What is Ayurvedic Yoga Massage?
Ayurvedic yoga massage is a deep tissue oil massage followed by assisted yoga stretches. For more information, visit What is Ayurvedic Yoga Massage?
Where does it come from?
Ayurvedic in India means ‘therapeutic’ so this method of healing massage was called ‘Ayurvedic massage’. The ‘yoga’ came into the name after Kusum Modak developed what she was taught by her Ayurvedic massage guru in Pune, India, to reflect her knowledge of yoga, which she was taught by BKS Iyengar for many years. Hence ‘Ayurvedic yoga massage’.
What can I expect during a massage?
An Ayurvedic yoga massage is tailored to suit individual clients. It can be relaxing, energising, soothing, deep or remedial depending on your needs. Sessions last between 60 to 120 minutes depending on your requirements.
What's the best length for a treatment?
This depends on the individual: how quickly your body responds; how many parts of the body need deeper work; and your priorities/what you would like to get from your session. If you’d just like to relax and have an amazing full body massage experience then we’d recommend 90 minutes. If you’d like to start working deeper on different parts of your body then it depends how many parts of the body you’d like to work on, how quickly they respond, and whether you’d still like a full body massage as well as the deeper work. Generally, muscles will respond faster if (i) they haven’t been tight for a long time, and (ii) the body is used to yoga/bodywork/something where we feel some pain, breathe into it and then feel better. Then your brain associates being in that condition with relaxation rather than with danger/injury. We can work effectively on some people in 15 minutes, if they’re experienced yoga practitioners and we only work on the tightest part of their body. Many regulars prefer 2-3 hour sessions so they can have a full body massage with extra time to work deeper on the areas needing more attention. It’s really open ended as there’s always more that can be done!
How do I find a therapist in my area?
Check out our therapist directory for a list of our certified therapists. Please get in touch with us if there’s no therapist in your area and we’ll advise you further.
Why can you not offer Ayurvedic Yoga Massage treatments at a lower cost?
If therapists charge decent rates, they can make a decent living, earn enough to be able to afford sick leave, holidays and further training. If they don’t, then their clients will probably end up having treatments from either overworked therapists, or therapists who crave more training, and who would be able to evolve, improve and be inspired more from further training, but they cannot afford it. So the quality of the treatments will suffer, which can make it even more difficult to increase their prices to be able to have a decent standard of living in the future, exagerbating the problem.
We want therapists to be in a positive cycle where their business is supporting them to have a good life, be able to take good care of themselves, offer amazing treatments, continue learning, training in AYM or other modalities that inspire them, following their dreams..
At the same time, we do want everyone to have access to AYM treatments, irrespective of their background (see next question)!
How do we make treatments available to people on low incomes?
- We encourage our students to spend some of their time (e.g. one day or two massage slots a week) offering discounted treatments for people on low incomes, or to volunteer for charities in their spare time.
- Where possible, we also try to organise clinic days where we hire a large space and offer multiple treatments at the same time at a lower price.
- We encourage therapists to offer skill swaps.
- Some new therapists find it helpful to offer reduced prices until they build up their client base, so that they get lots of experience, and also free publicity: everyone we offer a treatment to is very likely to tell more people about our treatments. As a school, we make a point of promoting these low cost treatments through our website, mailing list and social media, so that everyone can find a good value treatment as long as they have some flexibility: they need to be willing to try new therapists, perhaps travel to locations that might be slightly more inconvenient for them.
Also, our 4-hour workshops (for which we offer concession rates) mean that people on low incomes can learn to offer AYM (offering AYM is also therapeutic!). If they bring a family member, partner or friend along then they will also have someone to receive treatments from. Of course this is never the same as having a treatment from a professional therapist, but it still works amazingly well! And it’s an amazing gift that we can offer each other, that can strengthen our relationships as well as contribute to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
We are also working on setting up a social enterprise to help our students offer discounted or free treatments to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, but this still has some way to go – do get in touch if you can help!
Who runs AYM UK?
Despina Psarra came across Ayurvedic yoga massage in early 2011. After she completed all the training available, and due to the demand for massage practitioners, she qualified as a teacher and set up her own training school, AYM UK.
Can I book a massage with Despina?
Yes, Despina offers treatments in Leeds, and treatments can also be arranged in London, Bristol and Glasgow before/after trainings in each location. Her sessions can be anything from 15 minutes to several hours long, depending on your needs. Please visit her therapist page for more details.
