at optimal times, panchakarma (cleansing practices), and massage.
Ayurvedic massage is believed to help break down and remove toxins called ama which can lead to illness and imbalance. Often, ayurvedic massages are then followed by a full body steam application and herbal wash or scrub. During an Ayurvedic massage, a specific oil is prescribed to match the client’s prakriti. The oil is warmed and applied with long, continuous strokes in order to stimulate the body’s natural cleansing process. See Cypress Health instructor, Narayani Golland, explain the basics of these massage strokes here: