Ayurvedic massage - touch for body and soul

Interview with Petra Wolfinger, Ayurveda therapist, lecturer and representative of the European Academy of Ayurveda in Austria.

Petra, you have been deeply connected to Ayurveda for 15 years and teach, among other things, Ayurvedic massage at the European Academy of Ayurveda. What is the difference between an Ayurvedic massage and a classical massage?

If we research what Wikipedia says, then the following: "Massage (from French masser "to massage", Arabic مس "to touch; to palpate" or from Greek μάσσω "to knead") is used to mechanically influence the skin, connective tissue and muscles through stretching, pulling and pressure stimuli. The effect of massage extends from the treated part of the body to the entire organism and includes the psyche."

K. R. Srikantha Murthy:

"Abhyanga (oil massage and bath) should be performed daily. It dispels age, tension and accumulation of Vata. It gives good vision, nourishment for the body, long life, good sleep, good and healthy skin. It should be performed especially on the head, ears and feet. It should be avoided by people suffering from accumulations of kapha, currently undergoing purification therapy (such as emetics or laxatives) or suffering from indigestion."

What can be seen at first glance is that classical massage refers to the anatomy and aims at a mechanical influence on the skin and muscles. This is to stimulate the exchange of information between synapses and CNS ( central nervous system). Stroking, tapping, plucking and pulling are ways of grasping that promote blood circulation regionally and balance the imbalances of agonists.

Abhyanga always goes one step further. The therapist looks at where the client is at the moment, which dosha is irritated and then decides whether to massage anuloma or pratiloma, that is, calming outward to the periphery or activating toward the heart. A very important point is the oil, which is chosen according to the state of the doshas.

What therapeutic effect can I achieve with an Ayurvedic massage?

In Ayurveda, Prakriti and Vikriti are often juxtaposed; Prakriti is the basic constitution, that is, what we have been given. Vikriti is what life makes of us every day. If we live according to our constitution, then we should never get sick. Unfortunately, however, external circumstances, job or family force us to live differently. To eat right, to muster the strength to practice yoga and meditate every day, all this is very difficult in today's world.

Ayurvedic massage with oil

It works best as a "to go", just like the massage. Here I create a time out from which I expect maximum relaxation. During the massage, I can have my muscles massaged and stroked out as well as receive the benefits of the medicinal herbs in the oils according to my constitution. My skin nourishes itself and the body through the abhyanga. I bring appropriate herbs into the tissues (dhatu) through the oil. Through the time of the treatment (about 60 min) I also really "come down", can relax, through the almost meditative silence I find myself and can feel myself again - something that is sometimes completely lost in everyday life. We are so often and gladly on the outside and with others that it is difficult for us to feel our own needs. Often this is also done in a rather sportive and competitive way, even further and faster, otherwise I don't feel anything. Always to the limit.

What distinguishes a good Ayurvedic massage? What makes it particularly effective?

A good Ayurvedic massage is based on the person in front of you and takes into account the present circumstances. For example, someone who drives an hour to the therapist after a hard day's work, has made a lot of phone calls beforehand, and has been really stressed out in an open-plan office, has a lot of Vata in them. With a dynamic form of massage, this person would not stay relaxed on the table. This client needs calm, long strokes, compact in the structure of the muscle, presence and the right Vata-reducing oil. It is like a very individual composition. In this way, the client reaches maximum relaxation and can absorb a corresponding amount; the massage is particularly intense.

What role do the personality and the inner attitude of the therapist play in an Ayurvedic massage?

In massage we are dealing with people. People who, like you and me, have to cope with many excessive demands in life. Who have often gone beyond their limits and therefore develop "tension". Often the first signs on the mental level or psyche are overlooked or ignored and only when the body reports, people get an appointment for massage. For me as an Ayurvedic practitioner, this means taking the right view of the person and taking a step back with my own sensitivities. All this already requires a high degree of personal development.

One of my teachers once said that knowledge about Ayurveda and about the person and about myself are crucial. Respect, devotion, empathy are another good prerequisite for an enriching relationship between therapist and client.

As a lecturer, what do you place special emphasis on when training in Ayurvedic massage?

Ayurveda Gauze Bag Pinda Sveda Massage

To mindfulness in dealing with everyone and everything. I know, mindfulness is a strained expression, but it reflects so much. Mindfulness is the form of perception and can also be understood as a state of consciousness; it is also a special personality trait. I also feel it as attentiveness: I am attentive in the massage and do not just massage down, I am present and DA. This is also felt by the person I am "touching", on all levels. This is exactly what I try to convey in class and it is first felt and then appreciated by our students.

What qualities should people have who want to be trained in Ayurvedic massage?

To be open to go new ways. Bring along the willingness to "feel" something and to pass it on. With your hands. Not only to experience something spiritually, intellectually, analytically, but to get involved in a new path, a path of empathy and devotion to the body. This is a journey, a journey to yourself, your body and many touching moments on all levels. And you want to pass this on. Then you are right with us in Ayurveda.

Petra Wolfinger

Petra Wolfinger about herself:

"I started massaging at the age of 5 - my mother, my sister, my family.

Via some professional detours I arrived at Ayurveda in 2000. I was massaged by therapists in India and it felt like we were dancing. I wanted to be able to do that as well. And Pitta is very goal-oriented there.

I completed my training at the Academy, ran my own Ayurveda and yoga studio for over 9 years, and have been in advanced training and supervision with select teachers. I consider myself a body therapist and deepen my knowledge of both yoga and marmas and meridians. I love my work, loosely based on the motto, "Do what you love and you'll never have to work again."