Despina offers discounts for prospective students who would like to try AYM, and for her existing students so that her students can afford to have treatments with her. She can also arrange for her course assistants/teacher trainees to offer you a discounted treatment if you are a prospective or existing student, as this can help you to feel inspired, and to improve as a therapist.
What can I expect at a workshop?
On each of our workshops you will learn a short sequence to massage, mobilise and stretch a particular part of the body. The teacher will demonstrate the techniques, and the group will then be split into pairs, so that everyone is given the opportunity to practise on each other. At the beginning, you learn about as much from practising each technique and receiving feedback, as from receiving the technique and understanding what it is meant to do/what it is meant to feel like.
We cover indications (when the technique is helpful) and contraindications (when the technique should not be used) for each technique. Every student will get individual instruction and feedback on each technique, so at the end of the workshop you should feel quite confident offering short AYM treatments to your friends and family. You will also receive a printed manual and training videos of the techniques covered to help you remember what you learned, and you will be able to contact your teacher with any questions that arise regarding applying those techniques in the future.
Who are workshops suitable for?
Our workshops are open to anyone who has an interest in learning about this style of massage, or who would like to massage their friends and loved ones. They would also suit experienced therapists who would like to add some AYM strokes and stretches to their existing practice, and yoga teachers who want to improve their hands-on adjustments.
How long are the workshops?
Each workshop is four hours long.
When is the next workshop?
We have postponed our workshops for now, until government Covid measures have eased. Once we resume, our workshops run throughout the year at various locations in the UK and Europe. Please see our workshops page for our latest events and sign up for our mailing list so that we can notify you when we resume workshops in your area.
I have back pain, can I learn to give Ayurvedic Yoga Massage?
The best thing to do is to contact Despina directly and discuss your situation.
On the one hand, we have had students arrive at the trainings with debilitating back pain, and leaving without back pain and able to offer Ayurvedic Yoga Massage treatments. Offering Ayurvedic Yoga Massage can help you build control and strength, which can help you feel better, and we can also use you as a case study during the training to demonstrate how we help clients with back pain.
On the other hand, if you have serious back pain during your training, the training can be more challenging for you. It might be best to receive some Ayurvedic Yoga Massage, and develop an appropriate, helpful, regular yoga practice to strengthen your body first, before coming to one of our trainings.
You know your body and mind best. We are happy to:
- discuss your options,
- put you in touch with local therapists who can offer you AYM treatments for back pain,
- put you in touch with yoga teachers who are able to help you develop a healing practice for you in your area,
- put you in touch with our Yoga Anatomy teachers who can help you diagnose the causes of the pain and develop a healing practice for you over video calls, and
- offer you the option to come and try a day or two of the training before deciding whether to continue or to take time and work on your back pain first.
We trust that you will make the best decision for you. We are very happy to be there and support you whatever you decide.
Who are the Therapist Training Courses for?
Our Certified Therapist Training courses are aimed at anyone wanting to become a professional Ayurvedic yoga massage therapist. Please note: if you have a physical disability or a serious mental health condition it may still be possible to offer AYM, but please get in touch to discuss this further before booking.
Do I need to take all the levels to be a practitioner?
In the UK we are very lucky, as we just need some insurance and to be a member of a professional association to start practising massage, and you don’t need to complete more than Level 1 to be able to acquire insurance and we can offer you an one-year student membership of Ayurvedic Yoga Massage Therapists Association after even one level of training with us. So after completing even just level 1, you will be able to give treatments safely to clients, and you will be able to start charging.
For every technique that we teach, we teach you indications (when it is useful for the client) and contra-indications (when it should not be used). We also teach you how to amend each technique for different client needs and health conditions. So all techniques that you learn, you will be able to practise safely. In Level 1, the pace of teaching is slower, so that all students understand how to offer the techniques safely, and the pace progressively picks up as students understand better how to adjust massage, tractions, stretches and mobilisations to different client needs (injuries, health conditions etc.).
