from Chapter 3
Customizing a Massage According to Ayurvedic Principles
Once you have determined the main Ayurvedic dosha of a recipient, you are ready to design your Thai Yoga Massage according to the individual needs of each client. The first key to integrating Ayurveda into a Thai Yoga Massage practice are the main massage approaches that correspond to each doshic type.
According to Vedic philosophy, there are three forces of nature within the universe that are present within all matter and are responsible for all creation. These three subtle qualities, or gunas, are known as sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva is understood to be the most subtle of the three and is defined as harmony, light, and intelligence. Rajas, a vital force, relates to activity, movement, and excitability. Our present-day society, characterized by constant movement and activity, is ruled by rajas. The tamas guna, considered to be the most material of the three, is associated with heaviness, darkness, and inertia.
Within the practice of Ayurvedic bodywork, the three main massage techniques are defined in relationship to these forces of nature.
The harmonizing quality of the sattvic approach is most suitable for vata types, who tend to be sensitive in nature and can be overwhelmed by too much stimulation. The sattvic massage approach is characterized by a light, gentle touch done at a slow and easy pace. Of the three approaches, this one involves the least amount of pressure; it is most suited to vata individuals, who tend to be more sensitive to pain and have more delicate bone structures. Although a long, gentle hold may be appropriate in some instances to ground vatas, it should never cause them excessive strain. It may be tempting to twist your thin, flexible vata client into a series of challenging postures, but this will actually do the person more harm than good. A slow, even pace with frequent repetitions is more appropriate.
The mild, harmonizing sattvic approach balances out vata’s tendency toward erratic energy flow, anxiety, and nervous disorders. A pleasant and nourishing environment can be created with the use of serene music, candles, and plush pillows and blankets. As vata individuals tend to chill easily, make sure that the massage room is at a warm, comfortable temperature.
The best time to massage a vata person is at dawn or dusk, when vata tends to be the highest and most prone to imbalance. It is possible to integrate the use of oil at the end of a massage by applying small amounts to the hands, feet, face, and specific marma points that can be easily accessed. Sesame oil is a favorite in all forms of Ayurvedic treatment and is especially good for vata types because of its warming, heavy, and pacifying qualities. Earthy aromas such as cinnamon, patchouli, or sandalwood can help to ground vata individuals.
As the rajas guna is a force of activity, it follows that the rajasic approach to massage involves more energy and movement than the sattvic approach. This massage approach is most appropriate for pitta individuals, who require a moderately active massage to release built-up energy. While pitta types also need to be cooled and calmed, the slow and sedating sattvic approach will leave them feeling frustrated and wanting more. As a middle way, the rajasic touch uses firm pressure with a steady and flowing pace that calms and restores pitta individuals. Because pitta types may be easily aggravated by excessive heat, the use of force should be monitored and counterbalanced, incorporating a brief pause between the more stimulating postures. Avoid long holds in the postures, as this can be heating. The aim should be to work through tensions rather than to break up resistance. Steady, probing movements can be used to expel toxins, aid digestion, and alleviate muscular tension. During energy-line work, take care not to over-thumb or over-palm your pitta recipients, as these techniques increase circulation and have a heating effect on the body. Also, excessive rubbing may irritate sensitive pitta skin, which is prone to rashes and inflammation.
The best time for a pitta person to receive a massage is at high noon or midnight, when the sun’s effect is most powerful and needs to be relieved. If using oils for localized application, pitta types benefit from light or cooling oils such as sunflower, olive, or coconut. Sweet and calming floral scents such as rose and lavender, or the cooling scent of sandalwood, are also recommended.
The tamas guna is characterized by heaviness and solidity. The tamasic massage approach involves the deepest and most rigorous touch techniques. This massage approach is suitable for kapha types, whose thick, oily skin requires the most stimulation.
Kapha individuals benefit from a strong and forceful bodywork approach that breaks up stagnation and accumulation. The pacing for this massage is the fastest of all three approaches and involves intensity and determination on the practitioner’s part. The aim is to circulate stagnant energy on the physical, mental, and emotional levels.
Kapha types may love to receive a soft and soothing massage, but such an approach would only plunge them into a deeper state of slumber. Of the three primary doshic types, kaphas can handle long holds with exertion--you can save your most dynamic Thai Yoga Massage moves for them! The use of well-paced repetitive movements, such as rotations and stretches, can help to open up the body and get things moving. The best time for massaging your kapha clients is in the late morning or late evening, when this force is strongest in the body.
Finally, because kapha types already tend to have oily skin and hair, it is best to avoid most oils or to apply small amounts of light oils, such as safflower or sunflower. Stimulating, energizing scents that open the nasal passages, such as eucalyptus or mint, benefit kapha individuals and can be applied to the chest and nose in cases of heavy congestion.