Well, I promised to give you the lowdown on the final part of my Ayurvedic cleansing week at Dr Subhash’s clinic in Vypeen Island, Kerala. After a week of massage, herbal medicine and delicious Ayurvedic food from Dr Subhash’s guest house, I did my “cleansing day”. Having stayed for several nights at the guest house which is exclusively for the Subhash’s patients, I was very familiar with the term “cleansing day”, and the solemn, knowing looks that accompany the term in conversation. If ever a guest detached herself from the group, or was unusually quiet, it was explained in hushed tones “She’s doing her cleansing day”, and hasty nods and sympathetic noises were made in response.
I have done plenty of fasts and detox programmes in my time and I didn’t think these hushed tones were at all relevant to me. I planned a day of sightseeing to do on my cleansing day. The evening before, I was to eat only plain vegetables and rice – the last meal I was allowed until the following evening. Two hours later I was to drink 25 ml of castor oil before bed. I followed the instructions diligently and after an uneventful night I awoke early (about 4.30am), drank another 20ml of castor oil and also about 20ml of another mysterious brown, pungent herbal concoction as per the printed instructions I had been given by the doctor. I did my usual morning sitting meditation and Hatha yoga practice. I did some asana specifically for aiding digestion and waited with curiosity for the “cleanse” to take place. During my asana practice I became increasingly nauseous and weak, and stepped the intensity of my yoga down to a very restorative pace. My digestive system obliged the cleansing procedures and I made my five or six trips to the loo as predicted by the instructions.
It became clear to me after several hours, that my day of wandering around Kochi’s Mattancherry Palace and Jew Town was not to be, as I lay in bed and flinched at the thought of going downstairs to get more mineral water from the shop. I was feeling too weak to get up and the thought of having to interact with the world was too much to bear. Time ticked away and I lay in bed in a semi-daze. By 11am I felt strong enough to read my book, and by 2pm I was ready to think about getting up and going out. I had the strength eventually to leave the building, but I knew that walking anywhere was out of the question and I relied on tuk-tuks to ferry me around the island. So Mattancherry Palace was to be after all (but very slowly and gingerly) and I even took in a Kalaripayatt performance in the early evening. My evening meal of plain vegetables and rice was one of the most welcome meals ever. How comforting it is to eat when feeling fragile!
That evening I boarded a night bus to Madurai, to spend my final days in India at the Sri Meenakshi Sivananda Ashram. I didn’t even make it out of Ernakulam – the departure point of my journey – before falling asleep and I slept like a babe until the bus drew in 10 hours later at my destination in Tamil Nadu. I felt wonderful – physically, mentally and emotionally. The following days were some of my most enriching and blessed of my entire two months in India. I was free of physical pain and on a more subtle level I felt very open and connected easily with others.
Two weeks later – I have a little pain that has returned in my hip so I think a longer course of treatment could have had longer term effects. When I got back many people commented on how bright and fresh I looked. Hmmm – nothing lasts forever, does it? I’ve spent the last two weeks coping with a culture shock and a house move so I am no longer that vision of perfect health! However I would recommend trying at least a seven day cleansing programme like this. I have got to know my body much better and refined my awareness of the body/mind/spirit co-existence. The most precious thing I have learned is that to experience that level of wellbeing is priceless and completely attainable, and something that you can carry with you even after the re-tox begins.
If you are interested in knowing your Ayurvedic dosha (constitution) you can get an online diagnosis from holistic online. This is the best and most thorough questionnaire I have come across so far. Other resources I have used are David Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda for a good overview of how these two sister sciences interlink, and for cooking there is a wonderful book called Sattwa Cafe by Meta B. Doherty (also a great fan of Dr Subhash!) which I highly recommend.