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My Ayurvedic Experience
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What is Ayurvedic Treatment Like

My Ayurvedic Experience

I have come on a pilgrimage to India
to find out if it’s possible to cure all my ailments (excess kilos / fluctuating but generally high blood pressure/ high cholesterol and probably more) in two weeks.

      Mumsy and I begin our adventure

I have heard about Ayurvedic medicine and the excellent results that some people have experienced, so here I am at Sagara Resort at Kovalam Beach in Kerala, awaiting my consultation with the doctor.

                   Views from the windows of the resort

The resort is intriguing in as much as it is a work in progress. Apparently it all started with a couple of rooms and then the owner built a bit more and so on until here it stands today, almost finished! In fact, a huge pool has just been completed and all that remains is the tiling which it is expected will be finished during our stay. 

Workers (well workmen actually, since I don’t believe there is such a thing as a female building labourer in the whole of India) are everywhere and are apparently working 24 hour shifts. They run around with wound up towels on their heads into which they fit baskets of gravel to tip onto the front driveway which is under construction. Labour is cheap and machinery expensive, so it follows that this is the most economical construction method. But it is surely not easy in the hot midday sun!

  The Owner and staff pandering to Mumsy

We often see the owner of the resort, a charming, funny and cuddly man, who lives nearby and who, the staff tell me, is humble enough to do any job that needs to be done. If a maid is sick he cheerfully kicks in, getting the room ready all by himself for new arrivals.  Similarly, he is only too happy to act as a waiter or kitchen staff member in the hotel restaurant.  He is a most impressive man who surely deserves his great success.

We have been given a lovely suite with large bedroom, bathroom with bath, lounge/dining room and balcony. Also included is a television with cable connection which is just as well as my understanding of Malayalum (the local language) is nil. We have a terrific view of Kovalam Beach and the lighthouse which stands proudly over it.

                       Dr Jayahari wins my heart!

Day two and I have my first appointment with the Ayurvedic doctor (Dr. Jayahari).  He is young and very friendly, and absolutely passionate about Ayurveda. He spends a considerable amount of time drawing diagrams on a piece of paper as he explains the history of Ayurvedic medicine to us.

He wins my heart straight away – he asks me about body processes that have long since expired. I ask him how old he thinks I am and he says 38 – 40. How good is that?  If only my friends (and enemies) had been there to hear it!  Drat!

He questions me about my dreams and the weather I prefer. This is to obtain my body type. It can be one of three types or a combination of the three. Called doshas, these types are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. I’m Vata/ Kapha dosha. Since Kapha is fat, I have too much Kapha – to put it bluntly.

He weighs me and takes my blood pressure – it is 130/ something or other and then feels my pulses (at my wrist). He tells me that my excessive cholesterol is due to too much oil in my body and that his first plan of attack will be a foot massage. This will be the first step to losing heaps of weight! 
He tells me that by the next day he will have a 14 day treatment plan for me.

Hmm, a foot massage… how nice! This might not be so bad at all. I’m totally intrigued by a foot massage that takes off weight.

I return at 2pm for my foot massage. I have a problem with massages as some masseurs have such a hard touch that I can nearly go through the roof with all their pressing and kneading. But a food massage should be quite bearable and I just love the way my feet feel afterwards.

At the appointed time I am shown into the treatment room.

My first thought is I’m experiencing a live episode of “Wire in the Blood”.  Hanging from the ceiling of the tiled room is a rope.
 I have visions of being strung up but I blink and look around me. There is also a massage table with a brass pot on a stand.

The masseuse arrives and asks me to take off all my clothing. All? Yes, all. Yikes!

Now why do I have to be nude to have a foot massage? I just knew that there were deviant activities in this room. The rope was a dead giveaway.

Oh well, I have to report to wisewomansworld and the more perverse the experience, the more I am reckoning that you’ll all love to hear about it, so I obediently strip off, sit on a little stool and cross my legs. 

The treatment starts with a head massage. She sprinkles oil on my head and shoulders and kneads and thumps away for five minutes. I am totally lulled into a false state of security.

She then asks me to lie on a gym mattress which is positioned under the rope. I lie on my stomach and she begins to massage (rather vigorously)  my back and arms. But what happened to my foot massage?

I peek around and there she is, hanging onto the rope with one hand, and balancing herself against the wall with the other one as she dexterously massages my body with one foot.

The foot massager on a rope. I can't believe I am doing this!

And what a powerful foot she has! I have to ask her to tone it down. She massages me from top to bottom, from back to front. I am totally slathered in thick yellow oil.

