Aveda Herbal Spa in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, uses traditional Indian Ayurvedic herbs for its massages
Aveda Spa in Ho Chi Minh City's District 2 is unusual in that customers do not choose the oils for their massage. An expert asks a list of questions to find out which oils are appropriate based on the balance of three primary life forces in a person, namely vatha, pitha and kapha.
It is an Ayurvedic spa, Ayurveda or "science of life" - being the 5,000-year-old Indian system of medicine and wellness.
Wikipedia describes the origin of the system thus: "One view"¦ asserts that around 1,500 BCE, Ayurveda's fundamental and applied principles got organized and enunciated. In this historical construction, Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas (the four most ancient books of Indian knowledge, wisdom and culture), especially Atharvaveda, which may possibly date as far back as the 2nd millennium BCE.
"Atharvaveda contains 114 hymns or formulations for the treatment of diseases. Ayurveda originated in and developed from these hymns."
Urvashi Naithani, an Indian who studied Ayurveda at university, checked my pulse for a few seconds.
"You should avoid hot and spicy food and hot weather," she told me. "Pay more attention to water (drinking, swimming, and bathing). Try cool foods such as cucumber which make you feel good."
To my astonishment, she said I am an intense, hot-tempered person. Guilty as charged, I told myself.
She then began asking me questions to choose the oils. It was interesting and a little playful.
Urvashi Naithani, an Indian who studied Ayurveda at university, advises customers on what massages to choose by checking their pulse and asking for other information.
"Do you live with your family? How is your sleep? What kind of dreams do you have, romantic?"
It started with a scalp massage. The oil had a magical fragrance and was warm, and a Vietnamese therapist used a piece of cotton to massage it deeply into my scalp.
The next day I returned for two more massages called Abhyanga and Shirodhara.
This time I went upstairs. The spa was typically Indian, mysterious and with vibrant colors. There were candles and a Buddha carved in wood on the wall. Orange-colored towers on the bed induced a warm feeling.
According to Naithani, Abhyanga is a synchronized body massage by two masseurs in which herbal oils are massaged in a specific manner.
I was asked to change positions seven times so that every part of my body was taken care of. Before the massage, the Indian expert murmured a prayer (she explained that she prays for the person getting the treatment).
She constantly asked me if I felt cold and adjusted the air-conditioner and fan to keep me comfortable.
Unlike in a Vietnamese massage, the Indian massage did not involve pressing pressure points but just a lot of movement all over.
Naithani said these movements activate the marma points (vital energy points) and boost the body's defense mechanism, immunity, and blood circulation.
AVEDA HERBAL SPA
35 A street 41, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (08) 3 519 4679
A warm herbal bag and hot stone were used to massage and stimulate the marma points. I could feel the warmth of the herbal bag moving on my back and the slightly hotter and harder rock.
Then came the Shirodhara massage. I lay under a big bowl of warm herbal oil hanging from the roof, with a therapist holding it to make sure the oil fell on my forehead evenly. The forehead is the spot where the "third eye" is supposed to exist. Naithani kept warming the oil and changing it to ensure it was optimal.
I felt something similar to a warm rain falling on my scalp and forehead. The comfort, warmth, and soulful Indian music together with the gentle pattering of the Indian therapist's footsteps as she changed the oil caused me to fall asleep almost immediately.
Naithani claimed this massage was effective in curing insomnia, nervous disorders, hair fall and graying, migraine, and lack of concentration.
I woke up completely relaxed and, in fact, almost in a trance-like state. "Rejuvenation" and a cleansing of toxins is what practitioners of Ayurveda offer. No wonder many tourists go all the way to India just for this.