I’ve decided to sample another delight of Kerala: The ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. During my teacher training, my teacher discussed this with us one afternoon and I found it absolutely fascinating. Here in Kerala, the ancient home of Ayurveda, I’ve had the chance to discover more…
With its roots in Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda stems from ayu (life) and Veda (knowledge): the knowledge of the science of life. Principles of Ayurvedic medicine were first documented in the Vedas approx. 2000 years ago but may have been practiced centuries earlier. Ayurveda sees the world as having an intrinsic order and balance. It argues that we possess three doshas (humours): Vata (wind or air), pitta (fire) and kappha (water and earth). Deficiency or excess in any of them can result in poor health: an excess in vata may lead to dizziness and debility, an increase in pitta may lead to fever, inflammation and infection. Kappha is essential for hydration. Ayurvedic treatment aims to restore the balance and hence good health, principally through two methods: panchakarma (internal purification) and herbal massage. The herbs used in Ayurveda grow in abundance in Kerala’s humid climate.
Your dosha can change throughout your life and is deduced by exploring your physical, emotional and mental qualities. To discover your dosha try this online quiz:
My challenge in Kerala was to find an authentic clinic. In the seaside town of Varkala and other tourist hot spots along the southern coast there are endless spas offering Aryuvedic massage and treatments but I was looking for the “real deal”. The real deal includes a free consultation with a genuine Aryuvedic Doctor who would assess your dosha and from there offer a diagnosis of which treatments would be suit the patient.
I found “Absolute Aryuveda” (www.absoluteayur.com) and Doctor Sreejithkumar. Although the name sounds commercial I really have found it to be truly authentic and “absolute” Ayurveda. The clients were a mix of locals and Western, with four Doctors (including female doctors) and a number of nurses who carry out the treatments based on the Doctor’s recommendations.
I was greeted with Ayurvedic tea and then waited my turn for the consultation with the Doctor. The consultation lasted one hour and delved into the following topics:
Lifestyle, job and daily routine
Diet, including favourite food (er… a serving bowl of cocopops and milk eeek!)
Emotional mental state, including how I felt about myself
Bodily functions – digestion, elimination, hormonal state
Which parent I looked like
Then, an examination of my hands, hair, scalp, nails, tongue, skin, muscles, ears, tummy and pulse.
I was expecting to book in for a three-day course, but all that was prescribed for me were two treatments to have over two consecutive days (it was very important that they were not one after the other on the same day as one was cooling and one was burning… sounded interesting!)
Then, I should follow up with some medicine made up of dried fruits and a spice – the only ingredient I could catch was gooseberry (interesting as love my Granny and mum’s gooseberry fool!) Also, two recipes for oils for dry skin to make at home… stayed tuned for my blog post next week!
For me, this experience as well as being fascinating and insightful, has been of far more value and benefit to me than walking in blind to a tourist Ayurvedic spa for a standard herbal massage. Although I’m sure they are wonderful, I’ve enjoyed the chance to experience something I otherwise definitely wouldn’t have chosen. In all honesty I wasn’t delighted with the Doctor’s choice of treatments for me as I was hoping for the delicious sounding herbal steam bath, full body oil massage and scalp massage, but such is the nature of treatment I guess! The treatments I had were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced but I felt a serene calm afterwards unlike other treatments I’ve had. It will be interesting to see if I notice any changes in the long term following the herbal medicine.
Overall, the key take-away from this is something I’ve already discovered through yoga. In yogic philosophy and dedicated practice, we learn have the immense power to heal ourselves from many things physically, emotionally and mentally. I’ve found the same approach is true in Ayurvedic medicine – the wonderful concept of effort on our part to accept and change what we can through our own response in terms of diet, lifestyle and emotion.
Rather than going to a GP for a miracle “cure-all” pill and no effort on our part, alternative medicines certainly have a lot to offer in terms of their insight and approach. My feeling is… why not give it a go whether it’s homeopathy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and go see for yourself what feels good, what works for you. Just keep observing your body and mind throughout all its miraculous changes and do what’s best for you.