So THAT is a foot massage!

She now asks me to lie on the massage table. It isn’t easy negotiating the room when I am oily but I somehow manage. It is also difficult climbing on the bed without shooting over the edge like a greased up rocket. She then proceeds to give me another lengthy massage – this time by hand.

She cheerfully tells me that if I have this treatment every day my fat will melt away.

So this is how to shift fat without lifting a finger! Oops, I mean without lifting one of my fingers!  I’ve often wondered if it’s possible to lose weight by massage. It would apparently have to be a very long and vigorous massage – every day of the week! But who can normally afford such a luxury?

       A pot of warm oil - honestly I am up for anything

Anyway, the treatment is not over yet. She hauls over the brass pot on the stand and fills it up with warm medicated oil. My head is positioned under the pot and slowly the oil drips down through a hole at the bottom of the pot. This is Shirodhara – a treatment reputed to open the third eye. She moves the pot around and the oil drips down in a stream onto my forehead for twenty minutes. What bliss!

The whole exercise takes two hours and as you can imagine, I am totally drenched with oil.

In the meantime I have been pondering on a rather worrying problem which I can see coming up. Namely, that, oily as I now am,  I will have to slip into my lovely red caftan when I return to my room. But she pops my caftan in a bag and hands me a green hospital gown. She tells me to wear it back and forth for the course of my treatments. Thank goodness for that.

The masseuse tells me to wait an hour before showering and because my hair is dripping with thick oil, I also have to wash my hair. This is to become a daily ritual.

I personally find daily hair washing to be a bit of a bore so I am doubly put out to find that there is no complimentary shampoo or conditioner available in the bathroom. Luckily, for once in our lives, we’ve actually brought with us a few hotel bottles we’ve saved from previous holidays, but we are to find that there is no hotel (at our price range) in the whole of Kerala, that supplies hair products.

Biju (our driver) later tells us that this is because the Kerala people only use coconut oil in their hair. (But would this clean their hair too, I wonder?)

I wondered if my mother would receive the same treatment as me. However, she did not receive the foot massage. Maybe this is reserved for fatties. The doctor later tells us that due to my mother’s advanced age (80) he thought it was too exhausting for her.

The doctor tells me to go vegetarian for the course of the treatment and this proves to be no hardship as the vegetable dishes in India are absolutely luscious.

In particular, the Kerala people cook everything in coconut oil and throw in a huge whallop of coconut to boot. Vegetables cooked in a delicious cashew paste are also irresistible. I’m wondering about the calorific value of all these dishes. Servings are huge so I compromise by eating half (or mostly three-quarters!). Two vegetable dishes that I find totally yummy are Thoran and Avial.

However, Dr. Jayahari has already said not to have any coconut oil as I had an oily condition. This presents a problem. The hotel does not serve an Ayurvedic menu.

I notice an advertisement for a restaurant nearby that claims to be the only restaurant at Kovalam Beach that serves Ayurvedic food, though I never visit it. This might be a problem - surely a hotel which has an Ayurvedic clinic attached to it should offer the appropriate food? So I can hardly feel guilty if I eat the coconutty dishes on offer.

I am supposed to drink banana stem juice after each treatment. I never did find out what that was like as they never had any available. Apparently cucumber juice is a good substitute.

         Bananas, bananas and more bananas,
       but where is the banana stem juice bar!

When you’re brought up on sliced bread, it is easy to go crazy about the Indian breads. They are the best. Garlic naan, roti, fluffy parotta, stuffed breads, etc, the variety is endless. The breads are crunchy, fluffy, garlicky and spicy and absolutely luscious.

One of the best aspects of Kerala for a recovering sugar addict like myself, is that there is absolutely nowhere to get a pastry sugar fix.

Overall I saw only one cake shop in the whole state. Generally, most meals end in fruit. Some of their favourite desserts are dishes made of vermicelli or red rice (Payasam) or carrot (Carrot Kheer). I think that pineapple is not a bad way to end a meal here.

I quickly become addicted to their wonderful spicy teas. Cardamon tea and masala tea are wonderful if you love spices. Masala tea is thick with spices including a liberal sprinkling of black pepper.

While I relish foreign food, my mother has a big problem. She is allergic to chilli so she suffers terribly. Even after intensive questioning and the waiters denial that  there is any chilli in a dish, she would take a mouthful and have to spit it out. India is not the country for people with chilli allergies!

The next day I am given my treatment program for the next 14 days plus an assortment of herbal pills and herbal liquid to be taken on either side of each meal.

