Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Loogie Hocking with Rocky Horror and Darth Veda

This piece was recently written for the splendid new Australian glossy Heart Beauty, and its guru-like editor Rosemary Hamilton, who has both in spades. 

"You have too much phlegm,’’ opines Dr Alvin James B.A.M.S., A Class Medical Practitioner and avatar of all things Ayurvedic at Avista Hideaway Resort and Spa Phuket. The resort island’s latest luxury eyrie enjoys a panoptic perch atop the steep green hills between Patong and Karon beaches, a surfeit of the titular vistas, and a spa where then ancient Indian art of well-being is getting a modern-day makeover.

I clear my throat and fight the urge to hock a loogie. Dr Alvin is an affable chap from Kerala with soft doe eyes and a slow motion head bobble that quickly becomes hypnotic. I am slouched in an outsized chair in the consultation room, where he plans to identify my prakriti, or body type, and discern which of three doshas, or humours, is prevalent.

There is vata, pitha and kapha,’’ he explains, “vata being air, wind, kinetic energy, pitha being fire, or digestion, controlling emotions like anger, fear and bravado, and kapha being phlegm, which is potential energy, resistance to disease, immunity and keeps the joints lubricated.’’

Once my prakriti is nailed down during a consultation which takes about 30 minutes, we will proceed to the spa to commence the treatment Dr Alvin decrees best for my body type. He takes my pulse and blood pressure, which after a very late night, an early morning flight and a stressful day of meetings, I fear will be off the charts. “Heart rate steady,’’ he says, “and blood pressure is within normal range.’’

He embarks on a series of questions about my temperament, job, diet, sleeping habits and personality. Then the head bobble slows and his big eyes widen as he gives me one final lingering once over. “You are pitha kapha type,’’ he pronounces. ‘Fire and phlegm.’

I ponder my initiation into what sounds like a frat house for gobby arsonists as Dr Alvin ushers me down a series of stairs and walkways to Aqua, the resort’s spa. On the way, he informs me that a 60-minute aromatherapy oil massage with a custom blend called ‘baby bliss’ is just the ticket for we pitha kaphas, along with wheat, sprouts, pomegranate, watermelon, sesame oil, mutton, milk, butter and cheese, while yoghurt, sugary foods, alcohol and smoking are no-nos.

Ayurveda’s most iconic treatment is shirodhara, whereby a stream of fragrant oil is directed onto the third eye and other pressure points from a suspended receptacle. I had been hoping to be drizzled, fo shizzle, and the good oil turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.
I am flying out of Phuket in less than three hours, so decide to forego the steam session that would normally precede the shirodhara. In a room with soft mood lighting and the plinks and plunks of percussion instruments set to a rain shower, I change into very brief briefs that seem to be blue fishnet.

I am thinking of how the ancient Indian sages who dreamed up these treatments probably didn't foresee the day when a pale middle-aged white man in drag queen underwear would be contemplating his third eye. Then I lay back, and the therapist moves the Aladdin’s Lamp suspended above my head into position and suddenly an intoxicating stream of warm, viscous liquid is cascading over my forehead and criss-crossing my body, leaving oleaginous streaks of glowing flesh in its wake.

The oil, or thailam, is an Ayurvedic staple, Ksheerabale. It is known for its nourishing and nurturing properties, and helps with insomnia, dry skin, headaches and even migraines, sciatica and erectile dysfunction. Not too much help with the latter, I’m hoping, given the scanty, air-conditioned nature of my briefs.

The beds have a special pan and drainage system to catch the run-off, of which there must be plenty. By the time the drizzling’s done, a warm glow suffuses my body. My therapist gets most of the excess oil off with towels, and I take up the offer of a shower.

But I’m not done yet. Next is the vishesh – deep muscular massage with aromatic oils. “Lie down please,’’ the masseuse says, and I climb onto the table in a fresh new pair of blue Rocky Horror Show fishnet briefs. She drapes towels over my limbs, cracks her knuckles and gets down to business. 

The oil has a rich and heady scent, her hands are strong and sure, and within minutes I’m drifting off into that special place a good massage takes you. My fire cools and my phlegm settles. It’s bliss, baby.

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