We are committed to making our training to be accessible to everyone. Being able to practise and earn already after the Level 1 training is a distinct advantage for students who are low on funds, as you can use the money that you earn from your treatments to continue with your training. We do not recommend that someone just trains in one or two levels of AYM and then continues to work as a therapist indefinitely. Traditionally, students would have to sign up for at least a two week training (Levels 1-4) in one go to be accepted to study AYM. But we recognise that this does not align with the reality of many of our students’ lives. It can be very difficult financially to take two weeks off your other work, and at the same time find the funds to pay for a Level 1-4 training, even in installments. Also, some of our students are already trained in different modalities, and they just want to understand the technique so that they incorporate some of it into their existing practice.
However, we do of course recommend that you attend as many levels as you can, in as close a succession as you can, and that serves you. If you do not have training in yoga anatomy, physiology and pathology we do have some excellent trainings to recommend, and we have managed to secure extremely competitive rates for our students, and the opportunity to pay in interest free installments. Also by attending further levels of training you will have the opportunity to review what you have learned and get personalised in-depth feedback, as well as learning many more techniques, that will help you be able to respond much better to a much wider range of client needs.
Depending on students’ previous experience and learning styles, some of our students are able to offer amazing treatments straight after their training, their treatments feel like they flow straight away and their clients say that the massage they received from our beginner therapists is often the best they have ever received in their lives. Other students might feel like their treatments are a little clunky straight after their training, and they might need a little practice on friends and family or on other local AYM therapists for free, or at discounted rates, before they can charge for full priced treatments. During those practice/discounted treatments you will be able to use your course manual and training videos as reminders, before your treatments start flowing. Despina has supported hundreds of students through this process, and she will be there to support you every step of the way too, directly through messages/phonecalls as necessary, or through our weekly mentorship sessions by videocall.
Can I get insurance after doing just Level 1?
Yes, you can get insurance and start working legally in the UK after completing level 1, however your massage repertoire will be quite limited. We can help you find the most appropriate insurance for you after the end of your training.
Does the course cover Ayurveda?
Most of the people who ask this mean whether we cover doshas, how to assess someone’s dosha and how to adjust the treatment to that. We can cover the basic principles of Ayurveda and dosha types if students are interested, but really Ayurveda is a science that takes years to master and regarding assessing someone’s dosha you can easily get different opinions from different Ayurvedic doctors. So our trainings are not focused on how to identify doshas, or on teaching “recipes” on how to approach treatments for different doshas. Instead, we focus on learning how to help clients to:
- feel centred
- be as healthy as possible in their bodies and mind
- be in touch with their bodies
- develop a mindful approach to life and wellness
- develop and maintain healthy habits
which is what Ayurveda tries to do. Specifically we well learn:
- how to understand how the client is feeling on the day
- how to explore client priorities, what they would like to gain from their treatment, how they would like to feel at the end
- how to help the client identify their priorities if necessary, by explaining how AYM treatments can serve them/help them feel more centred, help alleviate pains, other direct and indirect mental and physical health benefits that might be relevant to them
- how to choose the most appropriate techniques and apply them appriopriately to address client priorities
- how to adjust the focus, pace and intensity of the treatments to better serve client priorities
- when to refer clients to other health and wellness practices/relevant practitioners who can help support their wellbeing in addition to us (as AYM therapists)
What’s the difference between Thai massage and Ayurvedic yoga massage?
Traditional Thai massage is given with the client fully clothed, so it’s not an oil massage. In AYM we can warm up and soften the soft tissues and promote circulation quicker through oil massage, and particularly with the use of calamus powder. Once the soft tissues are warmed up with the oil massage, we find that the stretches work better. This is the brilliance of AYM, and specifically of Kusum Modak who developed this method.
Are your courses accredited?
Yes, we have paid an external accrediting body to accredit our therapist trainings. AYM is a relatively new method, and before us there were no AYM schools worldwide who had sought any kind of external accreditation. So we are also always working towards different kinds of accreditation and recognition from different bodies. Our therapist training courses include the syllabus requirements of The General Council of Massage Therapists – this is an umbrella organisation for massage therapist associations in the UK.
None of our students have ever had any problems practising AYM in the UK or abroad. If you have any problems at the end of your training, please contact us and we will help you resolve them.
Is there an accrediting body for AYM?
