An Ayurvedic Body Treatment


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Two weeks ago, I was invited to experience a new body treatment at the Burke Williams Spa in San Francisco. Burke Williams Spa is a fantastic oasis in the middle of downtown San Francisco. The spa is located in the Westfield Shopping Center on Market Street between 4th and 5 the Streets, accessible via public transportation (BART and Muni) and vehicle (if you have to drive). Since I had not been to Burke Williams for any kind of treatment in a few years, I jumped at the opportunity to experience the new Ayurvedic body treatment available at the spa.

What are Ayurvedic Treatments?

According to Burke Williams, Ayurvedic treatments were developed thousands of years ago in India, and focus on the subtle balance of the mind/body/spirit to achieve healing. Burke Williams offers two kind of treatments: Shirodhara and Ananda.

Shirodhara aims to calm the central nervous system and integrate the mind and body to achieve a heightened state of awareness, relaxation, and contentment. The treatment begins with the selection of a herbal oil specific to one’s mind-body constitution (dosha). The herbal oil is made up of a mixture of nut oils and herbs. Then, it is followed by a massage with the warm herbal oil, ending with the Shirodhara, a constant and gentle stream of oil poured over the third eye to create a profound state of happiness and mental clarity.  

Ananda focuses on the five energy channels of the head, feet, and hands. Ayurvedic herbs are applied to the five points, followed by a massage with heated therapeutic oils. Lastly, a traditional Ayurvedic Balancing Bowl is used on the feet to balance the doshas and remove excess heat and energy from the body.

During my visit, I experienced the Shirodhara treatment.

What was the Shirodhara treatment like?

I have had massages at Burke Williams before: a deep tissue, a hot stone, but this one was quite different. First, the treatment begins with the selection of a specific herbal oil, which in turn, is the oil used for the massage. Each oil is meant to either revive, destress, or relax a person. Whatever oil a person selects represents something their dosha (mind-body) is lacking. I selected the “revive” oil, and my whole body was treated to a warm oil massage scented with the “revive” oil. The scent was barely discernable, but pleasant.

Second, the treatment takes eighty minutes. It is longer than the standard massage treatments at Burke Williams. It was eighty minutes of pure quiet in a dark room lit by candles. My therapist used every minute to gently massage every limb and muscle in my body, bathing them in the warm herbal oil.  I was so relaxed that I think I fell asleep at one point during the session.

The last part of the treatment was the Shirodhara, the pouring of the warm herbal oil over my third eye, which was supposed to center me and give me clarity. The sound and the sensation of oil pouring over my forehead felt a little strange at first. I was worried that the oil would drip into my eyes, but it didn’t. I was laying down with my head dipped back, so that the oil could drip down my hair into a bowl.  

At the end of the treatment, I felt like jello, soft and relaxed. My skin and hair were moisturized. I was, indeed, revived by the Shirodhara massage.  I recommend that all my fellow parents try the Shirodhara massage at least once, because eighty minutes of quiet is a gift. I would also suggest that you make time for two post treatment activities: a shower & shampoo and a snack. The shower rinses off any residual oil from the massage, so you don’t end up with oil stains on your clothes. If you have an oily scalp like me, the shampoo is necessary, as the hair will not entirely absorb the oil (For me, it took three shampoos). Also, the shampoo is necessary prior to using other spa amenities, like the whirlpool or steam room. Second, eat a small snack after with plenty of water. Eating awakens you.

Burke Williams Spa does such a phenomenal job of creating a quiet, calm environment. Their courteous, friendly staff welcome every guest with kindness. It is one of the best places in the city to disconnect.

Photo Courtesy of Burke Williams



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Jeanne is a married, full-time working mom with an MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University and BA in Communications from San Francisco State University. She is an Associate Director of Sales for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and loves that her career enables her to promote the city she loves. Jeanne and her husband Daniel live in San Francisco with their two daughters, Ilse and Alice. When Jeanne is not working, writing, or volunteering at Ilse's school, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and cooking from her collection of cookbooks (70 and growing) while sipping Hudson Bay Bourbon. Follow her adventures on Instagram.


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