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Fire in the Belly

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Fire in the Belly

After five months of driving all over town to be tested by specialists in the field of holistic health, working out at the gym and at home, trying new foods and supplements, and saying farewell to old habits, Toni and Rob experience some well-deserved pampering at the spa. Along the way, they learn about the ancient healing system of Ayurveda.

After five months of driving all over town to be tested by specialists in the field of holistic health, working out at the gym and at home, trying new foods and supplements, and saying farewell to old habits, Toni and Rob experience some well-deserved pampering at the spa. Along the way, they learn about the ancient healing system of Ayurveda.

Amid the downtown Vancouver bustle is an oasis of soothing serenity. The Vida Wellness Spa offers myriad treatments to soothe and replenish the harried and the hurried. I’m neither of those, but I still thought I deserved this special meaningful makeover treat–an Ayurvedic swedana.

The swedana treatment restores harmonious balance and thereby improves health and wellness. To reach this balance, the practitioner uses a questionnaire to determine which of the three doshas is dominant, and then uses essential oils and herbs to either calm or stimulate that dosha into balance with the other two.

The questionnaire asks about body type, skin type, appetite and digestion, brain activity when active and resting, and various other telling body messages. My massage therapist, Kindred, tallied my results to discover that my pitta dosha, located in the stomach, is overactive. According to her, an overactive pitta, which represents both fire and water, can manifest in digestive issues, high body heat, and heated thoughts.

After a couple of questions to confirm this diagnosis, she set about gathering the essential oils for the first part of my treatment: the massage.

Treated Like the Tin Man

Kindred used sunflower oil (a neutral oil), suffusing it with essential oils of lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, rose, and sandalwood, chosen for their calming and cooling properties. Before starting, she told me that they use a lot of oil during the massage stage of the Ayurvedic swedana.

With me face-down on the table, Kindred started the massage, beginning with my toes and legs, covering me with the heated oil. Unlike other massages I’ve had in the past, she used sweeping, circling, rocking, jiggling, pushing, pulling, bending, stretching, pressing, and holding movements to loosen my limbs and to massage the oil into my joints. The theory is that as the oil is worked into the joints, the toxins are worked out.

When she worked on my stomach, Kindred made me take in deep, cleansing breaths that I held for a moment, and then released while she massaged my stomach, the centre of the pitta dosha. She explained that this would help relieve my tension headaches and dizziness.

Sssssssteam Heat

After she massaged me from toe to head, we walked to the steam cabinet, which is the central tool of the Ayurvedic swedana. Kindred showed me piles of dried herbs (lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, rose, and sandalwood) which she placed into the steamer. It was hot, and I could barely tolerate the 10 minutes she recommended to ensure that I broke a toxin-cleansing sweat.

Getting the Brush Off

To further extract and remove any lingering toxins, Kindred finished the treatment by sprinkling me with barley flour. Then she rubbed it lightly into my skin before brushing it off. The flour was soft and cooling; the brush was invigorating (and mine to keep).

The swedana experience was exotic and luxurious.

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