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AYURVEDA: TAKING SPAS INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
by Melanie and Robert Sachs
& Robert run Diamond Way Ayurveda, providing trainings, educational
materials, and products
to support the growth
of Ayurveda in North America.
As in ancient times, spas of today exist to provide their clientele with services that fulfill three of their basic needs at three levels of being; relaxation, revitalization, and rejuvenation for body, mind, and spirit. Such desired results have historically been more easily achieved in destination spas where clients can detach themselves from their wordly concerns and leave their cell phones at home.
However, the proliferation of day spas in our towns and cities lets us know several things about the demands for such services. For some, getting away is not thought to be a possible option, in which case the day spa is there to provide a more incremental approach in achieving the goals outlined above. And for those who can manage to get away periodically, the day spa enhances or sometimes rekindles a connection with what they experienced at their destination spa, creating more sustained benefits. With destination spas, month, week, or weekend packages must be based on the client's needs, both in terms of the client's particular health profile as well as time constraints. Time is especially a crucial factor for the day spa.
Regardless, however, the issue for the spa management and team is `How does one create maximum, desirable benefits for a client in the time allotted?' From this perspective, it is only logical that treatments and treatment approaches need to be carefully customized. And, this is where Ayurveda, both as a systematic approach and series of services serves the spa industry as an unsurpassable model for ensuring total client benefit and satisfaction.
AYURVEDA is the Science of Longevity from the East that has a legendary origin. It teaches that all the information needed to heal and restore our body, mind, and spirit exists always and everywhere. It is just a matter of tuning in to our true nature for us to become enlightened to what is helpful to ourselves and others. This is what the rishis and masters of ancient India encountered in their spiritual quests some 5000 years ago. What was passed on was an oral, then written body of knowledge that even by today's standards is impressive in terms of quality and depth of understanding of the world of which we are intimately a part.
AYURVEDA teaches that there are three operational dimensions, known as Doshas or humors, that exist in all things. All things have energy, their own inherent vibrancy, and mass. Classically, these are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Some of you who are familiar with the Chinese energetic principles will know them as Chi, Yang, and Yin. These three doshas express themselves in the body in the form of body structure, tissues, fluids, transformative bodily processes, and movements, both internal and external (i.e. how we get from A to B), the full range of emotional experiences and our perceptual capabilities at the level of mind, and the inclinations that lead us to set our lives in a given course to bring to fruition spiritual atunement.
Depending on a host of factors, these three doshas combine in such a way as to make one or two of them more dominant in a person's constitutional make-up and character. What follows is a brief and cursory description of the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha types. Please understand that more than likely, each of us will be able to identify with one or two regarding various traits, with the third category being less significant in our make-up.
A Vata-dosha dominant person has a quick, bright, creative mind which, if imbalanced, becomes flightly, perhaps spaced out, or obsessional.
Such a person may go through periods of worry and indecision more than other types. Physically, Vata-type people are skin to the ectomorph in Western physiology. They can be tall and skinny. Or, they can be very short. Even if they are of a normal stature, they will have anomalous features; perhaps hands, feet, jaws, torso, or eyes that seem disproportionate to the rest of their body. They thrive in warm, moist, peaceful environments and do worse in environments that are cold, dry, and chaotic. They can be most disturbed by the wind. Their hair is usually dark, perhaps brittle, but of a usual thickness and they can have the greatest problems of all the constitutions with dryness of the skin. Typical health symptoms they exhibit are bloating, gas, constipation, pains that move from one part of the body to another, and a tendency towards difficulties and pains in their joints. They have the greatest tendency of all the constitutions to experience mental imbalances. They can be energy junkies who want, but are disturbed by having constant change and stimulating events. Their energy level is variable. They can go along fine, wake up the next day feeling like they can't even get out of bed, then fine again the next day as if for no apparent reason.
When balanced, the Vata-type constitution person is brilliant, compassionate, and inspiring to be around.
Pitta-type constitution is the proverbial `type A' nature. Such a person is a critical thinker and decisive. They want to know what is going on, but can go to an excess in being "control freaks." These are the athletic types, most associated with the mesomorph of Western physiology. Well-proportioned, they often have fair skin, light-colored eyes and hair that is blond, red, prematurely grey or white, or thinning. They freckle in the sun and may have a noticeable sensitivity to bright light. They do better in temperate, cooler climates as they are hot blooded.