The program comprises the foot massage, hand massage, Shirodhara, steam baths, oil and steam baths, massages with herbal powders, enemas, herbal purges, medicated ghee treatments and ear, nose and eye cleansing.

After four days of treatment my blood pressure has dropped to its best level in ten years – 120/80 and I’m feeling very good.  I’m feeling supple, and can easily run my hands along the floor with unbent legs.

The doctor weighs me and I’ve only lost a 1/3 of a kilo! Not to worry, I must not go out on Sunday because that will be the big day when I have a purgative herbal medicine. I must not have breakfast and must stay in with heaps of toilet paper.

Day four introduces an interesting treatment.  As per usual, I have an all over body (foot) massage, a head massage and a manual massage. Then a portable cooker and wok is brought bedside.

      My masseuse ready and waiting!!!

The wok is heated and the masseuse places a tied up bulging bag in the wok until steam rises from it. Before I can argue, she pounds my back vigorously with the hot bag. As she bashes away she tells me that the contents are green leaves which ‘are good for losing weight’. She reheats the bag and sometimes it is a little too hot but what to do?

It is after all, for my own good!

Afterwards, I decide to go down to Kovalam Beach and see what’s happening down there. I have hitherto avoided it as I have to walk down about five flights of very steep stairs and then negotiate a narrow path that winds through the back of all the holiday resorts.

                      And let the fun begin!

Kovalam Beach is the most famous beach in Kerala, having been discovered by hippies years ago, but now it attracts travellers from all over the world.

The water looks very inviting – but not so the unattractive black sand. I have been told that many overseas beaches have dark sand and here is a case in point. The surf looks very inviting but I notice no one sitting on the sand.

The beach is littered with beach beds and umbrellas which are obviously for hire. Yes, a fellow sidles up to me and offers me use of a bed for 150 rupees. This would be open to negotiation but I just nod. Not today.

Immediately I am accosted by a host of beach vendors. Bongos are banged in my face – would I like to buy drums? No? But for my children? For a friend? No? But these are the best drums in India! Bang! Bang!

How about a pineapple? How much? 100 rupees.

“One hundred rupees!” I shriek.  “That would be $2.50 in Australia and I just can’t believe that they would cost that much here!”

“But they are very sweet, very juicy, Indian pineapples!”

“Well I don’t want them at that price.” I’m now thinking that a nice juice pineapple would be a yummy lunch. Maybe they’ve been sun ripened rather than gassed in the Woolies warehouse.

“Then 90 rupees?”  she asks.

“No, I’ll pay 50 rupees, and that’s too much anyway,” I say curtly.

She looks insulted and brings down the price to 80 rupees.

“No, don’t want it,” I bark and then turn on my heels.

I’ve walked a few metres when she runs after me. “Seventy rupees?” she begs.

“OK, I’ll pay 60 rupees but that’s my final offer!”

She smiles a toothless smile and happily hands me the pineapple. 
It was indeed very juicy but I later discover that the locals pay twenty rupees for their pineapples!

The Kaftans are beautiful - Of course I'd like to buy!

Next I am accosted by a man selling kaftans/ shifts/ wrap arounds.

“No, I don’t want to buy anything.”

“When are you leaving?” he asks.

“In two weeks’ time.”

Pointing to himself he says confidentially, “My name is Johnny Be Good. You must remember my name. Don’t go to anyone else. You are my customer now.”

I promise not to succumb to any other kaftan/shift/wrap around salesperson. Johnny Be Good will be watching.

The amazing thing is that another day I see the same salesman and he reminds me of our conversation. He actually remembers when I said I was leaving.

A German lady walks by and I mutter under my breath to her. She laughs and says that the beach hawkers look at tourists in a different way to us. “They scan us in just like a computer,” she says. “Even if you come back in two years’ time they remember you.”

I believe her as time and time again I am amazed by their phenomenal memory of every critical detail – firstly my appearance, then the exact day I will be leaving and also the items on which my greedy eyes alighted. They are human computers.

I am accosted by another kaftan/shift/wrap around salesperson.

“My name is Shridda? Can you remember that name? Repeat it for me!”

“Well, you want to buy a lovely dress?”

“No thanks.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Two weeks’ time.”

“Then you come back and only buy a dress from me – Shridda. OK? Promise?”


We shake hands on it but I’m now beginning to worry about my easy promises. What will happen if I reneg and buy off Johnny Be Good or someone else?

Another tourist tells me what happens. She bought a wrap around off someone and another salesperson to whom she’d given her promise, ran over and the two vendors  almost come to fisticuffs. How stressful was all this!!!

