A girlfriend once gifted me a Kerala ayurvedic massage. It was a gap year—when there’s no office to go to, you go to the gym at noon and write at 3am. But an ayurvedic massage was apparently what I really needed, the girlfriend said.
The first sight of the interiors of the Kerala Vaidyashala in Prabhadevi put me off. It was a crummy little place.
I was asked to lie on a wooden massage table and then soaked in aromatic herb oil from head to toe. Two masseuses subjected me to very focused pummelling and pressing. The shower room, which was not a shower room but a tiny boxed room to bathe, wasn’t clean. Minus the deft handwork of the masseuses, it wasn’t a gratifying experience. The same place recently got a facelift when the Yash Birla Group took over the administration of the Kerala Vaidyashala chain across the country. I decided to go for a full-body treatment.
Photographs by Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
The good stuff
The massage room was cleaner, sparser and well-ventilated. The two masseuses were adroit with their hands. Once you know what a good Kerala ayurvedic massage is, you can’t be fooled. Unlike, say, a Thai massage, which leans towards reflexology, the effect of this massage depends a lot on the kind of oil used and how well your body is softened by it. After that the masseuse has to ensure the oil enters your pores.
The one I got is called Sarvakaya Abhyingam, a full-body therapy, done with coconut oil heated on slow fire with the bark of the banyan tree, sesame seeds and aromatic herbs. The 45-minute session served its purpose: I was revitalized. The shower room was spacious and clean; the towels were laundered and spotless.
The Birla Kerala Vaidyashala also houses a herbal café that serves soups and teas as well as coolers made with fresh fruits and herbs. I tried Summer Splash—a juice of watermelon, pomegranate, beetroot and mint leaves, sweetened with jaggery. Other drinks on the menu included Basil Licka (coffee with basil), Witty Vittea (Vrikshamal tea) and Ashwamedha, a herb drink for overall well-being. An in-house dietician helps you choose.
I missed being asked what I was there for. The masseuses were almost in a hurry to finish the job, without paying enough attention to my specific needs. The space lacked sorely in ambience— too austere to live up to the luxury health spa it projects itself as. Take your own soap if you don’t quite think of Margo as a herbal soap.
The massages are priced between Rs1,000 and Rs2,350. The café menu is in the range of Rs100-140. The group has plans to open 50 more centres across India in the next five years.
For appointments, call 022-24302336.