Friday, May 27, 2016

Oily Ayurvedic Giggles

We have never had ayurvedic treatment.  But when our friend Abhishek told us that we could score super long massages in India for cheap, we were down with it.  I mean, you had me at "super long massages", let alone the "FOR CHEAP" part!!!  So when we got to Varkala (in Kerala, India, where this treatment is famous) we asked about where to make an appointment.  Turns out, because tourist season has ended, many places are closed for the season.  Luckily, a few are still open, so we popped into one our driver recommended called Ayur Clinic to ask about making an appointment for the following day.

The lady at the desk asked what our medical issues are.  Ummm, none really...  I mean, like, sometimes I get sore (point to random spot) here, and he gets stiff (point to spot) around here...  Turns out ayurvedic is more related to medical treatment/healing than just relaxation massage.  But hey, we can roll with that, as long as there is MASSAGE thrown in there!!!  So we asked for 2 appointments the following day.  The lady gave us a time and told us what treatments we would be getting (an
hour long massage which I THINK was called ABHYANGA SNANA,and then half an hour of some mysterious thing called polti/kizhi.  But she didn't write anything down, didn't ask for our names, nuttin.  :)  Oooook then, we will be back tomorrow for our POTLI/KIZHI!! 

The next morning we headed out, David wearing his Dhoti (a southern Indian male traditional piece of clothing that many men here wear everyday).  Our driver Prabeesh had taken us to the store to buy David a dhoti and taught him how to tie it.  It's 6 meters of fabric and tricky to tie up!!  David rocks his as only a white man can.  :) 

That's my man!!
You have to take your shoes off before entering Ayur Clinic (as you do to enter people's homes or temples).  We sat down a couple of minutes to wait and David checked out the local newspaper...

You have to keep up with the news
Our therapists called us in - David had a guy and I had a lady.  Neither of them spoke ANY English, and, as a reminder, we do not speak Hindi or Malayalam, the local language of Kerala...  I had to pee, so when my lady took me into the little therapy room and told me to strip down, I first obeyed (why didn't I ask to pee???) and then, standing in my undies and bra, asked if there was a toilet.  She said, "Toilet?  No toilet." with a tone that sounded like, "YOU NEED TO PEE?  What are you, nuts??".  Ooookkkk then therapy lady, looks like I will have a full bladder for the next hour and a half, eh?? 

My therapist.  I asked her if I could take her photo after we were done, she was cool with it.  I asked how old she was - 22.  When I told her I was 50, she was really surprised, she thought I was in my 30's.  :) 
Oh yeah, all this giggling keeps me young
I wasn't sure if this was an undergarments ON or OFF type of situation, the women here are VERY shy compared to American females.  So I gestured and asked "On?  Off?" and she said OFF.  Once I was naked, she strapped a little disposable "loin cloth" thing on me and we were good to go!! 

So, the table...  You know how American massage tables are pretty standard - plastic/pleather/leather cushiony table covered by a disposable covering with a hole cut out for your face?  Well, Indian Ayurvedic tables are distinctly NOT like that.  They are made of very pretty WOOD and have a thin leather center, with NO hole cut out for your face.  No bolster for your knees.  No disposable cover.  Not much cushion.  Basically it is just you lying naked (save your loin cloth...) on black leather. 
But I didn't start on the antique looking table.  No siree.  First up was sitting my naked butt on a little plastic red stool.  There she poured oil into my hair.  She rubbed my head.  She rubbed that oil in but good!  She even gave me what felt like a faux hawk hair do at one point.  I bet she got a kick out of that.

The table.  Cut outs for HANDS but not for FACE...
Then she told me to get on the table face up.  And then the REAL OILING began.  LOADS and LOADS and LOADS of oil.  Oil to beat the band!!  Heated oil.  Oil, oil, oil.  Oil like there was no tomorrow!!!!  It was an hour long oil-fest.  And she was getting the oil out of little metal bowls, which was cool, cuz it meant I didnt even know when more oil was coming (you know how in American massages you hear the tell-tale "pump pump" when the massage therapist is squirting out oil?  No squirty sound in India.)

