Several years ago I was working in a clinic with a therapist who offered Chavutti Thirumal (Massage by Foot Pressure). I had never heard of it before but after reading his leaflet, I was interested if not a little apprehensive about trying the treatment.
The idea of being naked on the floor and having a 6,4” man walking on me was not at all appealing! However, I had a long chat to him about it and eventually decided to give it a go.
First of all, I realised that you don’t actually have to be completely naked. Yes you are laying on your front on a futon in a hot room and as the full length of the body is massaged almost simultaneously, it’s not really practical to use a towel, you also don’t need one as the room is quite warm. He gave me the option of wearing a disposable salon style thong; it’s the same thing you wear for a spray tan.
Once he started the massage I realised that you are not walked upon at all. One of his feet was always on the floor and he just massaged me with his other foot, really just like the way hands are used in a regular massage. The pressure was firm but not painful, if anything it felt much better than hands as the feet are broad and the instep moulds itself naturally to the contours of the body.
After about 10-minutes I was so deeply relaxed and comfortable that I just drifted off for about an hour while he worked the back of my body including my hips and legs before rolling me on to my sides and then eventually my back at which point I was given a hand towel to put over my lap for comfort as I turned over.
He finished the massage by using his hands to massage my neck, shoulders head and face and finally my feet.
After 2-hours I was in heaven and almost floated home to the best nights sleep I’d had in ages. I woke up the next day so relaxed and not at all sore as I often am after a deep tissue massage.
From that day on I was a convert to Chavutti and went and had it as often as possible.
Years later and after much procrastinating on my part, I plucked up the courage and travelled to India to study Chavutti for myself. I had wanted to learn the massage for many years and it took me a very long time to find the right teacher.
Chavutti Thirumal originates in Kerala southern India and dates back over 2000 years. In Malayalam, the local dialect, it is literally translated as “massage by foot pressure” but in the west though there are very few practitioners here currently, I have also seen it called Indian Rope Massage of Ayurvedic Foot/Rope Massage.
On the first day of my training course, I quickly realized that despite having massaged for over 10-years that using your feet instead of your hands was a whole new world and really difficult to master!
I had to really learn to trust the rope, which is just there to help you to maintain your balance. You don’t swing off of the rope but you do lean in to it as you slide your foot up and down the body and it took a lot of practice to get it just right.
After a week or so, my fellow students and I were exhausted. Every day was an adventure with yoga in the morning followed by the study of anatomy and theory before we went on to massage. Every day we learned new things as well as reviewing what we had done before. There was so much to learn and we also had volunteers coming in most afternoons for us to practice on! They all gave us great feedback but we were really looking forward to a weekend off to sleep, rest our feet and of course hit the local markets!
Our weekend off was of course a lot of fun but we also found time to revise what we had learned so far.
The next week was also a lot of work but slowly things started to fall in to place. We all started to feel more confident with our feet and the ropes and our models feedback was getting better and better. Our teacher Helen, who had been working with Chavutti for over 10-years was endlessly patient and helped to boost our confidence while also making sure we were doing things right.
By the end of my time in India I was buzzing with ideas and even more in love with Chavutti than when I left for India weeks before! I couldn’t wait to get home and start working with it.
Back home in the cold of Brighton (it was February and I arrived back on the only weekend we had snow all winter!) I was eager to start and went straight out and bought rope and hooks before inviting dozens of friends and friends of friends to come in for free 2-hour massages so I could practice. Everybody taught me something new and people came all the way down from London just to try my new massage, work was spreading fast and I was getting amazing feedback!
Since then, having launched the treatment to my customers, I have been amazed by the positive response! I hoped Chavutti would be popular but I have been literally rushed off my feet trying to fit everybody in!
I am getting such great feedback from people but also a lot of questions, so I am going to answer a few of them here for your interest:
What’s the rope for?
We hold the rope with our hands while we massage with the soles of our feet. It’s just there for balance to stop us slipping and hurting ourselves.
Feet? Doesn’t that really hurt:
Not at all, our feet are clean and smooth and compared to the hands or elbows used in regular massage, feet are large and rounded at the heel not sharp of pointed like thumbs or elbows. The instep also moulds itself naturally to the contours of the body so it feels really nice and the pressure is more evenly distributed.
It’s going to be too deep for me!
Most probably not. Like any massage we can alternate the pressure but as feet are so broad, we can work the muscle thoroughly without it feeling painful or too hard.
I don’t like the idea of being walked on!
We don’t walk on you, ever! One foot is always on the ground and most of our weight is in that foot. It’s a very safe treatment.
I feel a bit weird about being naked:
You don’t have to be! I felt really weird too the first time I had a Chavutti massage and still do when it’s a new therapist I don’t know. When you receive a Chavutti treatment, you are invited to be naked in the traditional method however your comfort is of paramount importance and your modesty is respected at all times. Towels and pillows are always at hand to cover areas and ladies are requested to wear a thong when coming in for a massage (a disposable one will be provided otherwise). If they fee comfortable they are welcome to be topless but If being topless makes them feel uncomfortable, a towel can of course be used to cover the chest when we work on the front or they can wear a bra or bikini top. In either case, the breasts themselves are not massaged. Gentlemen are welcome to be naked if they feel relaxed and comfortable that way. A towel can be placed when massaging the front of the body if preferred or a disposable thong can be provided free of charge.
I make you feel comfortable and relaxed and however you choose to dress; you will still receive a brilliant massage!
Will I be warm enough?
The treatment is carried out in a well-heated room and on a soft well-padded futon style mattress so you can really let go and sink in to the floor. I have a heater right by you and also when it’s cooler I place an electric blanket under the futon to keep you toasty warm. I have plenty of towels if needed.
Chavutti Thirumal is the ultimate full body massage, both deeply relaxing and therapeutic. Ever since I first experienced it many years ago it has remained my favorite style of massage both to receive and give!
If you are new to Chavutti, curious to would like to give it a go, please contact me for more information and come in and enjoy a little taste of India.
I am an Acupuncturist, Professional Massage Therapist and Therapeutic Yoga Teacher with more than 15-years Experience. Based in Brighton and Hove, appointments are available 5-days a week Tuesday-Saturday. For more information please visit my website.