I have been travelling around India for the past two months, to deepen my knowledge and practice of Yoga. After a few weeks in Anand Prakash ashram with my teacher Yogrishi Vishvketu, I have come to the south of India – the home of Ayurveda – to experience a course of Ayurvedic treatment with Dr Subhash, a third generation Ayurvedic doctor whose practice is on the beautiful island of Vypeen, near Kochi.
Dr Subhash’s waiting room
For many years I have been tweaking my lifestyle to align with the precepts of Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga. The Ayurvedic approach to health is one of prevention rather than cure, although sophisticated remedies have been developed to deal with ailments as they inevitably occur. The application of Ayurveda starts with a consideration of one’s constitution or “dosha” and the individual is prescribed guidelines on lifestyle specific to his/her constitution. These guidelines encompass foremost nutrition, and then physical activity, suitable Yoga practice and meditations, occupation and even advice on which are the optimum times of day for certain activities and which colours to wear!
The hardiest of us are prone to imbalances, and when these imbalances arise, they manifest in physical or mental instability or pain. Ayurvedic cures commonly take the form of a course of massage and herbal remedies which result in a cleansing process in the physical and subtle body. More extreme cleansing techniques include enemas, vomiting, fasting and …errrr…bloodletting. I have to say that, even as I was prepared to undergo such treatments on my seven day course, I am feeling relieved that I have only been subjected to rather lovely massages and some rather bitter herbal medicine to take twice a day.
Dr Subhash’s family practice is located in his plush tropical home on the waters of the Arabian Sea, just a few kilometres off the coast of South India. He specialises in long-term treatment, so my seven day stay is somewhat childsplay compared to that of residents undergoing the full twenty two days panchakarma treatment. I console myself with the thought that I am already quite “clean” after weeks of intensive Yoga practice and Sattwic food.
My massage therapist, Jeya
My first consultation involved a basic form-filling interview where I gave my vital statistics of sleep quality, hobbies, preferred food tastes, digestive activity and habits. I was given a more detailed questionnaire to take away with me and treated to a divine four-hands Abyangha massage from Subhash’s wife Jancy and the lovely Jeya – both of whom only possess two hands, incidentally. The massage left me in a deep state of relaxation akin to deep savasana that can be experienced after a Yoga session. After about 15 minutes of languishing in semi-dreamland, I reluctantly peeled my self off the massage table to shower away the red-coloured, cooling oil and herbs in which I was adorned.
Hot poultices used for Ayurvedic herbal massage.
Having been asked whether I had any persistent health problems, I gazed blankly at the doctor for several moments before remembering that I have been experiencing increasing pain in my joints over the past few years. I volunteered this issue more because I felt a little silly being sat in a doctor’s consultation without anything to complain about, than because I considered the joint pain a problem. However as the days go on I am becoming more aware that my body has been showing signs of dis-ease and that I had been ignoring the issue, thinking it would go away by itself.
I am now on day 5 of treatment, and each day I have a hot poultice massage where Jeya rubs hot little bags of herbs over my joints after Abhyanga. This