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  • Writer's pictureRachel Yona Shalev

What I learned at an Ayurvedic retreat in Kerela, India.

Treatment waiting room at Dharma Ayurveda

Ayurveda is an ancient healing discipline rooted in southern India. Treatments are wide and varied, targeting virtually every kind of disease; from muscular skeletal to diabetes and tumors. Many relatively healthy people use Ayurvedic sciences to clean their bodies from accumulated toxins as preventative care. This can be more cleansing than expected, as we typically carry more layers of toxins than we would imagine. Toxins accumulate in our system from regular, every day life; food choices, overeating, stress, environmental factors, emotional toxins, prescription drugs, and more. The Ayurvedic process is tailored to your personal condition, and according to how long you’re staying. Upon arrival, you are diagnosed by a senior Ayurvedic doctor, followed by daily check ins for fine tuning. The center works in conjunction with diagnosis from conventional medicine, and can swiftly get you top quality lab work and imaging, at a fraction of Western prices. In my case, I did an MRI and blood work. Lab results are taken into consideration throughout the treatment process.

Doctor Maya Gopinath, Senior Ayurvedic practitioner

Body treatments are twice daily; one general oil massage, which is given by two therapists. In other words, you have four hands working on you in tandem, and it’s heavenly! The second session is more specifically targeted to your condition. For example, my second session is healing a trauma in my lumbar spine, while my partner is treating arthritis and inflammation. Additionally, you are given foods, spices, natural medications, yoga, and detoxification processes, all tailored to your particular condition and needs. At this center, the food and herbs are brought to you room, always with a smile.

Dr. Parvati, devoted to taking care of our every need
Classic Ayurveda treatment table

Most Ayurvedic centers grow their own plants and herbs, from which they create their medicated oils, tinctures and natural medications. The fertile grounds of Dharma Ayurveda is bursting with such medicinal plants and trees. It’s awe inspiring how nature provides for every aspect of our healing. The catch is, we need to cultivate and educate ourselves in the wisdom of reaping these divine gifts from nature.

Medicinal herb garden

They do not skimp on oil for the treatments. Its heated to a perfect temperature, then poured on your body, or streamed continuously onto your forehead, or dipped onto cotton cloths as hot compresses. All the oil smells amazing, and feel incredible on your skin. They are typically crafted from 8-12 medicinal herbs. After 2 weeks here, my skin is soft and glowing and I look several years younger than when I came. I also have virtually none of the body pain I arrived with, enjoying increased flexibility and energy levels. As an unexpected perk, my eyesight seems to have improved!

Hot herbal compresses for arthritis

Kerelan people are sweet, kind, patient and gracious. Treatments are given with love and care. They greet you with beautiful, wide smiles and friendly eyes. They especially love to help. One night I requested ‘greens’ with my dinner. They used a 5 meter pole to retrieve a bunch of leaves from the top of a particular tree, which they then pumiced rigorously in the kitchen. (Admittedly, I felt slightly guilty watching them labor.) It was served steamed, deliciously seasoned, and fresh. A real treat, especially as it came with a perfectly prepared South Indian rice bread, called ‘dosa’.

Senior Ayurvedic Body Therapist (heating oil for a back treatment)

Health is to be invested in, and radical health is our own responsibility. Sometimes we need to seek out help from various practitioners and disciplines, which can get expensive. The better you take care of yourself from a young age, the less you’ll be dealing with it later in life. However, even for a relatively healthy person, these treatments are a God send, taking you to the next level of well being. Your healing process can also be about simply fine tuning a good thing. One can experience remarkable upgrades in health and wellness.

Being pain free in your 50’s to 80’s cannot be taken for granted. Most of the ‘patients’ here are 55 plus, but many younger 20’s and 30’s seek out treatment from conditions like MS, fibromyalgia, crones, migraines, nervous disorders, etc. If we don’t feel good, life is just not much fun. If we feel fantastic, well, that’s a true gift.

View from our room’s balcony

It’s relatively expensive to do this for the recommended minimum of 3 weeks, making it prohibitive for many. There is a mix of upper middle class Indians, retired Europeans, and a handful of others. We are the only IsraeIis. Interestingly, most of the staff has never heard of Israel. While this center is on the lower range cost wise, it’s still an investment. Having said that, If I’m going to make an investment at this point in my life, this is a great one to make. Taking care of ones health is a life long pursuit, continuously fluctuating with age and life circumstances. Figuring out what works best for you, your particular constitution, etc., and what works for your budget, takes many trials and errors. We should keep at it until we feel we have found the right combination for ourselves. The more Independent we can be, the better. Still, we can reap great benefits from additional support, benefits that we couldn’t get to on our own.

Ultimately, however, you are the CEO of your own health. We need to learn to pay close attention to nuances in our health and well being. While they may be easily overlooked, they creep up until we find ourselves chronically exhausted, in pain, overweight, or diagnosed with something we never thought we could have. Mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and Chi kong contribute significantly towards increasing self awareness of our bodies and minds. The earlier we catch a symptom, however small, the easier and more likely to heal. The more dense, or disconnected we are to ourselves, the less aware we are of toxins and disease building up in our systems. Daily practice in something you enjoy, which frees up joints, loosens muscles, increases flexibility, strengthens the body and calms the mind is an integral part of any health regime. Yoga has been my personal choice of practice throughout my entire adult life. Although I have been teaching yoga for over 25 years, I will always be a life long student of yoga, pursuer of truth, health and wellbeing. Every day is a new adventure, a new discovery on the path. To our abundant health, Namaste

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