by Wendy Kagan
For years I'd been wanting to try shirodhara, a therapy from the traditional medicine system of Ayurveda, India's ancient "Science of Life." Shirodhara is a gorgeous practice in which warm oil pours down in a slow, steady stream from a hanging urn placed above the forehead. Combined with massage, it's said to bring relief from stress, anxiety, and insomnia, with the added bonus of opening the third-eye chakra between the eyebrows, the seat of intuition, dream, and inner knowing.
Blame it on my oil fetish or my love of ritual and beauty, but I was a bit obsessed with shirodhara - it had become something like a holy wellness grail. It was time to experience it. When I Googled "shirodhara Hudson Valley" I found Irina Ionina, a bodyworker who offers the therapy out of Ganesha Spa in Peekskill.
Arriving yesterday, I was surprised to find that Ganesha Spa wasn't a storefront business but a suite in a private house with a separate entrance. This was no sleek Hudson Valley spa - but she had transformed the space into a welcoming cocoon with Indian motifs and fabrics. Irina poured me a cup of pink hibiscus tea, and I felt at ease.
Wrapped in a towel and set up on the treatment table, with soft support under my knees and neck, I placed my head beneath the hanging urn. Irina had mixed specific oils for my constitution (or "dosha"): sesame, sunflower, and cinnamon. The combination smelled like hazelnuts. She aimed the wick of the urn right at my third eye and let it flow. For some 25-30 minutes, the warm oil kept coming, coating my forehead and hair in a shimmery syrup said to soothe the brain, quiet the mind, and nourish the scalp and hair.
I entered a theta-brainwave state of deep relaxation pretty quickly; meanwhile, Irina got to work on my feet, gently massaging and pressing reflexology points. I felt like some kind of rich hazelnut dessert, dripping with sweetness from head to toe. Once the shirodhara was complete, Irina moved to my head, working the oil through my hair and massaging my scalp to seal in every bit of goodness.
When it was over, I was so relaxed that I didn't want to get up. An hourlong nap right on the treatment table would've been perfect, but Irina had another client coming. So I got up, showered, and left with my oiled hair slicked back into a hair tie.
Thanks to Irina, I felt delicious all day.
15 Depew Court
Peekskill, NY, 10566