I Tried an Ayurvedic Massage to See If It'd Ease My Stress

Right in the center of SoHo, one of the most bustling areas of New York City, sits this escape. Slightly fatigued from my journey there and the thought of my never-ending to-do list, I walked into the dimly lit room of Pratima. I was greeted by a gorgeous row of couches and a lovely staff. I took my shoes off upon entry, immediately making me feel at home. Hard to believe such a strong ambiance of zen can overtake you the way this space does. I changed into my robe and slippers then met my massage therapist Erica.

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Courtesy of Pratima

I was able to slide into the noon slot for an Ayurvedic massage. It wasn’t the ideal time for my inner-workaholic. Although I was hoping I’d be able to calm my mind, at least for an hour. For those of you who don't know, Ayurveda is an ancient holistic science from India that’s been around for over 5,000 years. It means the “science of life,” and is all about achieving optimal wellness in your life. The founder of Pratima wanted to spread the gift of Ayurveda to everyone in order to nourish, purify, and soothe the skin so she created a line of eco-rich products and this spa as an extension of that. The purpose is to reach the ultimate level of self-care.

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Courtesy of Pratima 

I laid down and drifted into a relaxed oasis. I’ve had many massages, but the incorporation of heated oils against my natural body warmth took me to another place. My therapist applied the perfect amount of pressure and doused every inch of my body—from my toes to my scalp—with Pitta and Brahmi oils. But that wasn’t a generic choice.

“Our therapist, Erica, decided to use the Pitta Balancing Body Oil for your body massage, Pitta Essential Oil for the face, and our Brahmi Nourishing Oil for your feet,” explains Sara Wafia, senior marketing manager of Pratima. This made my experience feel even more personal. (You can read more about the various doshas here.) “We are currently in Pitta Season, and she sensed that you had a substantial portion of Pitta dosha in your constitution and that your system was responding to the intense heat we've been experiencing here in New York City. Therefore, she wanted to work on reducing the stored heat in your system. The Pitta formulas feature sweet almond and vitamin E–rich sunflower and safflower oils with cooling, anti-inflammatory herbs like sandalwood, jasmine, and rose. The herb Brahmi is featured in our Brahmi Nourishing Oil, which traditionally has been used for its strong ‘cooling’ and clarifying effect on the mind. In Ayurveda, massaging the feet is connected to mental activity and helps to ease anxiety, reduce mental chatter, and relieve deep-seated stress and tension.

To say that my stress was reduced would be an understatement.

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Courtesy of Pratima 

What makes an Ayurvedic massage different than the rest? The oil.

In Ayurveda, anointing the skin with herbal oils is seen as one of the most nourishing and devotional acts of healing and self-care,” explains Wafia. “In fact, the root of the word for oil massage in Sanskrit, sneha, also means love. Traditionally, the oils that are used are blended with herbs in accordance with a person’s unique condition, both in mind and body. Pratima has created three formulations, one per dosha (or mind-body type), which are sometimes used singularly and sometimes blended together or used alongside other herbal formulations in the line, depending on the individual’s dosha, their energy, or a specific need that the therapist is able to determine.”

In my case, they were blended.

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Courtesy of Pratima 

According to Wafia, the practice of an Ayurveda massage uses abhyanga therapy, which is a physiological healing method that helps many of the body’s vital health systems return to their optimal, flourishing state while opening the channels of prana, or life force in the body.

“The abhyanga is unique because it relieves muscle tension like a traditional massage, but it also enlivens and detoxifies the internal systems of the body,” says Wafia. “Much of that has to do with the type of pressure that is involved, as well as the sequence and method of this one-of-a-kind technique. Abhyanga employs a type of pressure we call sattvic pressure: a method of both stroke and intensity that helps us reach our own individually optimal state where we experience improved circulation, lymphatic fluid drainage, a release of deep-seated tension and a profound quieting in the mind. These repetitive, meditative strokes move toward the heart center, ultimately easing the heart’s internal workload. Because of its profound ability to invigorate the fluid systems of the body, abhyanga is also credited as a massage that liquifies toxins and accelerates the expulsion of metabolic waste from the body. Finally, abhyanga massage is one of the most powerful anti-aging secrets in Ayurveda. The use of herb-infused oils deeply nourishes and regenerates skin cells while the repetitive, soothing strokes strengthen elasticity and tone the overall appearance of the skin, minimizing the effects of premature aging and stressors that cause the skin to lose its vitality. When performed regularly, abhyanga will also reduce insomnia, body pain, and restlessness while releasing naturally present endorphins. With total mind-body benefits, this treatment technique is one of the most comprehensive, holistic therapies that has been practiced for centuries and carried through to today.”

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Courtesy of Pratima 

I left with deeply hydrated skin and a less cluttered mind. In fact, getting up from the massage bed was the hardest decision I had to make all day. When I walked into the treatment, my limbs felt tight from all the travel I’d done earlier in the week (a visit to New Orleans). Afterward, my muscles felt relieved—it was almost like I had just taken a yoga class. I have severely dry skin, so my pores quickly drank up the Pitta and Brahmi oils. If you don’t mind a generous amount of oil being applied to every part of your body, this massage will feel like heaven for your mind, body, and soul. This time, I opted out of the coveted scalp massage because my extensions couldn’t take being weighed down by oil. However, I felt restored, and booking my next one certainly crossed my mind. Pratima may be my new secret stress reliever.