Hidden in the midst of a busy and bustling Kathmandu is Avata, a quiet city haven that exudes tranquillity. It is a welcoming space with its silence and greenery and I often find myself at its cafe, ‘Nourish’ for a refreshing drink or a delicious bowl of pasta.
I first discovered Avata a year back when I was searching for yoga classes around me. I was pleasantly delighted to chance upon a space that offers traditional wellness as well as more modern interpretations of wellness.
While I am relatively new to the concept of wellness, I am aware that traditional Nepali wellness is rooted in Ayurveda, which is based on the science of self healing through balance. Derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge), it roughly translates to knowledge of life or science of life. Ayurveda believes in using the body’s self healing power to avoid sickness through the preservation of health.
Since Ayurvedic therapy is about bringing balance to the mind, body and spirit, it differs from other massages as it focuses more on energy points rather than muscular anatomy. In contrast, Thai massages are more about compression with pulling and stretching of muscles directly and Swedish massages focus more on core anatomy and physiology rather than body energy lines.
The more stress I put my body through, the heavier it feels. Most of us tend to underestimate the stress our body goes through. Without a release, the wear and stress that our body and mind go through everyday can be detrimental to our overall health and wellbeing.
Keeping this in mind, I was more than keen to book a session at the Avata spa. After a long and stressful week at the desk, I was looking forward to trying the Relaxing Ayurvedic massage here. While they do offer a range of massages such as Swedish and Thai massage, I prefer my massages to be more relaxing, as most beginners do.
I was told to remove my clothes and lie on the massage bed. The soft music filling the space was calming and the space was free of any other disturbance. A rare luxury when situated at a central part of Kathmandu. With the hustle and bustle of the city, spas often overlook the Kathmandu noise, despite silence being a crucial aspect of massage.
Once ready, my masseur asked me about the room temperature, my main pain points, and what kind of pressure I preferred.
Traditionally massages start with the feet and end with the head. The reflexology of the feet is complex and as she started to press my toes and heels, I felt the stress releasing from other parts of my body. Walking, wearing uncomfortable shoes, the weight that it holds, our feet serve us well. It is only fair that we care for our feet like it does for us.
As the session progressed, I could tell that my lower back was where most of the tension had accumulated. It almost felt like gateways of energy were being unblocked body part by body part. Our sedentary lives and bad posture do little for our physical and mental wellbeing.
My masseur focused on the main chakras of the body and as they opened one by one, I felt my body become connected again. Sometimes there is so little passage of energy that I feel as though my body parts are isolated. This massage felt like everything was reconnecting with one another.
The concept of Ayurveda is always to go back to the roots of nature. Just like how nature is connected through energy and water, our bodies are connected through blood circulation and air. The stress we put ourselves through everyday affects our breathing, and hence our energy flow. If we do not spend time realigning it, our body cannot work at its optimum.
As my masseur reached my shoulders and neck I was already in a deep ease, my breathing was slower, I was completely relaxed. As she massaged my ears and my temples, I felt all the stress melt away completely. It almost felt like I was elastic. It felt almost surreal as to how just an hour can release so much built up stress.
After my session was over, my masseur advised me to let the oils rest on my body for a few hours before I showered to complete the detoxification process. I felt like my breathing was much easier and lighter. My face was glowing.
Why do I invest in massages? It gives me a chance to reset. I can feel my body letting go of all the stress it has endured. Everyone needs a release. We all need nurturing. If you are feeling low, or just need a relaxer, a massage is a perfect way to start afresh. It is important to keep our energies balanced and align as we make choices. And it is important to have a clear head.
While meditation and yoga require deep concentration or physical discipline, a massage is something that you directly jump into.
As we get older and our bodies become more fragile, we need to treat it more gently and honour it. Through silence, through alignment.
I personally see physical therapy as a gift to your body. The amount that we neglect our body over our other needs is alarming, and once the needs of our body are not met, we feel pain, we get sick and meet with serious illnesses. The subtle pain in our necks, our shoulders, our feet are symptoms of a bigger issue. To neglect it constantly will carry serious repercussions in the future.
Massages for me are like a safety instalment to my wellbeing. Just like how we try to seek out the best medical care, one should also not hesitate in self-care. It is a treat for oneself, especially in circumstances where you need an escape but don’t have the time or resources to travel very far, a massage is a perfect hour long getaway.
That being said, it is important that we can feel safe in places where we get our massages done. Disturbances and uneasiness invite stress that will be counterproductive. Places like Avata are a safe haven that have allowed me to take better care of myself.
While my session was just an hour out of my day, at the end of it, I felt as though I had hit the reset button on myself. My body was lighter, and my mind clearer. My time at Avata was rejuvenating and I am certain that I’ll be back again in no time.
For those of you who want to give Avata a whirl, I’d also recommend that you try the Shirodhara massage. It is an ancient treatment where a stream of warm oil is gently poured over the forehead and the spine to calm the central nervous system, and integrate the mind and body. Its Sanskrit roots translate to “shiro” (head) and “dhara” (flow).