Massage Therapy: What is Kerala Massage Therapy?

Ayurvedic Massage

In India there are various systems of massage in practice along with the Ayurvedic treatments. One of the most advanced and sophisticated systems is the Kerala massage and Marma therapy. This system of massage is a sister discipline of one of the most ancient schools of martial art known as “Kalaripayattu.” Researchers are of the view that this fighting art is even older to the Shaolin Temple traditions.

The Ayurvedic massage treatment has originated in the Vedic period, developed through the meditative minds of the sages and matured into a perfect system of treatment.

Kerala massage is a total approach to preserve and maintain health through the self-healing mechanism of the body, involves the movement of energies in the body. This is done by applying pressure through the muscles and nerves with the help of various Ayurvedic oils. It helps to maintain the vital energies in the body and hence, to bring agility, flexibility and suppleness.

It harmonises the body functions, prevents sickness, improves blood circulation and is the most effective method to cure some of the most chronic diseases like Paralysis, Asthma, Back pain, Nervous weakness, Arthritis, Spondilosis, Disc problems, Rheumatic ailments etc.

What is Kerala Massage Therapy?

While the world was rejoicing over the discovery of penicillin and other drugs of modern medicine, most people forgot about a vital therapy called Ayurveda.’ It was used in very few places in India but it thrived in Kerala.

This has two reasons. Firstly, Kerala is one of the few states which has two monsoons a year (May-June and August-September), an ideal climate for the ayurvedic treatments that remain so well preserved in this State. Secondly, Kerala is also the land ofVagbhatta, the last and well-known students of Charaka (the grand old man of medicine). Vagbhatta spent considerable portion of his life teaching Ayurveda in Kerala and is believed to have died in central Kerala. The segregation of Ayurvedic families in this part of Kerala may have something to do with this.

Ayurveda has eight branches called Ashtangas. They are Kaya (general medicine), Baala (paediatrics), Graha (astrological), Urdwanga (above neck), Shalya (surgery), Dhamshtra (toxicology), Jara (longevity) and Vrusha (infertility).

The physician who is well versed in all these eight branches is called an Ashtavaidyan. There are eighteen families of Ashtavaidyas in Kerala who are believed to be the torchbearers of the Vagbhatta tradition.

Ayurveda is an integral system of health, which does not separate body from nature. This integral relation extends to medicine too. The purity of nature, to a large extent, still exists in Kerala, which is probably one of the reasons for Ayurveda to be preserved in the traditional form in Kerala. It is still possible to find a few herbs for a Kashayam in a typical Kerala household, whereas almost nothing is obtainable in the residential areas of other regions of the country.

It is said that the feudal lords in Kerala used the oil massage called ‘Snehana’ to preserve their strength and vitality. The oils are Ayurvedic and work wonders for the entire body functioning.

They are formulated as per the body constitution, age, symptoms of ailment and the prevalent climatic condition. This system of massage is over 3000 years old. It is an effective method to attain total rejuvenation and relief from chronic aches and pains. There are more than 1500 formulations of medicated oils for the treatment of various ailments.

In the recent years, interest has been revived in the massage therapy that is practised in Kerala. It has attracted tourist attention and people from all over the world have begun making a bee-line to that State, mainly to experience the magic of ayurvedic massage practised there. The basic tenets of Kerala massage can be summed up in three words – relax, revive and rejuvenate. That, in nutshell, is the benefit of this massage therapy. This treatment is especially effective for arthritis, spondylitis, paralysis, obesity, sinusitis, migraine, hysteria, premature aging and other psychosomatic ailments.

The Kerala Massage recharges the body, reactivates the mind, recoups youthful vigour and vitality, builds resistance to diseases and improves complexion. It offers lasting relief from chronic aches and pains like backache, joint pains, stiff neck, migraine and rheumatic pains.

Visitors undergoing the massage are laid on a wooden “Thoni” (a wooden bed specially designed for the purpose), while the masseur applies herbal oils. Trained masseurs conduct the massage under the supervision of expert Ayurvedic physicians.

Chronic Ailments

The 3000 year old, Indian system of medicine is even today superior to modern medicine in alleviating many chronic ailments. There are many chronic ailments, which benefit more from the massage than modern medicine.

Ailments like rheumatic pains, backache and stiff-neck are relieved for a long period by Ayurvedic Massage. Modern medicine prescribes non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs with potentially fatal after-effects for rheumatic pains. Moreover, these drugs offer a very transient relief.

Migraine, which has no effective remedy in modern medicine, is relieved for a sustained period by ‘Dhara’ or pouring herbal oils on the forehead in a continuous stream.

Ayurvedic Therapy can also relieve “Psoriasis”, a skin ailment of auto-immune status.

The diseases commonly treated are rheumatism, arthritis of different kinds, Haemiplegia, Facial palsy, anxiety, Allergic asthma, Peptic ulcer, Motor Neurone diseases, Psoriasis and other skin diseases, Back pain of different causes, Disc prolapse, Gynaecological problems, Obesity, diabetes mellitus, Hypertension, infertility, migraine and other types of headaches, Eye diseases, Piles, Disorders of digestion, Chronic cough and all other ailments, which are the products of either improper diet/activities, or polluted atmosphere, and which respond very well to Ayurvedic treatments.

The Procedures

There are two kinds of procedures adopted by ayurvedic chikitsa.

• Kshara Soothra : Kshara soothra is one of the para-surgical procedures for the management of ano-rectal ailments.

• Rasayana Chikitsa : Rasayana or rejuvenation therapy, is concerned with providing an increased and healthy life span. It brings about an improved state of equilibrium of bodily elements leading to enhanced body resistance.

Common Methods of Treatment Synchronised Massage

In Ayurvedic treatment, massage is done in a traditional manner with application of medicated herbal oils. The selection of oil depends on the condition of the subject. Each oil is prepared from 10-50 different herbs.

The oil is applied and massage is affected for a duration of 30 minutes to one hour depending on the ailments, body constitution, age and other health factors. The massage as well as other oil treatments can be done for one day, or for a course of 3, 5, 7, 14 or 21 days depending upon the condition of the subject.


• Synchronisedmassage is beneficial in preventing scales, curing rheumatism and improving physical consistency.
• It also helps in bettering eyesight, inducing sound sleep, increasing life span and promoting a general sense of well-being.
• It improves the complexion and texture of the skin and provides a glow as well as softness to the skin.

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