Bali’s Age-Old Healing Rituals

Indulge | Written By, Ayu Sekar |

Bali has enough wellness and health programs to make it a real healing capital on the world map. From the indigenous healing treatments of the balians, or spiritual healers, to the jamu herbal medicines that women wander the streets selling by the glassful, the possibilities to stay healthy are abundant. Then add in the proliferation of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and the influx of “spiritual” healers from abroad and the mix becomes ever more fantastic.

The balians are Bali’s own contribution and these spiritual healers gain their knowledge in several ways. The balian usada inherit the healing knowledge from their fathers or grandfathers, often missing a generation.

Ketut Jaya – Balian Usada Healer

Learning can also be aided by the written knowledge of palm leaf documents known as lontar and these ancient texts can contain many Hindu texts or secrets that have become outdated in India. Mysterious indeed.

In Balinese society, Balians can be visited for many ailments. Some can heal broken bones, others can heal broken minds. Much of their work deals with energy and the transferring of energy to the ailing patient. In the west, reiki is another form of this universal healing energy, which all operate on the premise that everything is vibrational energy that needs to be balanced.

Once when I visited with a healer outside Ubud, I sat smoking, drinking  and chatting with the Healer and his wife wondering when it was going to start. She smiled at me and said “don’t worry, he is reading you.” There was no need for questions or prodding, just a quiet reading of my energy, which resulted, a little later, in a very painful massage. The old saying “no pain no gain” really works in this case.

Drinking a daily dose of jamu, an Indonesian traditional herbal medicine is another way to wellness. If you are one who drives around at night you may notice small yellow painted carts with numbers of brightly coloured packets. These are essentially “jamucarts” and their main trade is in herbs that enhance vigour, especially for men. But there are many jamus. Some are designed to firm the breasts, others to increase fertility. If you can find someone to take you to a jamu shop, you will be amazed at the number of applications that visitors used to western medicine may be unaware of.

The most common herb used in the jamus is turmeric, the golden root that is also used in India as the most common ingredient of a good curry. This is becoming known as a miracle herb and its active ingredient curcimin is now being extracted and used in many over-the-counter herbal remedies in your local health food shop, especially for maintaining healthy joints and skin.

Turmeric has become so popular that even the very corporate Starbucks has begun offering a Turmeric latte, although so far it may only be in the US.

So what does a traditional healer offer to a visitor to Bali?

Although there are many different kinds of traditional healers, the one thing that is for certain is that many traditional healers are effective at healing diseases and curing problems that western medicine may not be able to reach.  Treatments for stress issues, and a variety of stress related diseases, sprains, strains and back issues are readily available.

Some specialised healers with a knowledge of herbal cures can treat all kinds of diseases, while others offer effective oil massages, and even those who just want to try a very relaxing treatment will gain benefits.

For anyone who would like to try a soft introduction to Bali’s spiritual wellness and to some of Bali’s special holy places, start your journey on a spiritual tour or join a cleansing ceremony.

It is the closing of the circle as folk knowledge starts to be accepted and become mainstream. What the ancients have known for millennia is now starting to be accepted by the west.

Read more about a Balian Usada, Ketut Jaya or read an old story about Pan Kaler a long-lost Balinese healer.

An excellent way to start is with Laughing Buddha Bali Tours – Made can also help to put you in touch with a balian [email protected] or Whatsapp  +628123813202 .

Traditional Practices in Bali’s Spas

Centuries ago, before the word ‘spa’ was even used in common language, the people of Indonesia had believed that health and beauty were to be promoted not only from the outside, but also inside. In addition, the Balinese culture, along with many other Asian traditions, has a long history of healing techniques and traditional medicines. And honouring this custom quite a number of the island’s top luxury hotel spas now incorporate these treatments into their menus for the ultimate pampering experience, allowing you to treat yourself to the rich traditional formulation of age-old traditions.

