If you’ve seen my recent posts on Facebook and read my last blog post, you might’ve been asking yourself about this full mouthful of a name which I’ve been writing about: Chavutti Thirumal. Or Chapati Thermal as auto-spelling will have you think it’s what I meant to write. Although eating chapatis in a thermal bath (perhaps?) doesn’t sound like a half bad idea.
Mmm thermal baths.. under Icelandic skies…but I digress fully.
In a nutshell, Chavutti Thirumal is a traditional Indian type of massage, but get this: instead of using your hands and elbows, you use your feet! Pretty cool huh? Yeah, it’s massage by foot press and it’s great because you can use the full weight of your body to give a really effective massage. In this post, I’ll provide some background information on this unique form of massage and where I learned it and from whom. So get that cup of tea on this fine Sunday afternoon, put your feet up and enjoy…
According to its wikipedia page, Chavutti Thirumal, literally meaning “foot pressure” in the Malayalam language and also known as “foot/rope massage”, is a traditional Indian massage technique developed by the Kalari Martial Artists of Kerala India (Kalaripayattu), and it is thought to be approximately two thousand years old. The Kalaripayattu not only trained in battle but also developed a range of healing modalities known as Kalari Chikitsa, which comprises various massage techniques; Chavutti Thirumal, Marma Massage (Uzhichil), and the application of medicinal herbal oils.
Unlike most massage modalities, Chavutti Thirumal is unique as the feet are used to deliver the treatment. This act is an art form, with the technique being precisely executed by the practitioner’s foot in long, sweeping therapeutic motions from the fingers to the toes of the recipient.
The main focus of Chavutti Thirumal is to increase flexibility, so the position of the recipient’s body on the floor with the therapist holding onto a rope for support, is paramount. Correctly positioned, the massage enables the postural muscles to strengthen, the hips and thoracic area to open, and the energetic channels (nadi) to become activated.
An Ida and Pingala approach is evident in Kalaripayattu, with Kalari Chikitsa being entwined within the training regime where it is used to prepare and heal the body in the two distinct training and healing seasons.
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what a Chavutti session looks like among the Kalari martial artists in India…
I learned this form of massage from a British woman named Helen Noakes in Goa, 2013. She, in turn, learned from her teachers, Veejay and Padma Nair in Kerala, 1998. On her website, Helen describes Chavutti Thirumal as a “technique (that was) developed for maintaining suppleness in the body and for treating pain and swelling caused by combat. It is however, equally suitable as a treatment for those not involved in regular or strenuous physical exercise and wishing to maintain their own fitness and well being. It is based on the precise knowledge of the body”s energetic channels “nadis” or the merdian lines. Using the feet gives the client the feeling that tension is being ironed out of them!”
Here is a video of magical Helen in action (fun fact: shot at her beachside massage hut in Goa, where I received her training)…
Helen is also a Scaravelli yoga teacher and, funnily enough, she has come to Finland on more than one occasion to teach workshops. Pretty cool right?
It was under Helen’s tutelage that I learnt the art of Chavutti Thirumal and I remain forever grateful for the experience. Here I am giving it a go on one of my first ever guinea pigs (images obscured to protect privacy of said guinea pig):
And here is one of me and my classmate, Heather, a Canadian osteopath
That, my friends, is an short introduction into the wonderful world of Chavutti Thirumal. I’m setting up a home treatment practice out of our sweet and cheerful yoga room. If you live in or plan to visit the wonderful Helsinki region this fall, get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out about early bird rates and availability!
Om and so much healing ❤