Have you heard of Ayurvedic treatment? It’s also known as Ayurveda – and has its origins in India. I’ve just come back from a trip and while I was there I had first hand experience of this approach to health and wellbeing, and really wanted to share it with you.
You see, for the last 10 years, going to a retreat in India has been on my personal goals list. It has always been something that I have really wanted to do, but somehow, have been too busy to create the space to make it there.
That is until now because last month I had the opportunity to go to India on business. Given that I was there just before the Easter weekend, I took the opportunity and hopped on a plane and flew to Kerala, the home of Ayurveda, this ancient Indian system of healing.
Given that I was incredibly busy in the run up the trip to India, I didn’t have a lot of time for research, so drew on the experience of my wife’s cousin, Victoria, who was in Kerala just recently and highly recommended Dr. Unnikrishnan’s (let’s call him Dr U) hotel and hospital that offers Ayurvedic treatment.
It was a good choice. The word ‘hospital’ no doubt conjures up a particular image which is quite different to what you’d imagine.
Dr U’s is set in lush grounds, right near the beach, 14 km from the airport.
Kerala is the most tropical part of India, so it was very humid and I felt slightly anxious, not knowing what to expect. On arrival, I was met at the airport by a little white van with a big red cross on it, which I realised was a mini ambulance which took me to Doctor U’s).
When I arrived, I discovered a very peaceful place which was just a short walk from the Kovalam beach, lined with restaurants and shops. Given my limited research, I hadn’t expected it to be so close to hustle and bustle.
I was scheduled to have Ayurvedic treatment every day, so with some caution, went along to meet Dr U on my first day, and left 5 days later feeling amazing, and clear on some big decisions that I’d been working through.
If you’ve toyed with the idea of heading to India to get treated by an Ayurvedic doctor, but didn’t quite know where to go or what to expect, let me describe my experience for you. Whilst I was only there for five days, I’ll definitely be going back for longer at some point.
When you walk into the ‘hospital’, you’re greeted by a strong smell, not unpleasant at all, but a very strong smell of incense and herbs and oils. I was welcomed and given a form to complete which asked me about my health history and current problems. I’d been having migraines recently, so made a note of that which I then talked through with Dr U, who looked concerned and made some notes on the sheet.
Up until that point, the experience, you could argue, was very similar to going to a GP in the UK. OK, the setting was quite different but the experience was similar. The patient (me) describes their symptoms, and the doctor attempts to make a diagnosis and then prescribes some interventions.
This is where the two methods separate completely.
In the UK, the intervention would likely be pills of some description such as Neurofen. Given that Dr U is an Ayurvedic doctor, his whole philosophy is therefore holistic in nature, in the sense that he looks at the whole person and sees a disease as a symptom for something being out of balance.
So, rather than go away with a prescription for headache pills, Dr U prescribed ‘something gentle’ which turned out to be an Ayurvedic treatment massage, followed by a milk bath!
Well the massage was like no other I’d ever experienced. I was greeted by a wirey Indian man who spoke little English, told me to undress and then poured oil over my body and massaged me with his feet. It was an interesting experience, and after I adjusted my mental model of what a massage is, I started to relax and experienced true mindfulness, a period during the massage where my mind was completely blank, just focused on the present and the experience I was going through.
After the massage, I lay resting for a while wondering where the milk bath was. I imagined that a milk bath would require me to sit in a bath of milk. But again, my mental model needed to adapt, as this milk bath consisted of me lying on a big black, solid massage table where a man and a woman rubbed herbs all over my body and then threw buckets of hot milk all over me. It was a very strange experience, almost like I was there, but not there.
After the Ayurvedic treatment, I checked in with Dr U who prescribed herb pills for me, and instructed me to take Ghee and hot milk first thing in the morning, which I did.
The Ayurvedic treatment was repeated everyday for four days. By the fourth day, I was very used the process, and in terms of impact, I felt more relaxed than ever before; clearer in my thinking and I realised also that the aches and pains I’ve had in my shoulders from too much computer work had completely gone.
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of healing. It’s a holistic method that sees the body as being controlled by three forces: Pita, Vata and Kapa, and we all have a predominant force depending on our body type.
To find out more about the three Ayurvedic body types, download this free fact sheet.