Anyone who knows me, knows my varied health issues, and how often they rear their heads complicating my everyday life. As a result of the problems I’ve had with my stomach since moving to India, Leon and I decided I should go to an Ayurvedic hospital in Kerala for a 28-day stay to see if they could reboot my immune system.
First, a little bit about Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda is the oldest medicine in the world. The Ayurvedic approach to health is rooted in the belief that IF the entire body is in balance, it will heal itself. The underlying philosophy of that belief is that the body, mind and spirit must work together toward that goal. Once those are all working together in harmony, optimal health is achieved.
“Ayurveda” is actually a combination of two sanskrit words that put together mean “science of life.” (The sanskrit root ayur means “longevity” or “life” and veda means “science.”) The knowledge of Ayurveda was passed down orally through a lineage of sages until it was finally collated into a text around 5,000 years ago. That text is the basis for the Ayurvedic medicine practiced today. I chose Kerala, India for this experience because it is the birthplace of Ayurveda, and it is still home to most of the very best Ayurvedic centers and hospitals on the planet.
So which Ayurvedic center did I choose? After much research and a couple of referrals from friends here in India that I trust, I chose Kalari Rasayana. It is one of the top Ayurvedic hospital-retreats in the entire world. The doctors are top notch, skilled in both western medicine and Ayurvedic. It would be impossible to do justice to this place or to the 28-day process of my Ayurvedic program in just one article. So instead, this first piece will be sort of an introduction to the resort and Ayurvedic medicine in general. Then, I’ll simply write my daily impressions into a journal, and try to post once a week. For now though, let me tell you a little bit about Kalari Rasayana.
People fly to Kalari Rasayana from every country in the world in an attempt to cure everything from cancer to diabetes, ulcers, lupus, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, even obesity. It is also popular with people who have undergone the ravages of chemotherapy in order to regain their stregth and overall health. Kalari Rasayana is a bit like a private club. It succeeds on word of mouth alone (although they do have a website). It’s a sort of combination between a boutique hospital and resort — very exclusive and private. In fact, right now I think there are only about 20 people here. The staff itself is around double that number. A testament to the center’s dedication to healing is that once anyone has been here, they always talk about wanting to come back. Why wouldn’t they? This beautiful little Garden of Eden is nestled up against a pristine lake surrounded by thousands of towering coconut trees, making you feel as if you’re actually inside a safe Jurassic Park. Another uniquely beautiful thing about this place is that every moment of every day, every person working here is focused on three things only: your health, your happiness and your well being.
You pay for your stay at Kalari Rasayana in full at the time you make your reservation. Remember to book months in advance in order to assure yourself a spot. That one payment covers all expenses: daily consultations with the doctor as well as the dietician, all medicines and herbal remedies, meals, snacks, room service, thermoses of herbal tea, laundry, clothing, cultural performances and lectures, and all massages and treatments. Tipping is not allowed until the end of your stay, when, if you choose, you may leave a lump sum to be divided up amongst the staff. This means you never have to think about money or feel the need to dig into a wallet while you’re here. I love that system. I won’t mislead you: this place is pricey, and insurance probably won’t cover it, but if you’re searching for a legitimate health reboot, it’s worth a closer look.
I should probably mention the rules here. Rule 1: They give you white cotton drawstring pajamas to wear. No other clothing is allowed. This might strike you as a little “Indian cult,” but it is so nice not to think about clothes. And since you’re staying for a month, not having to pack clothing makes a big difference. The pajamas are comfortable too and extremely light weight which is perfect for the heat here. You just throw on the outfit every day and forget about it. They even do your laundry. Again…nothing to think about.
The second major rule is silence. Patients are urged to remain silent in all common areas at all times — except when communicating directly with a doctor or to make a request of members of the staff. Light conversations are allowed in whispered tones in the doctor’s waiting room or on the grounds, but gab-fests are a strict no-no. And there is absolute silence in the dining room at all times. This was weird for about five minutes, but I find that it is such a relief. Everyone is at a different stage of the treatment and some of them are exhausting and stressful. The reflection and introspection are a comfort, not an imposition. And without the constant chatter present in any other resort or hotel, you find that a feeling of quiet, and ultimately calm surrounds you here everywhere you go. I love it.
Rule 3: Electronics are frowned upon, so prepare to unplug. There are no televisions in the rooms. They also strongly discourage phones as well as computers. This is supposed to be a place of introspection, and they take that very seriously. Most people do bring their iPads or laptops however in order to communicate with family and friends.
After changing into my mandatory, white cotton pajamas, I set out to get the lay of the land. My first day’s schedule was very full as you can see, but it will change day by day, depending upon my needs — and my reaction to the medications and treatments.
5:30 am – Yoga
6:45 am – Breakfast (eaten in silence)
8:45 am – First Ayurvedic treatment of the day.
9:45 am – Yoga Consultation
10:30 am – Juice / Fruit
11:30 am – Meditation with Yoga Nidra
12:30 – Lunch
1:45 – Daily consultation with doctor
2:15 – Daily consultation with dietician
2:30 – Ayurvedic session
4:15 – Juice / Fruit
5:30 – Karma Yoga: Feeding the fish in the pond
6pm – Free time to walk, read a book or meditate
6:30 – Dinner
7:30 – Satsangs (Usually some form of discourse on yoga, Ayurveda, mantra chanting or candlelight meditation)
9:30-ish Bedtime (early as the day begins roughly at 5am.)
During my daily meeting with the doctor, he will assess my health and my body’s response to the treatments from the day before. As a result of that meeting, he will fine-tune my specific program for the following day in order to maximize my progress. Additionally, I have a consultation with the dietician each day in order to plan my individual menu for the following day based upon the reactions I’ve had to my food, and also in order to keep giving me dishes that I love while eliminating those I dislike.
The treatments here are not for the faint of heart. You need to be VERY dedicated to your health in order to do what is required of you here. I’ll go more into detail later. For now, let’s just say that I am still intimidated, and praying I will be able to make it through some of the scarier parts of this adventure. I think if I had to pick one word that best described India overall, THAT would be India’s word…ADVENTURE. (It’s a good thing I like them!)
All in all, there are few places simultaneously as pampering and challenging as Kalari Rasayana. But all things considered, I think I’m going to like it here.