Under the microscope: Ayurvedic massage, from £55
In theory: Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of holistic healthcare based on the principle that the body is composed of three forces or "doshas": fiery pitta, airy vata and earthy kapha. For good health, all three need to be balanced through a combination of nutrition, exercise and treatments such as massage.
In practice: My therapist Flora at London ayurveda centre Yogoloji ( www.yogoloji.co.uk) diagnosed my natural constitution and state of wellbeing to determine a suitable treatment. Simply by taking my pulse she was able to describe personality traits, health concerns and mood with uncanny accuracy. Reams of questionnaires confirmed that I am an uptight, emotional wreck in need of total rebalancing, for which Flora suggested a full-body massage with manual acupuncture to relieve stress.
Observations: While the symmetrical, firm movements felt nice enough, I spent the first hour mentally drawing up shopping lists and raking over problems – anything but zoning out. Then, quite suddenly, as Flora moved to the pressure points on my face, I had my ayurvedic epiphany as time and space melted away.
Analysis: Strip away the terminology and much of ayurveda is a common sense way of looking after your mind and body through moderation. My massage blew conventional treatments out of the water; whether or not it has rebalanced my doshas, it felt amazing and I had my best night's sleep in months.
Prescription: Whether you are a bundle of aches or fighting fit, this is a body and soul treat everyone should try. Be careful on your way home, though – I left feeling so blissed out that I stepped blithely into the path of an oncoming car.
Further experiments: A good therapist is crucial. To find one in your area contact the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association ( www.apa.uk.com). If you want to make some headway into the subject, Deepak Chopra's Perfect Health is the classic beginner's guide (Bantam, £14.99).