I spent most of my first three weeks in Kerala covered from head to toe in warm, sticky, earthy-smelling oil. Every day three female technicians dressed in cotton saris and aprons at the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Beach Resort would drizzle it slowly over me while I lay on a hand-carved treatment bench. Soemtimes they would apply the thick orange-brown unguent over my entire body, while I struggled to remain still on the table, which was not flat, but slightly bowed, hard and slippery. Other times, working in a graceful tandem, the two women would take turns heating batches of oil, and...