And so it goes on.  Drum sellers, kaftan sellers, fruit, bead and ring sellers, card, puppet and CD vendors, all vie with one another to win customers and create goodwill. Even looking in a shop window is torture. I don’t know how they do it but the exact instant you peer in at the window display, a head pops out the door. “You want to see inside? I have very nice things inside.”

Of course we all know that once inside there will be no easy escape.

It’s looking like a trip to the beach is not as pleasant as one would hope. The thought of having to dodge all those anxious faces on a regular basis is too horrible to contemplate.

And beware the hand that comes out to greet you. I make the mistake of shaking hands with a proffered hand and suddenly I encounter a vice-like grip that hauls me in! I have to struggle to escape the trap.

             The 'master sellers' lie in wait. Here I come!

Taking a walk out the front of the resort is not much better. There is a long winding road that winds down a very narrow street lined by little shops. Unfortunately, one of those shops happens to be a tailor who, having once dragged me into his shop to inspect all his materials, has now well and truly ‘scanned me into his database’ and races into the street to accost me every time he sees me in the vicinity.

I made the mistake of idly enquiring as to the price of a pair of trousers for myself. Well of course I’d have to select a piece of material for a quote. Already I was feeling the pressure. I casually pointed to a piece at the top of the pile.  Oh, that was a very expensive cotton so it would cost more than the other pieces! Why hadn’t I picked the piece below it? Drat.

The tailors critically eye my fat legs, all the while jabbering away, until finally they say it will require 21/2 metres due to my size and it will cost 1200 rupees ($30). I shrug. I didn’t want trousers anyway – it was only an idle enquiry. I guess $30 is a pretty good price for a pair of slacks but then I’d rather have a piece of material that I really like rather than one from a pile in their shop.

But it does make me think that next time I’ll go back with a suitcase full of all those scraps of material that have been sitting in my cupboard for years. Then maybe I could shop around for the best price.  Probably the best price is not to be found in a tourist resort!

Maybe I’ll just stay indoors and watch cable television.

Sunday arrives. I don’t have breakfast and dutifully arrive for my purging.

I am given a hand massage, followed by a steam bath. The steam bath is a large wooden box sitting alone it a little room. The room is already full of steam and a eucalyptus scent. I climb inside and the box is closed up on me so that only my head pokes out the top. I wallow in the steam, feeling uncannily like an actor in a scene from Thunderball.

Talking about Thunderball, I’ve just remembered something that I was told by my neighbour in the plane at our Singapore embarkation. She was the last person on the plane and was visibly disturbed. She told me that she had been delayed due to the fact that she had had a problem at customs due to a snowball, of all things.

As you know, you can only take the most miniscule amount of liquids on board an aircraft these days. She was terribly upset as a snowball her son had given to her was confiscated due to the liquid therein!

And while I’m on the topic, take care because if you buy duty free alcohol and you have a connecting flight, you will almost certainly lose the alcohol as it is now too late to put it in checked in luggage and you can’t carry it on the plane. Apparently a man bought a number of bottles of expensive cognac at the duty free shop and when he changed planes, they were taken off him. He nearly had a nervous breakdown over the issue.

Anyway, back to Ayurveda. Every pore cleansed, the doctor takes me to my room where he watches me drink a bitter herbal concoction.

He tells me that the herbs are so strong they can dissolve bone. Hence, all the nasties that have been lurking in the twisted depths of my colon will be dissolved and flushed away. It will take three quarters of an hour to take effect and sure enough, at the appointed time I find myself gagging.

I am simultaneously stricken with a desire to vomit and to go to the toilet. However, the next day the scales give a very good result. I have lost four kilos! And of course, I have thoroughly cleansed my large intestine.

All those nasty bits and pieces that have been sitting half digested for years are now floating in the Ganges.

Day 7 brings a new treat. A paste moat is made on my back and this is filled with warm medicated oil. This is to treat lower back pain.

To be truthful, I never feel like I have pain that disables me though sometimes I have to propel myself forward, head first, and bum out. Anyway, that is enough to warrant this treatment which is really quite pleasant.  

I have looked in the clinic catalogue and there is a picture of a woman with such a set up around her eyes. It looks suspiciously like her eyes are afloat with oil. The doctor tells me that this is a treatment for cataracts.

Already I’m reaping the benefits of my treatment. Not only am I feeling supple, but my back feels terrific and my mum tells me I’ve stopped snoring. Frank will be pleased. And let’s not forget the missing four kilos!

Day 8 and after the usual treatment I have to sniff some medicated oils and then the masseuse (who delivers all the treatments) tells me she’s going to clean my ears.

