My first experience of Ayurveda – a Hindu system of traditional medicine native to India – was just before Christmas, and one I’ll never forget. I was locked in a dark room in a spa (read: a shed) on a dodgy Keralan backstreet, while a mute youth covered my entire body, face and hair in a litre of oil and unceremoniously rubbed it in, as you might rub at a wine glass ring on a kitchen top. The massage – used in the loosest sense of the word – finished with a "steam bath": being asphyxiated in a boiling squat wooden box where your head pokes out of the top, like a medieval torture method. Great.
Just three days after being silently eyed by my Indian masseuse, I’m standing in Millennium Village in Greenwich, a hideously commercialised new-build village behind the 02, at the Ayurveda Pura spa.
Ayurveda Pura is one of London’s only spas offering massage treatments spun out of this ancient Hindu medicine. While the science behind it can often be a little spurious – I was told I had an imbalance of air and space before the treatment begun – the Ayurvedic whole body massage is essentially a stripped down massage. There are no fanciful hot stones or flowers that smell of the Pacific Ocean. You aren’t dribbled in sand shipped directly from the shores of the coral reef. It’s massage, plain and simple, and Ayurveda Pura does it brilliantly. My therapist mercifully went easy on the oil, and didn’t blink once as I made quasi-orgasmic noises at she massaged my calves. Conclusion: ignore the waffle about good health and mind and lie back and enjoy what really is a luxuriously simple full-body massage. When in India (or SE10), as they say.
Ayurveda Pura, 48 Newton Lodge, Oval Square, Greenwich Millennium Village, London, SE10 0BA.