Feb 3 (Day 1)
It is so hot here! I know, I know…What did I expect in India? They encourage you to be out enjoying the grounds as much of the day as possible, but the heat sort of sucks the life out of you, and it’s only February 3. Even more difficult to get used to, they’ll only let me have hot water, not cold or even room temperature. They say that when water is room-temperature (or worse, cold) it puts more stress on your stomach. Since my stomach is my issue, I’m drinking glass after glass of hot water. Thanks a lot, gut.
The food is a different story, however. When I was told that the food here was very light vegetarian, with fresh herbs but no oil, no salt, and no spices to speak of, I was afraid I’d be eating baby food for a month. Thankfully, I was wrong. Overall, the food is delicious. The only exception to this is breakfast, which for me consists of five skinless almonds and a small bowl of runny porridge that looks like the gray goop Keanu Reeves had to eat in the movie The Matrix.
The rest of the meals are great though. It’s all prepared perfectly and presented beautifully. Everything has its own unique flavor. Who knew I would LOVE Ayurvedic food this much? I wish I could eat this way all the time (except for the porridge, of course).
THE TREATMENTS: Man, you really have to be ok with being naked when you sign on for Ayurvedic treatments. Here at Kalari Rasayana, which I’ll abbreviate and call KR from now on, you have them twice a day, every day. They are varied, depending on the specific issues that need to be addressed, but you’re pretty much naked as a jaybird for all of them. Fortunately, the rule with Ayurveda is that only women work on women, and only men work on men. Otherwise, I’d have died of embarrassment already.
The treatments always start the same way. You remove all of your clothes, (and I do mean everything). Then you stand in front of the therapists while one of them ties a teeny-tiny, paper loincloth between your legs. (Think kleenex tied with shoe strings.)
Something else you should know about the treatments: Ayurvedic oil is used to one degree or another in virtually all of the treatments, and it isn’t regular massage oil. It has been simmered for hours along with medicinal herbs and roots. The heat helps infuse the oil with the medicine in the herbs, which in turn, maximizes their effectiveness in healing your body from the inside out. The oil, you see, helps the medicine sort of glide into your body through the pores of your skin. The upshot of all this simmering? The oil smells horrible — like the worst, day-old, burned garlic and onions you can possibly imagine. After every treatment, I smell like one of those bio-diesel cars that runs on old, french fry grease.
The texture of the oil is thick — sort of like motor oil. I’ll be honest; the greasiness is a drag. After each treatment, you scrub yourself in the shower for at least 10 minutes with a coconut husk and Ayurvedic pumice soap, but the oil is still there…like wax on a car. This is just something you have to get past if you want to give Ayurvedic medicine a fair shot. It’s a small price to pay when you think about the results.
The treatments themselves are the stuff of legend. The two therapists that will do most of my treatments while I’m here are named Greeshma (pronounced with a long “e,” as in the word “green”) and Reshma.These two women do almost every one of my treatments together as a team — their movements completely synchronized. They rub me, scrub me and pamper me…in general, beating me into a better, healthier, happier version of myself.
As I’m lying there on the table I feel a little like Cleopatra. Ayurveda is over 5,000 years old, so I have no trouble picturing her lying on an identical, wooden treatment table, inlayed with brass just like mine, and getting these treatments every day in order to keep herself beautiful and glowing. No wonder every man who came near her fell all over themselves. We’ll see if I transform after two of these treatments a day for 28 days. Over the past few years, my strut has turned into a bit of a hobble somehow. Lord knows, I could use a little more “Cleo” in my attitude.
The Ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Sankar, is movie star-handsome and a very gentle man. He is the lead doctor here, and his sweet wife, Poornima, is the nutritionist. (Poornima means “Full Moon.” How beautiful is that?!?) With so many patients to supervise, I was a little surprised that he was able to spend almost two hours with me on my first day, asking questions and patiently explaining procedures. Funny note though, he’s a mumbler, and as all Keralans, he ties two words together with an “ooh” sound in the middle which makes it even harder to understand him at first. He’s so kind and careful with me though that I hang on his every word. I’ll have follow-up appointments with him every day of my stay — to allow him to learn what is working for me and what is not. I’m guessing those will probably be about 15 minutes or so, just to touch base. We’ll see.
Dr. Sankar describes you, the patient, as the driver of your treatment with him as the navigator. As such, he points out any trouble spots that might be obstacles to your health. So far, his opinion is that I am a perfectionist and not nearly kind enough to myself which is what he believes is making my stomach ulcers worse. (I can practically feel Leon’s head nodding in agreement.)
WORDS OF WISDOM:
“All this thought that you are a failure…Those voices do not belong to you. They are other voices from long ago, and they are no longer relevant.” — Dr. Sreelal Sankar