The Wellness Benefits of Ayurveda


Spas are unlocking the power of Ayurveda to treat clients’ minds, bodies and spirits.


ayurveda-spa-serviceCopyright Getty Images


Originating in India more than 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda is a system of health and healing focusing on mind-body balance and illness prevention using a variety of natural guidelines, remedies, recipes and practices. Pronounced aye-your-VAY-duh, the word itself originates from the Sanskrit ayur, meaning “life,” and veda, meaning “knowledge.” The practice spread from India to China, where it’s believed to have greatly influenced Traditional Chinese Medicine and culture. Even the Buddha, born around 550 B.C., is said to have been a follower of Ayurveda thanks to its focus on well-being.

“Ayurveda is an incredible, robust system of health with simple, natural tools for daily self-care,” explains Shivani Gupta, PhD, founder of the Modern Ayurveda Lifestyle Program and Ayurvedic supplement manufacturer Fusionary Formulas. “The practice is an investment for long-term wellness, providing daily detoxification and antiaging benefits for an optimal life full of peace.”

Ayurveda is now embraced worldwide, with growing popularity in spas as clients continue looking for natural avenues to improve their health and happiness. Read on to learn about how incorporating Ayurvedic services may be the right move for your business.


Understanding Doshas and Chakras

Ayurveda considers the elements of life (earth, water, fire, air and ether/space) and breaks them down into qualities, referred to as “doshas,” that express an individual’s physical, emotional and mental characteristics. “We all have these elements within us, but to varying degrees, which gives us our specific constitution, or dosha,” says Megan Darwin, clinical Ayurvedic specialist at Spa Sophia in Venice, California.

There are three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Those characterized as Vata (air and ether) typically have dry skin, poor circulation and a lean body type. Pitta (fire and water) is commonly described as prone to acne and inflammation, with an average body type. And Kapha (earth and water) is the constitution believed to exhibit oily, soft skin and hair, with a slow-moving metabolism.

Chakras—or energy systems—are also Ayurvedic aspects of wellness services. There are seven chakras: crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral and root; they run from the top of the head to the tailbone, and each corresponds to targeted regions of physical, emotional or spiritual well-being. Ayurveda enthusiasts believe that blocked chakras can lead to illness, so people must work to keep the energy flowing; this makes chakras the perfect target for enhancing the efficacy of spa services. Although the clearing of chakras is incorporated into many offerings, it’s not necessarily the focus of every Ayurveda practice.

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Ancient Wellness Practices

Because Ayurveda emphasizes self-care, it’s very much at home in the spa and wellness setting. Implementing the ancient rituals, trusted herbs and spices, and special oils—staple ingredients used throughout the practice—can promote detoxification, antiaging benefits and stress relief. “Ayurveda has various therapies appropriate for the spa, including Abhyanga, Nasya, Shirodhara and Ayurvedic facials,” explains Trudy Collings, cofounder of Ayurvedic skincare and beauty manufacturer PAAVANI Ayurveda.

Abhyanga is a specialized lymphatic massage performed by two therapists who work on each side of the body in unison. “This technique restores balance to the doshas, increases circulation, improves skin tone, increases stamina, calms the nerves and cultivates self-love. It’s a unique style that allows clients to completely relax and let go,” says Collings.

Nasya is the application of warm, medicated oil to nasal passages in an effort to open sinuses and promote mental clarity, among other cleansing benefits. Facial and neck massage are usually incorporated into Nasya treatments, along with hot towels to dilate the sinus cavities.

Meanwhile, Shirodhara involves pouring herbal oil over the third eye, followed by a head, neck and shoulder massage to release tension. “The steady, nourishing stream of oil induces a deeply calming state to help relieve insomnia, headaches, tension, anxiety, irritability and more,” notes Collings.

Ayurvedic facial protocols aim to cleanse, tone and moisturize the skin, and typically include a face, neck, shoulder and hand massage for extra relaxation and stress release. “A classic Ayurvedic facial focuses on exfoliation, therapeutic marma point massage, and the use of herbal wisdom to purify and nourish the complexion. These organic herbs and clays deliver oxygen, balance and vitality deep into the skin’s layers,” details Collings.

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At Spa Sophia, Darwin recommends annual detox treatments to her clients, and she points out that Swedana, a popular herbal steam therapy, fits the bill nicely as it’s believed to detoxify, de-stress, increase circulation and moisturize skin. “Swedana can be used to enhance massage services, as it opens the channels of the body and supports the immune system,” says Darwin.

Offerings that embrace these remedies, as well as Ayurvedic product lines and supplements, can differentiate your spa, attract new clientele and boost revenue. “Creating a service menu customizable to each dosha is one way to stand out and deliver an unforgettable time for clients,” says Gupta. She suggests offering a simple dosha quiz to guests during their initial visit. The results can help guide therapists to choosing the most effective treatment options, ingredients and home care that fit spa-goers’ individual needs.

“Ayurvedic therapies open the door to healing for clients who want to move beyond pampering,” adds Darwin. She recommends investing in quality oils and equipment, and training with a certified Ayurveda practitioner. “Grasping the ‘why’ behind these ancient traditions is crucial to success,” she says. “When you understand the nature of the individual, the nature of the problem and the nature of the remedy, then you can restore balance and wellness to that client.”

—by Alisha Racker

This story first appeared in the July issue of DAYSPA Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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