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Indigenous Healing From the Himalayas

By: Carina Chatlani
Posted: January 28, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
shirodhara at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Spa therapies such as ayurveda and shirodhara, performed here at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, have their origins rooted in the mountainous Himalayan region.

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Donald Cha, a Himalayan spa specialist, created the Ayurvedic Detoxifying & Remineralizing Mud Wrap using a harmonious blend of juniper seeds crushed together with eucalyptus bark to form a stimulating herbal scrub. Fresh, pollution-free and mineral-rich mud from the deep forest of Nepal in the Himalayas is mixed with lavandin essential oil and spread over the body, which is then cocooned in a thermal wrap.

Also of note is Robert Buckley, founder of Himalayan Healers, a healing arts school and collection of area spa boutiques working to preserve the rich history of healing and energy work in the Himalayas, specifically for the benefit of sponsored students from the “Untouchable” castes of Nepal. Buckley teaches indigenous massage techniques and finds the treatments can be more invigorating than relaxing. “Some people have a tough time sleeping after receiving some of the massages,” he notes.

To aid his training, Buckley studied with the indigenous local people and facilitated accurate translations so spas are sure to offer the authentic forms of the regional therapies. For example, Nepali massage utilizes five basic strokes in its technique, as well as unrefined mustard oil, which has a warming effect on the body, and Newari Sutkeri massage is a postnatal massage traditionally provided for both mother and baby in the first two months after childbirth.

From villages to victory

The Himalayas represent an idyllic global healing showcase. Indigenous therapies passed orally through generations exist today as living dialogues, helping people not only in the Himalayan region but around the world benefit from these techniques.

Organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Wellness Coalition, a regional body linking national spa associations in Asia, are contributing in the collection of data across this vast cultural landscape, as well as establishing a focus on specific segments of business and operations so spa operators in the region can take a glimpse at what others are doing to increase business and enhance the bottom line. They are also working to ensure the indigenous therapies are authentically translated to the local, on-the-ground spa culture.