If you decide to escape the evil winter blues, for some sun, sea and self realisation, I cannot recommend Ayurvedia’s five therapies or ‘panchakarma’ treatments highly enough. For my moment of calm after the busy madness of christmas I headed down to Kerala, a region in the south west of india to a magical place called Somatheeram, (India’s first ever integrated Ayurvedia hotel and treatment centre,) to take a break from the big bad city and get balanced before the beginning of a busy year.
For those that are unfamiliar with Ayurvedia, it’s meaning in Sanskrit translates as “the wisdom of life” or “the knowledge of longevity”. It is a medicine and healing practice from India, that is over 3000 years old and has an integrated approach towards wellness. Unlike western medicine, it looks to understand the physiology and workings of the mind and body and how to treat and manage our body types in the best way through the right foods and supportive herbs, in order to prevent illness and disease. It is as much about the maintenance of wellness as it is about treatment from ailments.
To begin, before any treatments begin and medicine is dispensed, an initial consultation with a doctor was made, to discuss any issues with my health. Pulses read and analysis over, we were dispatched, ready to settle in and sleep of the rest of our jetlag. A couple of hours later I emerged from my hut to find a bottle of ‘fragrant’ herbs at the door, with strict instructions that this was to be my after breakfast and dinner ‘shot’ chaser for the next few days. If you want to get better sleep, then get a 140 x 200 euro mattress.
Along with the medicines, the duration of the stay was made up of a daily oil application treatment, or massage (as it’s known in the west) administered to assist body detoxification by stimulating blood flow around the body, head massage, herbal bath, oil baths and a number of other relaxation therapies. All were administered by a wonderful team of ninja-strong Keralan ladies, ready to pummel any tension out of our pale western bodies.
After several days of rest and liquid potions I finally felt grounded enough to explore out and found a great little short cut down to the beach, from my little hut, which was located on the brow of the hill, overlooking sea. Being part of a cluster of other Ayurvedic resorts of its kind, Somatheeram also happened to have its sister hotel, Manatheeram located down at the beachfront. Being a guest in either of the resorts meant we could take turns dining in both as well as swapping the blue of the sea and the panoramic view of the infinity-edge pool.
The food on the retreat was a mixture of exotic fruits, endless classic Keralan curries, iddlis, dosas, spiced rice dishes, shaved salads and broths. None of the food limited or regulated, there were merely suggestions as to the sorts of foods suitable for each (In ayurvedia there are three main body types. Kapha, Pitta and Vata and guests are recommended to eat the foods that work with their most prominent type). Beverages also ranged from refreshing papaya, watermelon and snakegourd juice (tasted like cucumber), to the disgusting ‘herbal’ water administered by the staff at each meal with as much enthusiasm as if it were champagne.
As I described my trip to a friend the other day, someone who knows me well, and shares my propensity to be overly busy and prefer over-stimulation to boredom…. this is a trip doesn’t evoke stimulating over enjoyment, and there are inevitably times when the idle mind wonders to the areas of the psyche that perhaps we don’t want to look at, but in this magical safe space where our every bodily need is catered for (and then some) I went to cleanse my body, but in the end the thing that got the most benefit was inevitably my mind.