Ayurvedic Massage for Our Wellness and Beauty Routines: A Q&A with Kari Thies
It's easy to dismiss massage as an indulgence; something we relegate to holidays or special occasions. But for decades research has shown it's more than a luxury. Massage has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms, ease anxiety, headaches, and digestive disorders, and help with insomnia. Looking further back—thousands of years—Ayurveda has incorporated massage into its science. It's a pillar of UMA; a way to maintain wellness, keep skin glowing and youthful, and increase overall vitality.
Considering the hectic, frenetic world we live in, massage also offers us a moment of pure peace. Our western way of living can be incredibly taxing on our physical being, says massage therapist Kari Thies. "People tend to overexert themselves with demanding work schedules leaving little to no time for self-care."
Thies, who has worked in the massage industry for the past twenty years and has received Ayurvedic bodywork training at Kripalu in Massachusetts, sees this need for self-nurture in her practice. As a massage therapist at Sage Center for Yoga and Healing Arts in Kansas City, she works with clients to help alleviate their stress and reconnect with their bodies and environment. It's a practice of trust, acceptance and release. "Allowing a therapist to care for the body in this way forces the client to surrender the otherwise independent self they have become," says Thies.
This is one of the many benefits of the Ayurvedic Head, Hand and Foot Treatment Thies performs at Sage. As its name suggests, the treatment is a rhythmic massage of the head, hands, and feet. Thies incorporates Ayurvedic oils and facial masks. It works the Vata, the dosha that governs motion and flow in our bodies, as well as the nervous system. The treatment promotes healthy lymphatic circulation, which works to fight infection, remove impurities from the body, and filters blood and lymph.
Whether you're looking for a way to unwind or a method for improving circulation and health, Thies make a compelling case that the essence of massage is a way to honor the intrinsic link between our selves and our world—a pillar of Ayurveda. And massage doesn't always have to take place at the spa. It can be easily incorporated into a daily routine at home—by ourselves. Taking a moment to touch and massage the face, hands, shoulders (and more) using a natural wellness oil is both a grounding and empowering experience.
"Sometimes, the hardest thing we struggle with as humans is the courage to find self-worth and honor what that worth requires," says Thies. "It's not enough to just look in the mirror in the morning and say, 'I’m good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it… people like me!' We as individuals need to connect with our natural universe, the earth, to be whole as an individual universe, our body.
A Q&A with Kari Thies
Q: What are the benefits of the Ayurvedic Head, Hand, and Foot treatment?
A: The benefits are quite spectacular. They can vary depending on the individual. It was developed to address the Vata in our system by focusing on the nervous and lymphatic systems bringing the body back to a pure state of calm, centering the mind and improving circulation. I have also been told by clients how nurturing it is.
It can be overwhelming for a person to give this gift of being nurtured. I always tell my clients to only schedule this treatment if they have time to meditate or relax after. It is not advised for someone going right back in to the hustle and bustle of life. The treatment is a wonderful way to reconnect and check in with the self.
Q: Would you walk us through the treatment?
A: Upon entering the treatment room, I explain the benefits and steps. I tell the client about Vata and how it rules our nervous and lymphatic systems and that the treatment works to bring balance and a sense of calmness to the body. Since we are working the nervous system, attention to the spinal column and sacrum are initiated first.
We start by taking three deep cleansing breaths together. As the client relaxes I begin to work the spine and sacrum using tridoshic oil to warm and stimulate the nervous system. A series of vigorous and slow strokes are used throughout the service in combination with warming elements (heated table, pads, and towels) to awaken and soothe the body. I then use tridoshic hair elixir on the scalp in a combination of fast/slow movements.
The service continues with focus on two types of clay facial masks, which are applied with brushes and allowed to dry as attention is given to neck/shoulders massage and hand and feet work. Focus on the hands and feet involve the series of vigorous and slow movements followed by wrapping heated towels on the extremities.
To finish off the service, I give the client a facial massage. Marma points are held to deepen relaxation and a light spritz of rosewater is sprayed to gently bring awareness back to the client’s surroundings.
Q: How does Ayurveda—and your massage treatment—help with stress?
A: Ayurveda operates on the use of holistic and natural medicine. The basis of this science uses the laws of nature. If we are to believe in the meaning of Ayurveda and have an understanding of the state our universe is in, how can we not feel stress? Add to this the stress of our daily lives: work, family, politics, community involvement... the list goes on.
So, stress is unavoidable. I have the great privilege in my line of work to facilitate an act of self-worth discovery in others. I use natural products from our environment and utilize them in a nurturing way to destress clients, mind, and body. What an honor that is. The Head, Hand and Foot therapy is not something clients come in to receive on a weekly basis. Although wouldn’t that be heaven? Typically, I recommend the treatment at the change of seasons or after completion of a big project. Other stress relieving Ayurvedic treatments we offer at Sage include Abhyanga, Shirodhara, and Ayurvedic yoga classes. These classes are individually designed to fit different needs from relaxation to yin/yang balancing and beyond.
Q: What Ayurvedic practices can people implement at home to de-stress and care for their health?
A: Home self-care is always important. There are many things people can do on their own by practicing Ayurvedic medicine to destress. A tridoshic oil (or wellness oil) is a must to keep on hand. Self-massage, garshana, and meditation are all a part of a healthy, balanced life. To learn more practices and home remedies for self care, I recommend checking out Dr. Sarah Kucera’s book: The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook; Holistic Healing Rituals for Every Day and Season.
And to reap the benefits of massage at home, consider UMA Wellness Oils.