In Canggu, a fine establishment and a living art gallery of prized items from ancient times, Hotel Tugu Bali celebrates this age-old wisdom through their wellness offerings. The resort’s Waroeng Djamoe Spa offers a unique experience where you can have a taste of the traditional elixir known as Jamu, used for healing and rejuvenating. Jamu originated from the palaces in Java, favoured as the remedy to cure illnesses and maintain overall health. To preserve the knowledge of this traditional medicine, the tightly guarded recipes have been handed down through generations. However, in the past decades this tradition has been disappearing as western medicines takes over.

In addition to the elixir, and to pay homage to the tradition of the Island of the Gods, Waroeng Djamoe also offers a treatment named “Purnama and Tilem Massage”, meaning full moon and dark moon respectively. These two days are very special in accordance to Balinese belief, and during these moons, purification ceremonies are arranged to wash away sins and celebrate “Rwa Binneda” – the two energies of life, the good and evil, darkness and light.

This treatment begins with a small blessing ceremony by the sea with blessed water from the nearby Batu Bolong Temple. You are then led to the outdoor area of the spa. The massage itself, 75 minutes long and using frangipani oil, begins with long, soft strokes that are inspired by the soft caress of the moonlight and the crashes of the waves under the moonlight, and gradually becomes stronger, before they are replaced with strong, rotating circles using wrists and knuckles, depicting the energy of the full moon. The massage ends with softening long strokes again, and is followed with a tranquil herb and frangipani bath, and ended with a closing ceremony of blessed water.

In Seminyak, Prana Spa has established itself as a renowned destination for spa tourism. Enter the spa and you’ll step into a world of Arabian dreams, of deep rich colours, warmth and nurture, designed with a strong influence of Indian and Middle Eastern exotic architecture. Here you are able to enjoy the rituals of ancient kings and queens through the spa’s menu of Eastern health and beauty treatments.

Prana’s Ayuverdic Rejuvenation treatment has been specially designed to re-align the body’s natural elements. Through Ayurvedic healing, this selection of treatments will detoxify and pamper, leaving you in a state of utter bliss. The 240-minute treatment begins with a Prana Foot Ritual, an aromatic footbath using tropical flowers and herbal bath salts, before moving on to Soma, designed to detoxify the body and bring you to a state of total well-being. Following Soma is Shirodhara, a ritual that combines ancient Indian healing techniques and is one of the most popular Ayurvedic treatments, along with a mind-soothing Indian head and scalp massage. You will be treated to a healthy light meal before you end the whole session with Prana Eye Ritual, a complete rejuvenation of the eye contour area to release puffiness and tiredness.

From the heart of Seminyak’s hustle and bustle to the beach of the same area, Anantara Seminyak Spa is a wellness sanctuary found on the rooftop of Seminyak Bali Resort. Rooted in Thailand, the essence of Anantara philosophy, ’without end’, stems from Asian Sanskrit origins and extends seamlessly to the brand’s global reach of spas located in the most exotic destinations around the world. Anantara’s enduring belief is expressed in perfect harmony through the traditions of each locale, beyond which a yearning for ageless, natural remedies is answered by finely tuned repertoire of health and beauty concepts which deliver intoxicating authenticity.

In this meaningful sanctuary of ancient glory and prosperity, treatments here are inspired by the intrigue of its exotic destination, and harness the richness of Indonesia’s Spice Islands which were once the world’s largest producer of mace, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper. These coveted ingredients were sent to Persia over 3,000 years ago and the volcanic islands enjoyed a thriving trade with the Far East for centuries, before European vessels descended throughout the 1500s. Symbolising luxury and highly valued for their distinctive flavour and medicinal benefits, Anantara Spa fuses precious spices from Indonesia and beyond to bring you a wealth of pampering aromatic rituals.

For an authentic session here, you can try the 30-minute Kerokan Therapy. This stimulating and warming therapy was traditionally used to treat common cold symptoms. Drawing on ancient practices of Bali and Java, a therapist rubs the skin with ginger oil, and scrapes the neck and back, promoting stamina and increasing energy flow.