I’m expecting an ear candle but instead some herbs are heated in a coconut shell. A bent metal pipe is inserted in a hole at the top of the shell and warm smoke blows out the pipe and into my ears. How pleasant! She then fans me with a tea towel dipped in hot herbal oil.

It seems that no matter how much I wash myself, I can never completely remove the pervasive yellow colour of oils and clays.

After each treatment the bath water is a thick cloudy yellow. Also my underclothes are all stained yellow due to skin contact. It’s not the place to be wearing your sexy lingerie.

I notice that I have now lost my normally ravenous appetite. I am quite happy with two meals a day. My mind is also the most relaxed it’s been for years. I’m actually quite happy to do nothing all day – a first for me!

There are a couple of problems here – despite the fact that it’s winter it gets very hot in the middle of the day and therefore a bit uncomfortable to be walking around.

Also public transport does not run to the hotel and taxis or auto rickshaws cost a bomb for foreigners. Every trip seems to wind up costing in the vicinity of $40 just for the transport, and this is a definite deterrent to leaving the hotel.

So I am quite happy to sit by the pool or watch cable tellie.

There are about four English channels – Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and two movie channels. It is quite obvious what Indians find entertaining – on 90% of the remaining Indian channels the programming is singing and dancing. There are channels that show dancing all the time and the rest have a diet of talent shows or Bollywood movies.

One thing I find very curious is that in 100% of commercials the Indians all have the palest of skins. This contrasts strongly with the people I see in the streets who all have very dark skins. Maybe the actors are sourced from a part of India where people are all pale. Maybe the actors are airbrushed! Nevertheless, does this all mean that Indians won’t buy products endorsed by their darker skinned brothers and sisters?

                         The passing parade

I celebrate my good health by visiting a beautician who is in residence in a cubicle in the alleyway behind the hotel. I book in for a fruit facial. It costs about 750 rupees or $19.

In the course of an hour, layer upon layer of fruit preparations are massaged into my face, leaving it glowing and wonderfully smooth. She notices my unruly eyebrows and asks if I’d like a trim. Oh well, why not?

I expect her to pull out the tweezers but instead she takes out a roll of cotton thread. Holding one end between her teeth she uses the thread like a pair of scissors. Snip, snip – no messy hair escapes her attention. With extreme dexterity she wields her cotton, snipping away at errant hairs and soon I have two finely sculptured eyebrows.

Meanwhile, back at the clinic, my treatment has now progressed to oil baths and enemas. Also, at the end of each treatment I am now given a drink of medicated ghee in hot water.

After my massage the mattress on the table is whipped off to reveal a hollow into which I climb and buckets of warm medicated oil are sloshed over me. This is an oil bath. When I roll over so that she can pour oil over my front, I am terrified that I am going to shoot off the bed like a pea escaping from its pod. I hold on for dear life.

Fully greased, I am now ready for my herbal enema. The mini enemas aren’t too bad and actually don’t have much of an effect on me at all. But then I am given the biggie! The super enema is quite unpleasant but it is good for losing another kilo I guess.

I am told the story of the massages, oil and the enemas. The theory is that the massages, oil baths, bashings with hot leaves and the medicated clay massages all serve to draw toxins out of the tissues and into the bowels. These toxins are then flushed out by means of the enemas and herbal drinks.

So after two weeks the treatment finishes.

My mother has given up three days before her graduation. Her intolerance to chillis and the fact that unlike myself, she has found the enemas to be totally purgative and has been running to the toilet day and night, have taken their toll.

However, she ought to be very impressed because her legs which are always quite swollen with fluid, are now shapely and quite deflated.

        I'm feeling great

I have in all lost five kilos and my blood pressure has stabilized to a nice 120/80 which pleases me greatly. I’m sure I would have lost more weight if I could have stayed off those yummy breads, teas and vegetable dishes cooked in coconut oil. I can’t guess my cholesterol level but I feel supple and flexible. I notice that the nasty gum infection that has plagued me for two months prior to my trip has now gone. Aches and pains have disappeared and I am sleeping extremely well.

Would I go again? Most definitely!

All in all, it wasn’t an overly expensive proposition and in two weeks I have lost a sizeable wallop of weight and have health benefits to boot.

Dr Jayahari gives me a tote bag of herbal pills to take home and a diet sheet with recommendations to assist in my food choices back home. However, I don’t know why I can eat dried figs but not fresh figs and why brown rice and watermelon have been banned.

I’ll have to ask him when we meet again.

            What an experience!    I'll be back......

copyright Roslyn Motter