Why an Ayurveda massage might not be your thing

Ayurveda massage Sigiriya

“Take off your clothes!” She says for the second time, right in front of me, staring.

Wait … Here!? “Can’t I change in the bathroom?” I motion towards the diagonal corner.

“Take off your clothes,” she insists, and she is certainly not kidding this time.

I skeptically take all my clothes off, while Claire does the same, only two feet away. I reach out for the meek sheet supposed to be covering me, while my masseuse pulls me a chair. She summons me to sit on it.

This must be some new, exotic massage, I think to myself, surely meant to pay off in the end despite the prison like rough start. I usually like my massages in calming environments, complimented by incense burning, dimmed lights and chill music. So far, I wasn’t feeling the cold, hospice looking room where I wasn’t allowed with any shoes or clothes on.

As I seek a more comfortable sitting position on the thick, wooden chair, a heavy trickle of oil starts dripping down my head. She starts massaging the herbal, foul-smelling oil, all throughout my scalp and hair. I’m not sure I like it. I look at Claire, she looks at me. We’re facing each other; neither of us can stop laughing. This is not the relaxing massage we had envisioned.

Once my hair turned into a hot, green mess, bearing a striking resemblance to a coarse old broom, she tells me to go on top of the table. I sigh with relief. Finally I can relax. Or not.

Hard as a plank of wood – for that’s exactly what it was – I was even more uncomfortable than before. We began to fight: me, to keep a sliver of the sheet I had on me, and her by attempting to pour massive amounts of oil, on almost every inch of my body. As we came to an unspoken agreement of mutual compromise, she took out the sand paper, or so it felt. Whatever scrub she added to the mix, it hurt my skin. Or worse, tickled me to death.

As I squirmed with either pain or laughter, on one side and then to the next, I kept wondering if Claire is enjoying hers better. I didn’t have time to look, for she suddenly reached out for the goods. She starts rubbing my breasts so zealously, up and down, left and right, with such a precision, I could hardly feel embarrassed. By now, I was heavily amused. I had made peace with myself that this would not be one of my favorite massages.

After a painful hour of rubbing and scrubbing, we were led to the sauna tables, where supreme relaxation could be upon us. This would all be worth it, I was hoping. As it turned out, the sauna table was nothing more than a coffin like wooden box, with a bed of spiky leaves. I am not a claustrophobic person, so I went along with it. How bad could it be? Ten minutes in, I was overcome with thoughts of dying a slow death, burning with steam, all covered with oil, and barely breathing through the small window for my head. I tried to breathe in and breathe out, close my eyes, focus in the moment, but all that I could do was pound the table to get the hell out of it.

As I slowly came back to life, we undergo the last step of the Ayurveda massage, of relaxing in the steam room. I sat there patiently next to Claire and a not so friendly Chinese, older man, counting the minutes until the end. Once my eyes started tearing, from the heavy smoke, I escaped; only for a few steps though, until my warden (pardon, masseuse) grabbed me by the arm again.

At the end of this intricate treatment, as they call it (I call it ordeal), all I wanted to do is to take a long shower and get all the sticky oils off me. I still had a shred of hope I would suddenly feel incredibly invigorated.

I look everywhere, no showers to be seen. Instead, I have to put on the already dirty, sweaty clothes of that day, worn climbing 1200 steps up to Sigiriya, riding an elephant and exploring few dusty temples.

Coming out the hallway unto the main lobby, we are greeted with herbal tea. It looks awful but I didn’t want to be rude. Claire and I toast our cups with the Russian couple in front of us. By their faces I can tell they were equally enlightened by the experience.

I reluctantly pull out a 500-rupee bill to tip my masseuse.

“Come again?” She asks. I smile politely, but dash out in the pouring monsoon rain.

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  • @mrsoaroundworld

    oh God, oh God!! Not very relaxing at all!!

    • monicasuma

      You think?! Unfortunately, no, it wasn’t.

  • Lazy Travelers

    this. sounds. like hell. ESPECIALLY the coffin. and the breast scrubbing. i. no. nope!

    • monicasuma

      Hum, yes. Wasn’t pretty.

  • Ram

    Gosh. You went to a really bad place for your first Ayurvedic massage. Wrong choice of place. 🙂