Worro H. Astuti: Promoting traditional Javanese massage

Javanese SPA | Massage Training – The ways and means by which man strives to gain peace, tranquility, physical and inner beauty, were devised by Javanese progenitors a long time ago. But with the lapse of time, the art of traditional Javanese massage for a sound body and mind is losing popularity.  According to Worro H. Astuti, one of the few masseuses still practicing its traditional techniques, Javanese massage puts greater emphasis on sensation, contact, emotion, tenderness and sincerity.  “It’s regretful how traditional Javanese massage is now so rarely applied and only maintained by the Yogyakarta royal family. Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono [HB] X and his consort, Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hemas, would like to see the preservation and development of Javanese massage,” said Bu Worro, as the massage guru is commonly called.

The 56-year-old woman is also the manager of Nurkadhatyan-The Ritual Spa at Hotel Royal Ambarrukmo, Yogyakarta, where Javanese massage is practiced and promoted. The spa was founded by the children of Sri Sultan HB X in 2010 in an effort to preserve the heritage of the Yogyakarta Palace and Javanese culture through the art of wellness.

This old Javanese massage method combines rituals with Javanese dance movements to produce tender contact through a mental and spiritual experience, which is enhanced by the warmth of massage oil on the energy points of the human body.

With a career in traditional massage spanning over 25 years, Worro noted that the old method should be distinguished by its reliance on the mental and spiritual finesse passed down from Javanese ancestors, instead of mere physical strength.

“Pressures called lenging bondowoso are directly applied to the body’s energy points at the time of massage. Without emphasizing physical force, the pressures effectively improve the overall health of patients,” said Worro, assisted by seven masseuses she had trained.

The mother of two and grandmother of four from Magelang, now living in the Yogyakarta palace area continue to delve into the ancient art of Javanese massage. Not long ago, she meditated and performed a ritual at the spot where Majapahit Kingdom was situated in East Java. She had further explored the authenticity and studied the existing records of this Javanese art at the site where it had purportedly been born.

The traditional massage method, according to her, teaches people to care for nature in order to achieve equilibrium in life so that peace and happiness can be enjoyed by both the body and mind.

“A novice has to practice for at least two years and must continue learning through extensive experience. Some people go on to practice for 14 years and still haven’t quite mastered the art. The most difficult part is learning how to unify the mind and body so that when you make contact with a patient, you can sense their problem areas,” she pointed out.

The entire process, she added, should go along with the spirit of providing sincere service, thereby making a patient feel comfortable while they are being treated. “The feeling of comfort helps their recovery process,” said Worro, who has visited various countries to promote the ancient art.

Nurkadhatyan-The Ritual Spa is owned by the Yogyakarta Palace under PT. Nur Kawitarasmi. Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Ma
duretno, a daughter of Sultan HB X, is the director of the spa, which also offers palace-produced Javanese herbal concoctions based on ancient formulas, to complement treatments.

“The Javanese massage follows palace traditions therefore during a treatment, a sheet of silk fabric is laid-out, a prayer is offered, warm oil is smeared, herbs are incorporated, a bath is drawn and finally a herbal concoction is consumed,” continued Worro, whose clients include both domestic and foreign tourists.

Nurkadhatyan, the spa’s name, which means the light from the palace, was given by Sri Sultan HB X himself. She admitted that in the effort to preserve and promote the Javanese massage heritage, the shortage of skilled personnel had posed a problem, with only one specialist in Nurkadhatyan so far — herself. “In fact, our consumer base is increasing. Though this massage only takes a couple of hours, it is not easy to turn trainees into reliable masseuses as they need to fulfill the mental and spiritual requirements apart from physical skills. Therefore, I would to start a Javanese massage school in Yogyakarta in the near future,” she said with anticipation.

To popularize the old art, Bu Worro, with the aid of the five daughters of the Yogyakarta Sultan, will compile studies, experiences, observations regarding the old Javanese massage method in a book, which hopefully will be followed-up by a book about Javanese massage herbs

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