javanese SPA and Massage-Ask any Indonesian what they know about totok, and they’ll most likely start talking about a scene in a martial arts film in which a character’s pressure points are attacked in an attempt to immobilize or kill. However, the English translation for the word sounds less violent and more medical: acupressure. But combine it with the word “aura,” and some people laugh. At least, a colleague of mine did.
“What does totok aura do? Does it make you glow afterward?” she asked, a sneer on her face.
Those who have tried Dian Kenanga’s aura acupressure would say yes, and more.
“This method has nothing to do with mysticism,” said Salma Dian Priharjati, the founder of Dian Kenanga Totok Aura, when I visited one of her beauty and health centers on Jalan Pejaten Barat Raya, South Jakarta. She challenged the skepticism of people who believe that the concept of aura belongs in the supernatural domain.
“An aura is an energy that everybody is born with. Here, we do not make you feel more spiritual. We heal your energy so you feel more relaxed,” 38-year-old Dian said. “It’s only logical that when you are relaxed and happy, people see a glow in your face and eyes.”
“I always urge people who want to review our services to try the therapy themselves, so they can experience the effects firsthand,” said Aria Abiasa, Dian’s husband.
I was curious enough to find out what a good totok aura could do for me. So I deposited my bags at the front desk and swapped my shoes for a pair of flip-flops made available for clients. A friendly therapist then walked me to one of the 34 small air-conditioned chambers in the health center. It is a cozy, red brick building, made more elegant by its carved oak doors and windows, as well as its peaceful green gardens.
In the chamber, I slipped into a batik cloth and lay on the bed, which was also adorned by a batik sheet and blanket. The light was then dimmed and gentle music began.
After cleaning my face and shoulders with warm water, the therapist began the massage, using Dian Kenanga’s homemade therapy oil. She explained that the process was to familiarize the therapist with the contours of the customer’s face. The massage lasted about 20 minutes and I could feel my muscles loosening up as the recent mental images of Jakarta’s traffic and pollution slowly faded away.
When it was time for my facial totok. I sensed a warm energy flowing from the therapist’s palms as she pressed and massaged different points on my shoulders, neck, upper arms, head and face, focusing mostly around my eyes, cheeks, chin and forehead. It was wonderfully relaxing and felt like being delivered into a very deep sleep.
This process went on for 40 minutes, after which the therapist covered my face with a mask of jicama (a root from Mexico), swallow nest powder and rose water.
Dian later explained that the soothing feeling I had experienced was common among clients.
She explained that all of the therapists at Dian Kenanga Totok Aura had spent at least four months learning breathing exercises to enhance their so-called “bio-energy.” They also had to learn about the 14 meridian lines of the body, linking 365 main acupressure points.
When handling a customer, each therapist practices a breathing technique to release the bio-energy through their fingertrips onto the acupuncture points, allowing for better blood circulation in the body and a more balanced hormonal metabolism.
Dian said that with repeated visits — at least 12 times at regular intervals — customers would benefit from the totok aura in many ways, such as recovery from migraines, rheumatism, sinusitis, hypertension and myopia. She said it can also stabilize menstruation cycles and even stimulate the reproductive system for those who are struggling to conceive.
Descending from a long line of sinshe, or alternative medicine practitioners, Dian said she was familiar with auras, acupuncture and acupressure, and had learnt proper respiration techniques from a very young age. She studied the art of respiration and meditation at the Merpati Putih martial arts school before joining the Mahatma School in Jakarta to advance her breathing techniques.
Dian became the first therapist in the capital to combine acupressure with bio-energy. According to her, this method works better in expediting blood circulation in the human body, and is more effective in stimulating the nerves for optimum functionality — therefore leading to a better aura.
“This idea of combining acupressure with bio-energy was rejected by a health center where I used to work. The owner thought it was too expensive as the therapists would have to take the breathing courses. Plus, they were worried about the use of the word ‘aura’ as they linked it to mysticism,” Dian said.
The incident turned out to be a blessing in disguise. With a strong belief that the method could prove successful, Dian and her husband opened their business in 2004. She rented a two-room lodging on Jalan Ampera Raya in Kemang, South Jakarta, and hired four therapists.
She chose to use the kenanga flower in the name of her company because she said that even though the flower does not possess physical beauty, its sweet, mysterious smell always attracts attention.
Via word of mouth advertising, Dian Kenanga quickly gained popularity and received a good response from the public. The company has recently expanded by opening a branch in Pejaten Barat. With Aria taking care of the business development, marketing and operational aspects, the two no longer need to rent rooms.
Their centers of health and beauty now have around 100 members of staff and are frequented by many local celebrities.
“I am a perfectionist and always put emphasis on the quality of our services. The quantity of branches is not important,” Dian said, when asked why after five years of hard work they only have two aura acupressure centers.
After my therapy session, a cup of hot, energizing bandrek, a traditional drink made from ginger and brown sugar, was handed to me when I returned to the waiting room. I had no idea what my aura looked like at that point, but as I stepped out of the building, I felt readier than ever to face whatever Jakarta had to throw my wa