They do worse in very hot humid weather, but often love to sweat in the intensity of the heat. These are people who usually tend to push things to an extreme - "to the max..." They want to do things when they want to do them, thus can be pushy and rebellious to a beneficial routine. They often like foods that are the worst for them, like chili, coffee, alcohol, meat, and spicy things. The Pitta-type can withstand a great deal of physical stress, but if they crack, the physical damage may be extensive as a result of not paying attention to or denying early warning signs. Such signs can be migraines, a tendency towards diarrhea, reproductive tract problems, and various inflammation-type conditions.
When balanced, the Pitta-type is joyful, dynamic, and magnetizing to those around them.
The Kapha-type person is slow, methodical, and thorough. If imbalanced, they can become laxadaisical and inert. If pushed too far (which takes a lot as they are very tolerant people), because their mind energy is strong, they can be the type that is very resentful and holds deep grudges. Physically, they are associated with the endomorphs; rounded, stocky types with dense bones, thick tissues, large eyes, and way of moving that gives you the impression that all their joints are well lubricated.
They almost glide through space. Thus of all the constitutions they can endure the most physically and by and large, feel no sense of physical threat from those around them. At the same time, they have a tendency towards laziness which means they will get less stimulation or physical activity than they really need. They may have a sweet tooth, and certainly have a tendency to put on weight more easily than other constitutions. They can just look at food and put on weight. Such people can have problems that are result of over-burdening their stomach and thus blocking their lymphatic systems. Excess mucous and catarrh and classic Kapha symptoms. These people do well in environments that stimulate them to move.
When balanced, the Kapha-type person is generous, kind, tolerant, and gives you a sense that they are able to protect themselves and others. If a spa technician can approximately determine through looking and listening to the conditions and circumstances of what a client's constitution is, given the time and modalities available to them, they will be able to tailor a spa program that provides the client maximum benefits.
At this point, it is useful to provide some examples. In giving a massage to a Vata dominant client, one needs to create a warm, nurturing environment. Music should be soft and gentle, like much of the asynchronous New Age music. The massage technique should be gentle with long, consistent strokes. Oil should be warm and plentiful. If a client is more Pitta in nature, the room should be slightly cool, decorated with green earth tones. The music should be smooth and flowing, perhaps in a classical vein. The massage technique should be precise, purposeful, but aimed at creating a sense of spaciousness. Oil should be light and slightly cooling in nature.
A Kapha client needs to be energized. The room should be warm, but bright and cheerful, perhaps with yellows, white, and shades of red. The music could be a light jazz. Kaphas benefit from salt-glows. A therapist could start with this, then follow with a warm, penetrating oil massage, with lots of kneading and percussion.
Such an individual approach to massage also applies to other treatment modalities; hydrotherapies, scrubs, facials, wraps, exercise and diets recommended. If a spa also does such detoxification treatments such as colonics, knowing who is appropriate for such a modality and how to maximize the effects based on Ayurvedic principles will ensure better results.
In subsequent articles, Melanie and I shall discuss the specific Ayurvedic treatments that are catching the imagination of the spa industry. But, as a massage therapist and Ayurvedic health care educator, I see that the first step any spa facility can make is to understand the Ayurvedic body-mind types, adapt current services offered to cients based on these typologies, and observe the tangible benefits of this life-enhancing science. Such an approach is cost effective for the spa in that it initially does not involve getting staff trained in brand new modalities. Furthermore, therapists and technicians will learn to take their current skills to new levels and, as a result, have first-hand knowledge of the Ayurvedic approach. This makes for a solid foundation for further training in the exotic and profound, but deceptively simple techniques of classic Ayurveda.
Indeed, Ayurveda offers a win-win proposition to the spa industry; quality, cost-effective treatments, individualized to provide optimal, memorable results for a more satisfied and appreciative clientele. For as one learns to touch and communicate with people in a manor that honors their uniqueness, a whole new dimension to the spa-client relationship opens up. The spa-experience then becomes a context where our true nature can blossom and unfold. Inevitably, this is what each one of us seeks. Providing, relaxation, revitalization, and rejuvenation to body, mind, and spirit supported with the science of Ayurveda, a spa fulfills its noblest of functions for those it serves. Melanie Sachs
A certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor, Melanie Sach's skill as a healer and teacher have made her sought after by some of the world's leading spas and schools of beauty. Her recently published book, Ayurvedic Beauty Care, published by Lotus Light Publications, is already considered a must for those interested in the expanding field of natural and conscious beauty and body care. In this comprehensive text on traditional and innovative Ayurvedic techniques for beauty care, Melanie's approach is to see outward appearance simply as the reflection of the inner workings of body, mind, and spirit. Her book provides specific techniques for daily body and skin care and is replete with guidelines for diet, exercise, and meditation to promote and enhance each person's natural, innate beauty.
