Ayurvedic BodyworkAyurvedic bodywork is a component of Ayurvedic medicine, or Ayurveda, an ancient system of complementary medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. The term is derived from two Sanskrit words—ayur meaning life and veda meaning knowledge or science.[1] It is based on the concept of interconnectedness, suggesting that good health is a product of a balanced mind, body and spirit. Treatment involves the use of herbal remedies, dieting, exercise and bodywork.Proponents believe that the body is constituted of five elements (air, earth, water, fire, space) which merge to form doshas, or life forces. The three doshas are vatapitta and kapha. Vata is comprised of air and space; pitta is comprised of water and fire; and kapha is comprised of earth and water.[2] The human body is constituted by a combination of the three forces; however, most people have a dominant life force. The purpose of Ayurveda is therefore to balance the three doshas in order to restore health.There are several systems of Ayurvedic bodywork, including marma therapy, champissage (head massage) and  abhyanga (oil massage):

  • Marma therapy is centered on the marmas, or Indian pressure points, similar to acupressure and reflexology. These are the places on the body where veins, muscles, tissue and bones meet. Practitioners stimulate the marma points by massaging the body with their hands, elbows, forearms and feet.  Massage mats are often used in lieu of massage tables or cushions.
  • Champissage originated as a method of head massage, but it now includes the neck, shoulders, arms, ears and face as well. Touch therapists often use Ayurvedic oils to massage the scalp and nourish the hair follicles.
  • Abhyanga is a touch therapy practice which seeks to balance the doshas in an individual through the use of aromatic oils and herbs during personalized massage sessions. Vishesh is another type of oil massage, focused more on the deep tissues and muscles.[3]

Health Benefits


Ayurvedic bodywork is used to treat a variety of ailments, which result from imbalances of the life force energy. For example, if your main force is vata, you may develop asthma, anxiety, heart disease or dysfunctions of the nervous system. Individuals who have a dominant pitta dosha, however, are more like to acquire digestive disorders, negative emotions and high blood pressure. A dominance of kapha may result in diabetes, cancer, nausea or obesity.[4]

Practitioners utilize touch therapy to treat these conditions, reduce symptoms, improve immune function and restore the body’s overall balance. Research shows this practice may aid in weight management, producing positive possibilities for individuals suffering from diabetes or obesity. It may also improve circulation, reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

*MMIP Tip: The FDA reports that Ayurvedic oils or medicines may contain lead, arsenic or mercury. For this reason, it’s important to double check the oils you are using in order to avoid the ingestion of toxic materials!

  • “Ayurveda.” www.nccam.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
  • Clark, Carolyn C., and Rena J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of Complementary Health Practice. New York: Springer Pub., 1999.
  • “Ayurvedic Massage Types.” www.ayurvedicmassage.com. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.
  • “Ayurvedic Medicine.” www.webmd.com/balance/guide/ayurvedic-treatments. Accessed Nov. 5, 2013.