Ayurvedic Massage for men: My personal experiences with Abhyanga

Abhyanga is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy where the entire body is massaged with large amounts of herb-infused medicinal oils based on the specific body type. I was recently exposed this Ayurvedic therapy during my travels and here are my personal experiences from the session.

Ayurvedic treatments are great for everyone, but even more so for someone who travels a lot. Travel is indeed great, but there are certainly times when stress creeps up and you are left wanting for some peace of mind, body and soul. Thankfully, Ayurveda works on all three and the results are holistic.

My story

My therapist respectfully showed me to the changing room and indicated that I should change to get ready for the message. However, within seconds I had to call out to him in panic and request for help! Typically most messages require you to wear a pristine white one-time use underwear, but here I was given a langot - a traditional Indian undergarment for men, but something I had absolutely no experience with. As I explained my inability to wear the unusual garment, Santosh smiled and said most people can’t do it the first time and helped me put it on. I can’t recall the last time anyone helped me put on an underwear, but I wasn’t really embarrassed either.

What followed was a relaxing yet rejuvenating session of traditional Ayurvedic full body oil massage, Abhyanga.

Brief introduction to Ayurveda

Now, it would be apt to first give a brief introduction to Ayurveda before we talk about Ayurvedic therapies. Ayurveda is the ancient system of medicine from India and the word itself is made of ‘ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (science). Unlike modern medicine, Ayurveda isn’t about treating the symptom of a disease but it works by correcting the overall equilibrium of the system which then treats the disease. The system isn’t just the physical system of the body but encompasses mental, emotional and spiritual well-being as well.

I can go into a lot of detail about this, but that’s a subject for another post. However, an important thing to remember is that Ayurveda looks at each patient as an individual entity and treats the disease for that one person. Even for the same ailment, the therapies which work for one person may not work for another, and might require a completely different management. So it’s essential to get a thorough examination by an Ayurveda practitioner before starting with your treatment.

Of course, all Ayurveda isn’t only about treatment of diseases and the therapies are also a great way to maintain physical, mental and emotional well-being of a person.

But what’s Abhyanga?
Now for those of you who don’t know about the therapy, like me when I did it the first time, Abhyanga is a one of the oldest Ayurvedic therapies which can be done on a daily basis to help restore health and well-being.

It’s a full-body massage done with copious amounts of oil and the selection of oil is done based on your dosha or any specific ailment.

Personal experiences with Abhyanga

My introduction to Abhyanga came during my examination with an Ayurveda doctor. Based on my dosha, he recommend a completely new lifestyle for the next few days, which included liquid diet for detoxification, yoga and a series of massages, and Abhyanga was one of them.

An important thing to know is that for Ayurvedic therapies there is no mixing of genders, certainly not in India. So a man gives massage to a man, and a woman gives it to a woman. Nothing more to it but for some travellers this sometimes comes as a surprise, so it’s good to know in advance.

The massage room is typically a large room with a fairly high wooden massage table (you might need a stool to climb like I did) with an attached steam/ bath. My room actually opened outside to a valley and the view was soothing.

male to male full body ayurvedic massage abhyanga kerala
My experiences with Abhyanga

After my therapist helped me change into the flimsy and almost non-existent langot, I sat on a wooden chair and he cleaned my feet with water mixed with herbs. This was followed by a relaxing head massage session which must have gone on for about fifteen minutes or so. I think I dozed off because my therapist had to tap my shoulder to wake me up after that.

I was asked to climb the wooden table and lie face down. My therapist told me that he would now remove my langot to start the massage. I wasn’t quite expecting this but soon understood that it was required for him to do the massage well.

The strokes are often done all the way from your foot to your shoulders in one go, and the langot would certainly come in the way. Though I had one therapist, it’s often also done by two in sync on both sides of your body. You might think that it’s a bit embarrassing to lie with your legs spread wide and get an oil massage from a man, but trust me it’s a very relaxing massage. Though you may not sleep off, your body will be in a relaxed state.

As I realised the back massage was done, I was alarmed at the prospect of turning over to get the front massage. Thankfully, my therapist tied the langot back in place before he asked me to turn over. The front massage was great too, though I was a bit of worried about my langot becoming even more transparent with all the oils. Also during the massage it’s inevitable that the hands of the therapist might brush against your body everywhere, and the best thing would be to not make any deal big deal about it.

Getting an erection during the massage 

This is purely for the bros, girls please look away (just kidding, of course). While I got back and began researching for the article I realised that one of the big concern for many men who want a full body Ayurvedic oil massage was the fear of getting an erection during the session. Frankly speaking this was also on my mind and it was also one of my worries.

Abhayangam is a massage which relaxes your mind and body, but also revitalises your senses, and getting an erection during the massage is actually considered to be quite normal. It would still be embarrassing to get one during the therapy, but the best things would be to not treat it as the white elephant in the room that no one talks about. If you are very embarrassed, tell your therapist that you are embarrassed and be done with it. A professional masseur would have seen many of them and would not care at all about your erection.

