I was a bit of a stranger to ayurvedic therapy until last week. I’d heard the word spoken before in the realms of health and wellbeing, but I was never quite sure what it involved. And I certainly hadn’t come across a day spa in London before where massage, facials, acupuncture and all sorts of healing ayurveda therapies were coupled with yoga classes – all under the same roof.
Samsara Mind and Body
Samsara Mind and Body is a serene wellbeing sanctuary on Merton Road in Wandsworth. And I was invited to try out a yoga class followed by an ‘Abhyanga’ or Ayurvedic full body massage.
I’ll come back to the principles of Ayurveda later in this post, but first, let me tell you about my yoga experience.
You can practice both yoga and pilates at Samsara. Their yoga timetable is particularly impressive with 12 different yoga styles available. It ranges from Himalaysan Hatha and Kundalini to rocket yoga, pregnancy and candlelit yoga. You can either enjoy a drop-in class or attend special yoga ‘workshops’ which I believe are generally longer in duration and delve much deeper into the techniques and processes involved in yoga. They really do have something for all.
I opted for the Vinyasa Flow class – a meditative style of yoga which gets the heart beating without being overly intense. As I was recovering from a long-lingering cold, this seemed perfect.
On arrival into the class, the teacher, Dirish, scanned the room for individual health concerns and switched on some calming music.
I loved the studio – it was modern and simple with a beautiful mural of the hindu deity Ganesh on the wall, which became incredibly mesmerising throughout the class. The various buddhist statues and ornaments dotted throughout the sanctuary also made for a beautifully calm setting.
The class started by bringing the consciousness towards the breathing which first up, established a relaxed and meditative approach. Far too often, you pay little attention to your breath, but slowing it down and focusing on how the body feels immediately brings the body into a more relaxed state.
The class then followed a series of flowing movements. The ‘down dog’ position where you have your hands and feet on the floor and form a downward ‘v’ shape with your body seemed to be the dominant posture of the class. This was interspersed with a steady flow of ‘cobra’, ‘sphinx’, and ‘warrior’ poses as well as lunges, triangle-like poses and body twists. It felt like my muscle groups were being well and truly stretched.
The beauty of the vinyasa flow class is the effort-levels increase quite gradually without you realising. But like many yoga classes, there were two poses that divided the novices from the pros.
1. The headstand pose
2. The bridge pose
Beginners shouldn’t be put off here. The wonderful thing about yoga is that even the most daunting of poses can be broken down into simpler stages. So while the true yogis balanced upside down with astonishing ease, the rest of us (with Dirish’s help) practiced a simpler headstand pose which used the wall as support. It was a great way to see how with practice, the more difficult poses are possible. It’s all about building the muscle strength gradually. And away you go.
The exciting part was when I managed a successful bridge pose almost like a pro. But again, there were other forms of this pose you could try if you couldn’t quite make it into this crab-like position. Go at your own pace, that’s what it’s all about.
Feeling like my muscles had been well and truly lengthened, it was time for the ayurvedic massage. I was half way there to being the zen-like buddha I was aiming for when I stepped into this serene, candle-lit therapy room. It was here I began to learn about the principles of ayurvedic therapy.
What is Ayurveda therapy?
Ayurveda therapy is an ancient approach to health which like many holistic therapies, focuses on preventative measures of disease and ailments rather than remedial measures.
Aneta, my therapist, began by giving me a health questionnaire to fill out, and then carried out an impressively thorough assessment of my physical and emotional health. This involved areas such as my sleep, stress levels, diet, and general well-being. She also checked my pulse and the toxin levels on my tongue before explaining how the ‘Abhyanga’, or full body massage would work.
The concept of ayurveda is based on space, air, fire, earth and water. And they believe that our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is determined by our ‘Dosha’ or bio-energies which are identified as Vata, Pita and Kapha. You can read more about this here.
Aneta was trained by the ayurveda guru Dr Deepa Apté and explained how the massage would be deeply detoxifying. It would push out stresses, stimulate the immune system and boost the nervous system. It all sounded heavenly to me.
The massage was exactly that. Unlike deep tissue massages where your muscles are kneaded and pressed, ayurveda is much lighter. As Aneta poured warm oils into her hands, she carried out lots of sweeping motions over various parts of the body. I did, at times, feel like the knots in my neck and shoulders needed prodding and squeezing. But, it felt like a more restorative, more healing form of massage. The fact it was so subtle perhaps didn’t allow me to completely drift off at times. But with a warm and calm setting and soothing sounds of ‘Le musique Indienne pour the bien etre’ surrounding me, the thoughts of errands and work hopping about in my mind slowly dissipated.
After the shower, I showered to wash away the toxins which are brought to the surface of the skin and I enjoyed a cup of herbal tea in Samsara’s lovely light and airy cafe.
Aneta told me how she felt a heightened resonance in my body which, I believe is a product of tension and imbalance of energy. She explained how a full Ayurvedic consultation would enable me to look at all aspects of my lifestyle using the Ayurvedic principles.
She could then put together a tailor-made plan based around nutrition and lifestyle changes to enhance my wellbeing. It’s a service that anyone can take advantage of at Samsara. In a society where we so often treat our ailments with this pill or that treatment, it’s a refreshing way of looking at our health.
I’m becoming a true advocate for yoga and the meditative and physical benefits it offers. Couple this with a holistic therapy like ayurveda and I honestly believe that you have a brilliant thing.
As the first place in London to offer both of these principles, it’s an incredibly inspiring place to go.
I felt light, free and much more grounded than when I walked through the door that afternoon. I think I’ve found a true sanctuary.
Until next time x
Samsara Body and Mind, 205 Merton Road, Wandsworth, SW18 5EE
Oh So London was a guest of Samsara Body and Mind. Special thanks to Aneta for giving up her time and offering a wonderful and professional insight into her work.
Have you been to Samsara Body and Mind, or have you tried ayurveda before? Leave a comment and share your experience.