Ayurveda, Kerala

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March 15th 2011
Published: March 15th 2011
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After much research we choose the Ayurveda Yoga Villa as it seemed to offer everything that we wanted as well as being far enough away from civilization that we wouldn’t be tempted with forbidden alcohol or caffeine. What we didn’t realize was this was so faaaar from anything!!!! Situated on the banks of the Kavery River and just across from the wild life sanctuary of Kuruva island, this is a little bit of utter peace and quiet in India.

The majority of the people occupying the 22 cottages are here for panchakarma, a total body detox that includes enemas, vomiting and diarrhea. Those who go through the process (28 days minimum) state that it is totally worth it and many of the conversations at meal times revolve around body functions and who is doing what. I’m here to see if my hip can be made better – and Kelly, while he says there is nothing wrong (just a perfect male specimen - KD) with him is being treated for snoring and restless sleep. We will see what two weeks does for us.

A typical day starts with going for a brisk 10 minute walk at 6am followed by 1 hour yoga. Breakfast is at 9am, lunch at 12:30pm and dinner at 7pm. The time in between is spent with a daily consultation with the doctor and a 1 hour Ayurvedic treatment which varies according to the illness being treated. There is a second yoga session at 5:15pm. The rest of the time is our own and is usually spent reading on our cottage verandah, talking exploratory walks though the paddy fields and along the river bank and even swimming in the river. There are narrow dirt tracks everywhere though the fields and it is fun to just take one to see where it leads you. There is always a helpful kid or two to assist with directions when the trail seems to end at some ones house – no problem. At any time of the day along the river bank you can see folks washing their clothes, washing themselves, cows grazing, the occasional crocodile and snakes. Everyone we meet on our walks is so friendly and we are constantly asked “what is your name” and “where you from”.

For the first five days, my treatment involved a full body massage with medicated oils followed by nose drops which can only be described as a nasal enema – not a pleasant experience and I’m so happy that it’s over with . My second set of treatment (5 days) involves a pounding massage – herbs are wrapped in cheese cloth, dipped in oils and then pounded all over. It is actually very pleasant. In addition, hot oil is applied to the small of my back. Each person has 2 masseuses at a time of the same gender as you are butt naked during the treatments. My third and final set of treatment (3 days) was the best yet – an oil bath, where warm oil is poured over the body in a specific pattern. This is to help circulation and relieve pain. All I know is that is extremely relaxing.

I have gone from one yoga session a week at home to two 1 hour sessions a day. In just one week it is surprising what positions I am able to twist my body into. Kelly has a breathing exercise where he has to be as a bumble bee (hum until his body vibrates) which is meant to help him sleep better. I think that our yoga master must also sleep very well as all his instructions are intoned in a very vibratory way. He also sounds similar to the asian gay guy in the movie “the hangover” (for those who have seen it) so understanding him is somewhat of a challenge. It took me a few minutes on the first day to realize he was not starting the session with a chant but was actually saying “inhale”, “exhale”. The temperatures don’t quite make it bikram yoga although it does get warm and muggy, especially during the afternoon session. It is the pigeons cooing outside the windows and the breeze coming off the river that makes the setting so unique.

Being in the middle of the country side you would expect that each night would be peaceful and it would be if not for the mongooses or monkeys which delight on playing on our cottage roof every night. When they bang on the pipes, it reverberates right through. I am kind of surprised that they don’t actually come through the windows and pay us a visit. Then all the birds start up in the early morning. During the day we can hear the howler monkeys in the forest across the river.

Each evening a boy comes by with a bowl of coals to “smoke” each room – this keeps the mosquitoes away at night.

The food is amazing although somewhat bland by regular Indian standards. Breakfast always starts with a glass of fresh juice (orange, pineapple, watermelon or grape) and then various little bowls of fruit and curry along with some sort of rice thingy. Lunch is similar (minus the fruit juice) and dinner is the lightest of all. One of the criteria for ayurvedic meals is that they are made and served by good hearted people- many of the staff here are Nepalese – always smiling as are the Keralans. It is also important that food looks good so the presentation is always anticipated. Another rule is no talking or laughing while eating!! We have had some great meal time conversations with a lot of interesting people from all over the world. Our drinking water is warm herbal water which took some getting used too.

Day 6 and I am not so happy as I have just learnt that I am to have 5 days of enema therapy in the evening – enough said on that. (OMG after her enemas she would wake up so happy and chipper, now I know the secret after 28 yrs of marriage – KD) On the positive side, I am not able to go to afternoon yoga – and instead go for a late evening stroll when it is cool and getting to see the end of day activities for the locals – fetching water, wood, bringing the cows home.

An outing to Kuruva Island proved to be entertaining as once again I was the tourist. A bamboo ferry takes you over to the island and then it is a nice stroll in the shade under the moist enormous bamboo stands I have ever seen. Many of the stalks are 6 o 8 inches in diameter and probably a couple of hundred feet high. I am sure it is quite a sight when everything is green again after the monsoon. On this day I learnt that Canada had just beaten Kenya in cricket (this from the boys swimming in the river) and that New Zealand had trounced Pakistan the previous day (this was from a couple from Bangalore). The wife was drinking from the river and when I questioned this, they said that any flowing river in India was Ok to drink from. They added that their immune system was pretty good and they were used to pollution!!!!

All the oils used in the massages are made on site by “the medicine lady” in a hut at the back of the complex. Herbs and oil are boiled for hours in a huge cauldron over an open fire. Once the oil is ready, the boiling hot mixture is poured into cheesecloth covered containers which strain off the herbs. These cheese cloth bundles are wrung out repeatedly to get every bit of oil out. Once the oil is cooled, it is poured into storage crocks. Depending on the type of herbs, the leftovers are either discarded in the compost or used for fuel on the fire.

Kellys’ dissertation : Just finished two weeks at an Ayurveda yoga centre which is ancient natural wellness keeping you healthy through massage, diet and herbal medicines. One girl here suffered from MS and could hardly walk ten steps last year and now is doing yoga twice a day. We do yoga twice a day, get a great full body massages daily for the first five days followed by head massage. Massages are nude using oil specially made by the medicine lady onsite. The massage releases endorphins so it's not uncommon for men to get erections. The next four days I'm on my back having a steady stream of warm oil continuously poured back and forth on my forehead for forty minutes followed by a foot massage. The head oil treatment is to help you relax and the foot massage helps you sleep. My final four days is my head covered in mud and wrapped in a banana leaf for 1 1/2 hrs and a massage with a bag full of milk, rice and herbs for one hour. This is supposed to invigorate you. All very exotic sounding but for a lot of people here it will solve some pretty major health problems - but for me it's sleep apnea, snoring and high blood pressure. Blood pressure is down 20 points so I guess something worked.

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