Worrying about it will possibly ruin your massage, so acknowledge it and then move on. There are other places where you can worry about unwanted erections, and an Ayurvedic therapy session is certainly not one such place.

Naked or not?

Another question you might come across would be whether or not you should do the message naked. It's something you might be asked at the beginning your message session and you must do only what you are comfortable with. Recently I was in South India and tried the message there and the therapist told me that he preferred his clients without clothes as he can then give full body strokes. I think I wasn't quite prepared for it so he covered my essentials with a barely-there piece of cloth. I did feel naked, but not uncomfortable - and that's the case if the place if good and your therapist professional.

A friend from Brazil also tried Ayurvedic message in Kutch recently, and he did it completely naked. Actually he didn't give a damn about it and was very happy because the place is very professional and he could completely relax during the message.

So as I said, the choice is completely your own when it comes to wearing something during a massage. I know I could overcome inhibitions of being naked during a naked sauna in Germany and Finland, and next time I wouldn't care at all at a therapeutic massage place as well.

Post-massage relaxation 

When the massage ended I was asked to take a ten minute steam session. The steam opens up the pores and that helps in better absorption of oils. I was by myself in the steam room, so used my experience of nude sauna from Germany and did really well. My therapist then knocked on the door and gave me a herbal concoction to use for my shower, instead of the body wash. It was green in color and a bit coarse, and I used it without all over to get rid of the excess oil on my skin. Even though I wasn’t oily anymore after the shower, my skin was glowing - I think it’s also thanks to that green mix.

My therapist then took me to the relaxing room where I was given a ginger-lemon-honey green tea. I loved the tea and then spent another 30 minutes reading books on Ayurveda from the library there.

The entire session lasted 2.5 hours and a short walk in the forest and I was then ready for my lunch.

Video of Abhyanga massage

Here's a good video on the message therapy. It gives a detailed introduction on the therapy and then there is a demo video as well - it's actually very close to how it's done in real life too. The number of therapists could be one or two based on the place and you budget.



So would I recommend Abhyanga?
Absolute yes. Just make sure you pick a good place for the session.

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. You can try out Ayurvedic treatments across India, though the state most famous for it is Kerala in South India.

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  2. Wow I'd love to try this. I feel oddly more relaxed just reading about the treatment! Over the last year I've been more interested in natural and homeopathic treatments and remedies and really do believe in preventive care. I'll have to do more research on Ayurveda. Thanks for the post!

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  3. I loved this post, especially because you talk about the important things as well :D I loved that part where you described that someone had to help you to put on the underwear. That's one of the great things about travelling: Getting into situations where you don't know how to act exactly :) Also the one point with the erection made me giggle. I'm a nurse and I know too well, that even if you "only" wash someone, they can get an erection. Or when you're on a bumpy busride and you need the loo .... :D Thank you for this great article

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  4. I had never heard of this massage technique before. But you reminded me I wanted to book a massage next week. I don't think they offer Abhyanga but I'll have a look ;)
    You made me smile with this underwear experience. It's good you didn't feel embarrassed and thought too much about it. I once couldn't relax at all because I was embarrassed for something and the massage didn't have the same benefits than usual ;)

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  5. This is the second time I now read about Ayurvedic massages. I have to say this would be way out of my comfort zone. Probably because I wouldn't want to be touched by a stranger, no matter how professional the circumstances. I will probably miss out because the idea of a thorough hollistic massage sounds wonderful but I just couldn't get myself to try it out. Great to read your personal account of your own first massage, very interesting read.

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  6. I have never tried ayurveda yet but in the Philippines, we also have a traditional massage that we call " hilot " that also revitalises your senses, though not in the form of being naked. We use oil, too! I would like to try ayurveda, but as you said, we should look for a place where we're comfortable to get this done and trust someone who'll do it for us! What a relaxing experience you had here! I liked the steam session the best!

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  7. I will gladly use your advice and be sure to visit the salon for Ayurvedic massage.

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  8. I've heard of Ayurvedic massage before, but I usually choose a Swedish massage or something similar that is just a relaxing massage. I'm not sure I'd be keen on just being uncovered during the entire massage. I might not relax during it if that were the case.

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  9. I haven’t heard of Ayurvedic therapy before, though it does sound great for the busy traveler. I’m in the middle of a hectic work itinerary right now and am exhausted – I could really use some rejuvenation of the mind, body and soul!

    It's nice to know that even though it is culturally done without clothes, the therapists are happy to allow covers for travelers who may be a little uncomfortable with that situation. Followed by a steaming session it sounds like a pretty great therapy. I love that the specific treatment is personalized to treat the individual. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Interesting article! Thank you for sharing them! I hope you will continue to have similar posts to share with everyone!

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