She eventually told me to turn over (which I had to manage verrrry carefully so that my oily body wouldn't SQUIRT off the leather table and onto the tile floor dramatically).  It was once I was face down that I realized what a pity it was that her table had no face hole...  What is one supposed to do with one's face???  I tried putting my head sideways, but got a scolding for that - "Face DOWN".  Alrighty, well, ummm, I DO have a NOSE and I am not sure what to do with THAT...  I sucked it up and tried not to breathe (cuz I couldn't...) for a bit, but it was worrisome.  If she pushed too hard, would I break my nose or my teeth against the table??  So I went for a modified "chin on the table" position a while, but that got old...  So I thought, "Screw it!  Lady, I NEED a face hole here.  Would it KILL YA to cut a face hole in this antique table???  I'm gonna put my head to the SIDE, and if you don't like it, well tooooo bad....". 

So for a full hour that lady oiled every square inch of my body.  I was worried for a moment that she might be getting a bit tooooo friendly with me, if you know what I mean.  At a certain point, there ain't no way your body is gonna absorb the oil.  It just kept coming and coming and coming.  I think that between my oily massage and David's, they used up at least enough oil to fill the gigantic tubs of olive oil we buy at BJ's. 

After an hour of OIL, it was time for the POTLI/KIZHI!  Let's see what this is, shall we???  Turns out, it is heating MORE OIL in another little metal pot, then dipping it what we have been referring to as BIG TEA BAGS and PUNCHING your body with them!  Hot, hot, hot, punch, punch, punch!!!  That'll cure what ails ya!! 

polti/kizh equipment
It actually wasn't bad.  The "tea bags" (which are filled with herbs) were VERY HOT when she first put them on me, then when they would start to cool off she would bung them back into the (what felt like) scalding hot oil.  :)  Then PUNCH PUNCH and SIZZLE SIZZLE of my skin under the hot oil.  Repeat, repeat, repeat for half an hour.  Honestly, at this point I was really glad that David and I were in seperate rooms, cuz there is NO WAY we could have gotten through this event without
busting a gut laughing, which would have made me pee my pants, only I wasn't wearing any pants.

The table - oily after my treatment
After the treatment finished she told me to get up slowly.  Well you don't have to tell me twice, maam!  I am oilier than the Valdez oil spill and the floor is TILE, I am not rushing this!!!  Hahahahaha.  She helped me up and helped me skate on the floor into the "bath area".  Baths/showers in India are very different than in America.  The hotels we have stayed at have had Western type showers, but in homes (and in this clinic) they often have buckets with little measuring cup type things.  You put some hot water in a bucket, then run the cold water from a tap.  You scoop some of the hot into the cup, add some cold, and dump it on you.  Only, in my case, SHE DUMPED IT ON ME.  Yes, she SHOWERED ME!  Including washing my hair twice.  And soaping me up!!  This was a first.  It was as if I was some royal princess incapable of cleaning myself and had a slave.  Bizarre!!

When I got dressed and came out into the waiting room, David was already there.  He looked blissed out.  In fact, so blissed that he had put his shirt on INSIDE OUT.  :)  He later reported that the head woman had called him into her "office" (which was part of the waiting room seperated by a curtain) and asked him to sign a guest book.  He did so, then was stuck sitting in her area in awkward silence... 

Umm, David, your shirt is inside out...
We got to laughing so hard about all of this later that night.  David said he kept thinking that he was so oily that his therapist was going to add some onions and green peppers to him and then pop him into a roasting pan!!

All in all - the price was $45 a piece, and the experience itself was priceless.  

Here is a description of polti/kizhi I just found online (didn't see before our treatment):

"Potli/kizhi is a massage which uses small herbal pouches made of various herbs which are warmed in medicated oils. They are then used to massage the entire body or
specific areas like the back, neck, shoulders, hands and joints.
Benefits
Reduces inflammation
Promotes better circulation
Relieves pain and stiffness in joints and muscular spasms
Improves mobility and flexibility
Tones the skin
Alleviates arthritis pain"

And here are a couple of related links if you are interested:
http://www.ayur-clinic.com/ayurveda-in-kerala.html
http://www.divyaayurveda.com/potlikizh/
 

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