Updated: Feb 6
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 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.
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
My massage therapist, Jeya
practice is to relieve joint pain and ailments such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. I have been given a little bottle of ominously brown liquid which I consume twice a day – 10ml before breakfast and 10ml before dinner. The massage is sweet but the medicine is BITTER! It goes down in one and truly tastes as “good for you” as that brown medicine we dreaded as children. I am assured that it is a wonderful remedy for the pain in my hips and other joints.
So how do I feel on day 5? I feel wonderful! After two days of grogginess, headaches and sleeplessness (and smelling funny) which can be a side-effect of the treatment, I have emerged after a fantastic night’s sleep reenergized and headache-free. As the treatment is doing its magic, it tends to stir things up and makes you more sensitive to your
Hot poultices used for Ayurvedic herbal massage.
body’s sensations and movements. The pain itself is worse but it has changed and moved around which means that the knot of dis-ease is untying itself. Day 8 of treatment will be a cleansing day, when I am to enjoy a dinner of castor oil and more herbal medicine followed by one day of eating only rice soup and more castor oil. The pain should decrease significantly after this is over. I’ll let you know.
If you don’t have the time and/or resources to nip over to Kerala to visit the wonderful Dr Subhash at Ayurdara for a 7-22 day course, you can always get in touch with our very own home-grown Ayurvedic superstar sunbeam Marinella Benelli. Marinella has completed various studies in Ayurveda and she specializes in Ayurvedic massage. She is also a mine of information about Ayurvedic lifestyle and dosha theory, so you can either visit her at her website here, or you can catch up with her at our May 2013 retreat at Springhead, Dorset where she will be offering massage as a compliment to our daily Yoga practice.
I’ll be back in touch soon with news about our inspiration for our next yoga retreat on 3rd to 6th May. We have been gathering our ideas based on our various studies, observations and experiences and we’ve woven together a weekend of inquiry where the theme of relationship will be developed to bring us all closer to Nature. We’re looking forward to sharing these ideas with you soon.
With love, Morven