AYM developed in India through a long lineage of practitioners, and as far as we are aware, there haven’t been any accredited trainings until we started seeking accreditation for our trainings. AYM has always been taught experientially, i.e. as a technique without the Western theory of anatomy, physiology, pathology or ethics. At AYM UK we have added the “missing” parts of the training, taught by experts in their respective fields, as we believe that understanding anatomy, physiology and pathology from a western perspective helps us become better AYM practitioners. Importantly, we also need this knowledge in modern times to be able to communicate with our clients, understand any health findings that they are sharing with us, amend the treatments appropriately and communicate with any other health professionals that our client is working with. This means that AYM UK students now fulfil the requirements of professional associations for massage therapists.
We have developed the Ayurvedic Yoga Massage Therapist Association to help regulate Ayurvedic Yoga Massage as a profession, set standards of practice and ethics, and ensure that we keep our members abreast of relevant developments.
I’m on a low income, do you offer an installment plan?
Absolutely! Please get in touch and we can set up a payment plan so you can pay for your training at a pace that works for you. If you are ever in financial difficulty and need to pause your plan we will be able to do that for you too. We are here to support all our students to the best of our ability, and coming from a disadvantaged background or finding yourself with low funds should not stand in the way of motivated AYM students.
AYM is an amazing technique that can help a lot of people, and clients everywhere are happy to pay for AYM treatments so they can feel better in their bodies and minds. We are fully committed to helping you become a successful therapist during and after your training. You also need to be motivated to stay in touch and ask for advice when you need it, to follow our advice on how to keep improving as a therapist, how to get more publicity if you need it, or how to work on your business skills if necessary.
Do you offer free or discounted trainings for disadvantaged social groups?
We do feel that people from certain backgrounds are underrepresented in the wellness “industry”, and we do want to be part of the solution to help change that. We do not feel that offering a discounted price for a certain category of students only (e.g. BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, belonging to specific social classes, single or lone parents) irrespective of their current financial situation is the best way to go about it.
Rather than focusing on any particular disadvantaged group, we keep our trainings as low cost as possible, and we offer a concession rate for students in financial difficulty. By focusing our support to students who are currently on low income and don’t have much in terms of savings, we believe that we will be helping students from underrepresented backgrounds more than e.g. your average upper middle class white student, as the latter will usually be better off financially anyway.
So, we welcome students from all backgrounds, educate ourselves so we can treat everyone equally and fairly, try to support different needs effectively and try to make the training accessible to everyone. We have to say, we are particularly happy when students from different backgrounds, and with different needs, do join the training and we make an effort to respond to their specific needs to the best of our ability. We are very open to continuing to grow and improve, and we always welcome feedback from all our students about how to best respond to their needs.
If you have any comments, ideas, suggestions, constructive criticisms for us regarding our policies, or if you would be willing to put some time into helping us set up a social enterprise to apply for funding so that we can offer further discounts, we would love to hear from you!
Are there any prerequisites for Level 1 training? Do I still need to join Level 1 if I have experience in other techniques?
No, this course is aimed at beginner level. The pace is adjusted to the group, which means we ensure the pace is comfortable for the students who started with the least experience. If you have previous experience of yoga and/or massage (either practising/receiving or offering treatments/teaching), you will find it easier to learn the techniques than if you don’t. So, if you don’t have any experience, and you would like to increase your confidence and make the Level 1 training a lot easier for you, then you could come to a 4-hour workshop first. Then you will already have some contact with the method, and can also get some practice before you start your L1 course, so you will find the course a lot easier. Yoga teachers wanting to deepen their knowledge of the body and adjustments are most welcome.
Students who come and already have some relevant experience will get more out of the training in some ways, as they will find the techniques easier to learn/memorise. The teacher can then give those students more specific feedback about perfecting their technique, and more detailed information about how to deal with different client needs, injuries and health conditions. Our group sizes so that we can give each student exactly the amount of information that will serve them best, and nobody has ever been underwhelmed with the amount of information that they received in our trainings!
We do not accept students from other schools to skip training in Level 1 with us, because the way we teach fundamentals is essential for your development as an AYM therapist. All of our students who were experienced in AYM or other similar techniques and joined our Level 1 training have been happy that they did, as revisiting the fundamentals gave them better insights on how and why we use each technique, how we adjust the techniques to work better depending on our own body type as a therapist, how we adjust to different client needs, injuries, health conditions etc.
Students who have already studied Ayurvedic Yoga Massage with other schools can receive discounts to join our training as part of their Level 5 therapist training, or if they have studied at Level 5 they can still join and continue training towards assistant teacher. Please contact Despina to discuss your particular needs and how we can help.
