As my plane lands in Kerala, I can hardly contain my excitement about seeing India for the first time. This magnificent country I had heard so much about.
Finally it was my turn to experience it!
I take a step out of the plane and get a whiff of India. I had always heard about people going to India and smelling it as the plane door opens, but I never believed them.
I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and stop for a moment to figure it out. What was that smell? It smelled like a combination of spices, herbs, incense, and small hint of garbage. Overall, the combination made for a very pleasant experience.
Why am I in India?
I had always wanted to go to India, I just didn’t know it would happen this year!
I had a very tough year in 2009 and I really needed a break, so when a friend suggested a week in Kerala with Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatment, I thought this was a sign. “Maybe God is sending me some relief,” I thought. So I took a chance, packed my stuff, kissed my family, and jumped on the plane; all the time not knowing what to expect.
“I could use some relaxation,” I thought. Little did I know, my India experience was going to be more ‘intense’ than ‘relaxing.’
Prior to this trip, my experience with Ayurveda had been very limited. I had read a book on the subject and I had a brief idea of the ‘dosha’ principle, but that was it.
If you’re not familiar with Ayurveda, I suggest you look it up because it’s fascinating and I’m afraid I will not do it justice here.
From what I know, Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that categorises people into three ‘doshas’. The three doshas are Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Each person is born with all three doshas, but one (or sometimes two) is dominant.
When you know your dosha constitution, you can focus your diet, exercise, and other daily routines to maximise your health and prevent disease.
Roughly speaking, if your constitution is dominantly Kapha, you would more likely have a solid build and good physical endurance with steady energy and a relaxed personality. If you are predominantly Pitta, you would more likely have medium strength with sharp intellect and lots of ‘drive’. And last, if you are predominantly Vata, you would have light build, irregular hunger, lots of creativity, and changing moods.
When the body is out of balance, some doshas become more dominant and sometimes have negative health effects. For example, Kapha-gone-wrong can cause excess mucus and allergies.
The dosha system also applies to other aspects of life such as seasons, countries, and times of the day. For example, the Middle East region is considered Pitta, 6-10am are the Kapha hours, windy weather is Vata, etc.
My Ayurvedic adventure
A few hours after I arrive in Kerala and adjust to the heat and humidity, we stroll down the beach to the Ayurvedic centre. A cozy reception area with plenty of treatment rooms downstairs. I walk into the Ayurvedic doctor’s office for a chat.
No more than two minutes into the conversation, he tells me that I’m a Kapha-Pitta dosha. “Oh, ok” I think to myself. “What does that mean?” I ask.
“It means that you have two dominant doshas, which some people have. But it seems like your Kapha dosha has become too dominant, and is therefore suffocating your Pitta. Having lots of Kapha with no Pitta is like having a lot of fuel but no fire to burn it. People with your dosha type often have the ability to achieve quite a lot, but when they go out of balance, they feel tired, trapped, and frustrated. This is often when they decide to hide or escape. Is this why you came to India?” he asked.
Wow! He was able to tell me all that just by looking at me. And he went on for another hour, explaining to me everything that I am probably feeling because of my imbalanced doshas. I must say, it was all spot on.
So, after that long discussion with the Ayurvedic doctor, I did not need any more convincing; I was ready for whatever he suggested. I started my 7-day Panchakarma treatment the same day; a treatment to detoxify and purify the body.
Over the next week, I experienced a full-on Ayurvedic treatment (at least I think it was full-on). Daily treatments of no less than 2-3 hours per day.
The treatment consisted of a daily invigorating massage with mega-loads of oil and herbs. Daily ‘shirodhara’ (a warm oil dripped on the forehead to relax the nervous system and balance the Vata dosha). Plus, daily enemas, nasal drops, ear drops, and even ayurvedic eye drops that felt like someone poured Tabasco into my eyes.
Every day of that week, I would walk out of the treatment centre feeling like I have been cleansed from the inside out. Every day, as I was walking on the same street, I was seeing and thinking different things. My perspective was shifting.
Before I started the Panchakarma treatment, I was told that this treatment totally detoxes the body, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I didn’t believe it until I experienced it myself.
Although 7 days is a lot shorter than the recommended 21 days of treatment, I still saw a lot of benefits on my body and soul. And the effects apparently continue long after the treatment ends.
With each day of the treatment I felt my body shift into more functionality. Digestion, metabolism, appetite, breathing, skin; they all shift at first and then start to improve. But on a more subtle level, emotions also shift. Dormant issues come to the surface and emotions are heightened. The body goes through major changes as the oils, the enemas and the massage shift the doshas into a more balanced state.
All I had to do was be a spectator. I was to just observe without interfering.
And the best part? As I went through all these physical and emotional changes, I was in a beautiful country. It was as if India hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder.
An audio interview with the Ayurvedic doctor himself! You won’t want to miss that. I will be putting it up on this blog very soon so make sure you’re on my mailing list so I can let you know as soon as it’s up.
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