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A Holiday of Herbology, Healing & Admiring India’s oldest Martial Art form.

The Coronavirus pandemic has injured us emotionally and physically. I say so because the images we see on social media along with the news of near and dear ones passing away impact our mental health, which we may not realize. It is very important to heal the wounds afflicted unknowingly through the external environment. A lifetime routine of wellness, especially post-covid-recovery now seems like a necessity. 

India is blessed with the treasure of Ayurveda, and through therapies like Panchakarma, one can have greater life quality. Derived from Sanskrit, Panchakarma refers to five essential actions that purify the body over a set duration of time, in Ayurveda.

India sees a number of tourists visiting for the Panchakarma Experience and on the contrary, very few Indians undergo this ayurvedic detoxification program. Let me share an account of a memorable Wellness Vacation from my travel diary which may prove insightful to you.

Have there been times whereby you regret your choice of experience as soon as your holiday began? I am sure there must have been one such for you that turned out to be different than what you expected it to be. For me, it was when a friend convinced me to go for the Panchakarma experience and glorified it enough that I signed up for a Therapeutic Getaway for twenty-two days straight in Kerala. (Yes, it was too long a duration with no refund upon cancellation).  

I took an early morning flight to Cochin from Pune. A taxi of an hour’s duration from the airport took me to the resort. (At least that’s what I had thought it would be). A small temple en- route caught my attention. The lamps lit inside looked inviting and I decided to mark the commencement of the trip with a quick visit while the taxi waited.

The morning already felt pleasant and I continued the journey, snacking on a piece of jaggery and a red banana offered to me at the temple.

What attracts tourists for a wellness getaway in India?

  • Centuries-old wisdom of Ayurveda and expertise in herbology.
  • Alternative healing practices have cured many ailments efficiently.
  • A yogic lifestyle and its benefits that is gaining popularity globally.
  • The culture of India and the varied experiences on offer.
  • Affordability of Wellness treatments in India.

 Upon arrival, I discovered that the lodging was humble, set across forty acres of land along with the treatment center. A long walk through the plantation took me to a reception area at the farther end of the property. It was a simple setup. The chair I waited on, had traces of medicinal oil. Next to me, I saw a row of fellow Indians from the Gulf on their annual visit home, and to this place for a wellness experience. Some foreign faces were kind enough to return the smile. I was checked -into a shared dormitory and handed a schedule for the month. The day was to start at 4 am. I was definitely not on a holiday.

At the break of dawn, the next morning I was handed over a cup of liquid medicated butter to consume and led to a hall where specialized ayurvedic treatments and massages were given to the residents (or patients) for an hour, followed by a steam bath and shower. I remember the first week snoozing throughout the medicine-massage- bath ritual.

 A team of Ayurveda experts led me back to the room by 7 am for a break of an hour before the yoga sessions started. The asanas did make me alert somehow with the fear of losing balance. The first half of the day was very tiresome. But a good lunch would make- up for this drill. I was eager to taste the South Indian lunch on a banana leaf. To my utter dismay, I was handed over a bowl of rice water (Kanji) along with tempered buttermilk (Kadhi). One was only allowed to have pumpkin soup generously.

The initial three days felt torturous, and I realized that home food was not plain food. This was plain food. Every other doctor on rounds enquired, “Kazhicho?” (Did you eat?, in Malayalam). As if I was allowed a sumptuous meal! I began to think that the idea of a wellness gateway had been a waste of my entire summer break. I could have been at a cozy hill station, but here I was, waking up at dawn in a soporific ashram. A sudden dietary change had left me in shock and I so looked forward to seeing my Malayali friend again.

What are some typical experiences in a Panchakarma Treatment?

  • Internal Oelation of the body called Snehana by consuming medicated Oils.
  • External Oelation of the body with lukewarm sesame oil massage.
  • Medications to flush out toxins from the body- Swedana.
  • Pouring oil on the forehead to relieve nerves called Shirodhara.
  • Detoxification of the body through various treatments.
  • Yogic lifestyle and a vegetarian diet.
  • Restricted movement to avoid exertion.

 After about a week, I adapted to the new routine and gradually started enjoying the stay as I began to explore the property in times of rest. I talked to people on treatments and found friends in them. I still reminiscence the joy on a fellow Arab friend’s face after seeing it rain on the premises. He looked at the rain as if it were magical.

I also developed a good bonding with the resident doctors and started taking a walk in the medicinal garden to satiate my curiosity about the herbs and their usage in my free time. I learned about different Gunas and Doshas of the human body and how they could be balanced with the help of Ayurveda. This newfound knowledge helped me understand the treatment and make the most out of the experience. My initial disappointment had suddenly transformed into serendipity.

During the second week of Panchakarma, my skin began to glow. I carried a mild fragrance of herbs over my body and the alertness of the mind improved. Although I did not suffer from any ailment, this body purification program was doing wonders for my health. Also, there was an addition of a coconut-jaggery-based sweet in the lunch which was a treat to relish.

I discovered that the premises had a pit dug for Kalarippayattu – An indigenous martial art form, where locals could come and practice every evening. I skipped the Shloka chanting occasionally and observed the ‘warriors’ practice along with rhythmic breathing. The combatant movements of their limbs with different weapons were a delight to watch. Post the fight, the participants were given a special ‘Kalari’ massage, to relieve the stressed muscles and tissues. This place had begun to grow on me.!

By the third week, I started feeling calmer from within and my eyes sparkled. There was a lustrous sheen on the skin. The body felt lighter and I experienced quality sleep. The yogic postures had increased my agility and I started feeling refreshed and energetic. It was the twentieth day and I felt a transformation within the body.

The last day of the treatment concluded with a performance of Kathakali on the premises and a traditional Kerala meal on a banana leaf. (Which felt like an incentive for crossing the finish line). It was time for me to travel back home. I was quietly handed a vial of Kumkumadi Tailam by a doctor, as a parting gift that brought an instant smile to my face.  

Who Should go for a Panchakarma Therapy?

  • One who wishes to upkeep physical and mental health.
  • One who feels the need to undergo a body detoxification program.
  • One who leads a stressful life at work.
  • One who needs mental relaxation and rejuvenation.
  • One who wants to maintain healthy body weight.
  • One suffering from body ailments and wants to treat it via Ayurveda.

Pro Tip: Choose a Health Insurance that covers AYUSH Treatments with a lesser waiting period.

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I took one last walk on the premises and marveled about the things I had learned in a very short span of time. The herbs growing in front of me were divine and powerful as they could cure and rejuvenate the body. I closed my diary with a leaf of Ashwagandha to remind me of this medicinal garden.  On my way back, I again made a stop at the temple, en route. I felt grateful. This place had healed me beautifully and I was heading back as a new person, balanced and equipped to make better decisions at work and in life.

 P.S: I could not bear the sight of Kadhi for a long time after getting back home!

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