What will I learn on each course?
If you go to our therapist training page and click on any level of training, we list learning outcomes for each training there. Let us know if you need more detailed information.
What are the prerequisites for the courses?
Level 1: No, but an interest in wellness, massage and/or yoga would be beneficial.
Level 2 and onwards: You need to have completed the level before it in order to progress.
Ayurvedic Yoga Massage for pregnancy: Ideally AYM Level 4 training and some practical experience, but we will also accept students who have trained with us at least to Level 2 if they have enough practical experience and aptitude.
How long are the courses?
The practical part of each level of training consists of 15 hours of classroom time over two and a half days. The Level 1-2 intensive is 30 hours given over five 7-hour days, including breaks (so each day we work 10 am to 1 pm, followed by a lunch break, and then again 2-5 pm).
The online parts of the training are longer for your first training with us, as they contain introductory material and follow-up resources that are useful to AYM therapists.
The online part of the training for all trainings also includes access to videos of all the techniques that we cover in the classroom, and some additional case studies/examples of how we adjust the techniques to different bodies/client needs.
You can also stay in touch with Despina and go through your case studies, questions arising regarding technique, client communication and feedback, setting up and marketing your business etc through the mentorship programme. Despina offers two hour-long sessions a week for video calls with students, and she is also available to answer any urgent questions by WhatsApp message in-between the calls.
How many levels should I attend at one time? How long should I leave it between each level of training?
Traditionally Ayurvedic Massage courses deliver L1-4 all in one go, and you wouldn’t be allowed to sign up for just one or two levels. But that doesn’t fit the reality of most of our students’ lives. It can be very difficult to get two weeks off work and other obligations, and also L1-4 is a lot of material to take in all in one go, especially if after the end of the training students need to return to other commitments, and cannot practise their new AYM skills full time.
The Level 1-4 training and supporting resources (course manual, training videos, mentorship sessions) are designed to work well and support all students, whether they opt to take the training one level at a time, or as an intensive.
Most students find that attending two levels at a time, then practising what they have learned and then returning to learn more after a few weeks/months works best for them. It also works well for your clients to receive the extremely effective techniques that you learn in Levels 1-2 for a while, before you come to Levels 3 and 4 and are able to offer much more specialised treatments/more optimised to your client needs. We have chosen the most commonly applicable, safest and easiest to teach techniques to teach in Levels 1-2, while in Level 3 we teach the best techniques to supplement the L1-2 techniques, all with the most common client needs in mind. In level 4 we optimise therapists’ skills in selecting the best techniques for their clients’ needs, as you will have already learned so much technique, that this becomes a key skill.
Students who are able/prefer to take 2 weeks off their other commitmentst and attend an intensive Levels 1-4 training will be able to offer more complete treatments, better adjusted to client needs, earlier on. These students need to be happy with the level of challenge that learning a lot of new techniques in one go presents. To do this successfully we recommend that you make sure to have a lot of time to practise techniques and offer treatments at the end of your training. Generally, students who find this easy will have:
- a good working memory and/or
- some previous experience in floor based bodywork and/or
- some experience in teaching yoga/adjusting yoga classes and asanas to people with different body types, injuries, health conditions
If you can only afford to take enough time off to attend one level at a time, that is also fine, we can work with that! The main advantage is that you will have more time to practise each of the techniques before you move on to the next, this also works well for students who might have challenges with their working/short term memory. The main disadvantage is that in Level 1 the pace is slower, so you will have fewer techniques to practise and also you will not have the opportunity to revise the Level 1 materials and get more feedback on your technique straight away in your Level 2. Also after your Level 3 training, it will be more challenging for you to prioritise which techniques to include in your treatments without having attended Level 4. But you will have the manuals and videos to work with, Despina can answer any questions you may have in-between trainings and help you make plans for your treatments, and she can even watch you practise and give you feedback in real time during our weekly mentorship video calls.
As a modality does AYM work with the nervous system and is it Trauma-Informed?
We do Ayurvedic Yoga Massage and it works amazingly well. We combine the massage with tractions, mobilisations, rocking, assisted stretches.. Because it is dynamic we see where the body holds a lot easier, and we can work on getting the nervous system to release where we need it to with whichever tools seem to work best for each client. It’s often nothing short of miraculous.