Driving north to the land of wellness, Ubud, DaLa Spa at AlayaUbud should be marked as one of your spa stops – it is one of the iconic Bali spas. Designed to take the experience of Balinese relaxation to the next level, the spa lies next to a rice terrace and overlooks a small flowing river, creating the perfect atmosphere for a spa therapy session. DaLa Spa is all about vintage decadence with a contemporary twist. Offering a carefully-researched selection of pampering and healing treatments, their spa products are derived from the purest, natural ingredients.

For some unique experiences, the spa’s Manis Klepon treatment is a nurturing ritual that draws inspiration from a traditional Indonesian rice flour cake. The treatment involves a foot wash, palm sugar scrub, body mask, fragrant flower bath, relaxing massage and some delicious sweet treats at the end. Another speciality is The Island Cocoon treatment that pays homage to a timeless Indonesian skin care remedy, which includes a refreshing foot wash, warm body compress, body mask of grated corn and coconut cream followed by a herbal bath and warm stone massage to end the treatment. 

Another treatment that may also impress you is the DaLa’s Potpourri Spa. This inspiring treatment is based on the beauty of the Indonesian and Malay cultures. It begins with a Betel Nut Foot Ritual, which is an age-old Malay custom. Then a Balinese massage is performed, starting off with a ritual by sprinkling of fresh flower petals to generate positive energy. The Canaga Infused Coconut Body Scrub will leave your body silky smooth, before ending with a lavish Potpourri Bath to recreate the opulence of a Malay Wedding Bath.

Still in Ubud, in the tranquil surroundings of the Ayung River, Fivelements Puri Ahimsa is an award-winning eco-conscious Balinese authentic healing and wellness destination that is known worldwide. They take inspiration from the Balinese concept of ‘Panca Mahabhuta’ that represents the five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth. Following the Balinese philosophy of wellness and balance through the harmony of spirit and nature, Fivelements embraces the holistic therapies using the wisdom and perceptive of their healers that have been passed along through generations. By far, no other culture has been as recognised for the intensive study of healing that involves close initiation from being chosen by a well-known healer or high priest. With the guidance of the island’s most revered healers alongside wellness, sacred arts techniques and programmes, Fivelements has designed life transformation rituals that include deep massage therapies, prana life energy, water healing, beauty wellness treatments, blessing ceremonies, meditation and yoga. Each ritual is targeted for purification, balancing and regeneration.

Finally, driving to the east side of Ubud, the holistic healing experiences at Desa Visesa are based on the philosophy of the authentic Bali Usada principles. This is traditional knowledge for the procurement of ailments with the use of Ayurvedic medicinal plants, herbs and spices. Here, you will get the chance to have a mild treatment at the Bali style bamboo huts to experience blissful sensations with serene views on the rice fields along with outdoor spa baths.

Whether your ultimate goal is fitness, detoxification, weight loss after pregnancy or just a health-boosting break, the resident experts will work together to create purposeful healing programmes for everyone to mend mind, body and spirit. Their main role is to be the guide for each participant as they go out of comfort zones towards higher goals, unrealised depths, new powers and a greater sense of steadiness.

During the healing experience, you will be taken care of by a well-known Balinese healer in private consultations. This treatment draws power from nature or spirits, and creates natural medicine from holy water, flowers and plants. The natural ingredients for masks and scrubs, such as white ginger, turmeric, papaya, rice powder and many others, come directly either from the Visesa permaculture gardens or local product suppliers. Offering blissful treatments with exquisite attention and care, Visesa Balinese Healing & Spa is an immersive experience that allows you to take a break from the stresses and habits of your daily life in order to focus on your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Waroeng Djamoe Spa

Hotel Tugu Bali, Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu
+62 361 4731 701

Prana Spa

Jalan Kunti I No.118 x, Seminyak
+62 361 730 840

Anantara Seminyak Spa

Jalan Abimanyu (Dhyana Pura), Seminyak
+62 361 737 773

DaLa Spa

Alaya Ubud Resort, Jalan Hanoman, Ubud
+62 361 972 200

Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa

Banjar Baturning, Mambal
+62 361 469 206

Desa Visesa Ubud

Jalan Suweta, Bentuyung Sakti, Ubud
+62 361 2091788



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