Melanie Sachs' work as a healing professional spans nineteen years.
Trained initially as an occupational therapist in Great Britain, she came to America to study alternative approaches to healing under the guidance of master of Macrobiotics, Michio Kushi. She worked as a macrobiotic counselor and cooking teacher both independently and through holistic medical centers before becoming interested in Ayurveda. In 1986, Melanie met Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Vasant Lad, and began her studies in Ayurveda. Ayurveda, the science of longevity, offers everyone the means to discover health, strength, and beauty of body and clarity, peace, and joy of mind. Although originating in antiquity, the practical techniques of Ayurveda are easily understood and applied in our busy modern lives, helping us to achieve our fullest potential and make the very best of life. Melanie is dedicated to bringing the timeless wisdom of Ayurveda to the West.
Graduating from the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1988, she continued her studies with Dr. Lad as well as with Drs. Sunil and Shamali Joshi, and Dr. Lobsang Rapgay, all leading experts in the field of body-mind rejuvenation. Through her studies and adoption of Ayurvedic lifestyle, Melanie was able to survive the grief of the loss of her third child and ensuing poor health.
Because of this she has especially focused her attention on the needs of women in these times when traditional female roles are expanding. Although certainly exciting, such changes in women's roles and activity create additional stresses and demands, for which Ayurveda offers nurturing, supportive solutions.Melanie is recognized internationally as the autority for the application of Ayurveda to the beauty world. Her articles have been featured in a number of nationally syndicated magazines, including Skin, Inc. and Natural Health.In the past three years she has been a featured presenter at the International Esthetics Cosmetics and Spa Conference in Las Vegas and the Face and Body show in San Jose. Besides running her own Ayurvedic Beauty Care Training Seminars, Melanie is a consultant with The Chopra Center for Well Beingin La Jolla, California, the Greenhouse in Dallas, Texas, and is the chief instructor in Ayurveda for the International Dermal Institute. Melanie presently lives in San Luis Obispo, California with her husband, Robert, and their three children, Kai Ling, Christina, and Jabeth. She and Robert run Diamond Way Ayurveda.
In his dedication to seeing people receive information that is both relevant and useful to their daily living, the work of Robert Sachs covers every facet of the human experience.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Robert moved to England during his late teenage years to live and study. It was there that he received his B.A. in comparative religion and sociology at the University of Lancaster, began to study with Tibetan Buddhist masters, and embarked on a study of Asian healing systems, including Macrobiotics with Michio Kushi and Rex Lassalle at the Kushi Institute in London, and hatha yoga.
Before returning to America in 1976, Robert completed training as a mental health counselor with the Richmond Fellowship and became certified as a hatha yoga instructor with the All India Board and Inner London Education Authority. In 1978, he returned to London to complete shiatsu training with Rex Lassalle and was instrumental in starting the Community Health Foundations "Growing Family Center." As an adult student, Robert went on to receive a massage license from Central Ohio School of Massage and a Masters in Social Work at the University of Kentucky. Because of certain life events, Robert's social work and spiritual practice has lead him into the study the conscious dying practices as found in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. His teachers in this area of interest have been Venerable Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and Lama Ole Nydahl.
He is a member of Sogyal Rinpoche's Spiritual Dying Network. Along with his wife, Melanie, Robert has also pursued studies in Indian and Tibetan Ayurveda for the last several years. Their published works in this field are considered to be the clearest and most usable texts available for westerners.
Through that time and for the last nineteen years, Robert has worked with physicians, clinics, hospitals, and private individuals and organizations teaching stress management and preventive health care. He is sought after as a lecturer at holistic health care conferences nationally and hosts his own talk radio show in San Luis Obispo, California focusing on a unique system of Astrology called 9-Star Ki and alternative health care. He is the Author of The Complete Guide To Nine Star Ki (Element Press, 1992), Health for Life:
Secrets of Tibetan Ayurveda (Clear Light Press, 1995) and Rebirth Into Pure Land (Zivah Publishers, 1994), a personal account of the dying process according to Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Currently. The Complete Guide To Nine-Star Ki is in Spanish and soon in German. Health for Life will soon be available in Slovakian, Bulgarian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. A polish version of Rebirth Into Pure Land is currently under way.
Robert travels internationally, teaching shiatsu, Nine-Star Ki astrology, and preventive health care aspects of Tibetan medicine. He is a Licensed
Independent Social Worker (LISW), a member of the American Massage Therapy Association and has served as a massage examiner for the state board of massage in New Mexico.
Robert lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his wife, Melanie, and their three children, Kai Ling, Harriet Christina, and Jabeth David-Francis.