Ayurveda, “the science or knowledge of life”, is a holistic science of health and has the focus on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began 5.000 – 6.000 years ago in India when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. These days Auyrveda still has a strong status in India beside the Western medicine: Ayurveda practitioners are highly appreciated and the education system is arduous and comprehensive. To get a general idea of Ayurveda and different doshas, Pitta, Vata and Kapha – the unique and individual make up of different elements in our body and mind just google “Ayurveda” and you’ll find a vast and endless array of information. To keep it simple, you might like to check what Deepak Chopra says about Ayurveda: What is Ayurveda.
At the end of my two months of travel in the south of India I found myself in a small family run ayurvedic center, Abhaya Ayurveda Chikitsalaya, close to the village of Kollur in Karnataka. Dr Shrikant is a family doctor for Guruji Vijaya, with whom I had been studying and living yoga in Yoga Gurukula: that is where I got to hear about this little oasis in the middle of the mountains. I had my first impression of the center when I made a day trip to Chikitsalaya from Gurukula with three yogi friends of mine to have our consultations. Even though only two of us had an appointment, dr Shrikant took us all in with warmth and spent a lot of time and effort to ask questions and give us advice personally and individually. Before we left Kollur we picked some ayurvedic medication from his clinique at the village. I was not surprised to hear that I had aggravated Pitta dosha: my inner fire has been strong for decades and caused me a lot of problems: E.g. restlessness, insomnia, too fast digestion lacking the optimal absorption of the nutrients. My overactivity leads too often to the state where I have depleted myself and find myself tired and depressed. The main issue I wanted help with was to get rid of my recurrent and progressive depression seasons.
At the very first encounter with dr Shrikant I was astonished how accurately he could see me as a whole in such short time: not only as characters, behaviors and symptoms, but as a whole living being from the time before I was born to these days: as an adult woman with a lot of life experience to be utilized for finding a happier and healthier lifestyle. I learned I am not a 100 % Pitta, but also the creative Vata -dosha is characteristic for my body-mind system. But how to find balance? How not to over challenge my body and mind for not to fall again to the dark hole from where the climbing up is so hard? First of all I was told that depression should be seen as the lack of happiness: instead of fighting against some kind of formless monster (this is how the depression manifests for me) or accepting the dark seasons, the answer could be preserving the happiness, finding the things that create well-being and happiness for me and reinforce them in my everyday life. At the same time downshifting as much as I could with a good conscience and practicing compassion and softness towards myself would be needed. Nothing new and revolutionary in this kind of thinking, but the advice which followed was so practical and precise that I had it very easy to see myself finally to do these changes and that these changes would make the difference. The advice I got concerned my everyday duties, work and leisure, social life and family, hobbies, yoga practice and diet. Also keeping a diary about my actions, feelings and thoughts would be helpful in figuring out the causes behind the eventual low seasons. See a passage of my diary in the end of this posting.
So I left the consultation with a hopeful mind and decided to come back for relaxing treatments before I would leave India for this time. Panchakarma, a cleansing and rejuvenation program for body and mind, would be something I will do on some of my future trips to India, now I would not have time for it. I planned to stay at Chikitsalaya for three days, but when I got there on the day I was supposed to, I had had such adventures after having left the safe Yoga Gurukula that I decided with a warm recommendation by dr Shrikant to stay there the whole last week of my travel only to leave straight to the airport without having to get more new experiences from somewhere else.
My stay in Chikitsalaya turned out to be one of the biggest and most meaningful experiences during my travels in India. Again I found myself to be the only westerner, actually both the personnel and other patients were all Indians. The charming Aunties in their nighties in the evening and sarees when we went for a temple: Nirmala, my kind roommate and Lakshmi, whose laugh is still in my ears and who insisted me for the morning walks: “Now Madame Maria, no yoga, you come and walk with me!” Ashmin, the sweetest young assistant doctor, who was willing to talk the big issues of life, love and devotion, with me. Nagaratna, the maid, how innocent and modest can a young woman be? And Ravi, the Anarchist Artist, the big challenger who never stopped talking except when he decided to be silent for a whole day and almost succeeded in it. And finally dr Shrikant and his wife: I really respect and honor their work and involvement in the well-being of the patients.
Being given and accepting the role of the patient felt so good! I am used to do what I want making a lot of plans and fulfilling all of them. I even tend to organize the lives of my near ones them wanting it or not…To let go and slow down for waiting for treatments, have clear routines and ask permission for potential extra activities created the feeling of security in me: I felt that I was taken care of and I was safe. Though I managed to do quite a view things even though I was slowing down: a newsletter to my yoga students in Finland, chair yoga for Aunties, sweaty yoga class for Ravi, Thai massage treatment, life coaching for Ashmin…My friend asked me a while ago why I want to go for a ten-day Vipassana where I am only allowed to meditate, eat and sleep. This is the reason: I cannot stop myself: I want the experience of really not doing anything but sit (or walk) still for a period of time and see how it affects my brain and my state of being.
So the social context of Chikitsalaya was special, but so were all the other circumstances offered: the treatments were proficient, the nature around the center unbelievably beautiful, food was pure and delicious. The Mookambika Temple at the village of Kollur is very special and allures thousands of pilgrimages every year. I was more drawn to the Dharma Pheetha Meditation Temple, only one kilometer away from Chikitsalaya. It is modern and somewhat pompous, very different from the other Hindu temples I had been to, but the cool energy inside the temple by the huge Shiva linga is great for meditation. Not to forget about the peacocks around the temple and the cow coming every evening for her darshana (blessed snack).
I will definitely come back to Chikitsalaya!
Passage from my diary March 28th / Chikitsalaya / India 52nd day / 89th travel day
Sleep: Slept sound&short, had a dream where I was with my sister, but have no clear recollections of what happened in the dream.
Yoga: Preparing pranayamas, short asana practice, meditation
Treatments: Oil massage (Abhyanga), Herbal steam bath in the cabinet (Sarvanga Bashpa Sweda), Colon cleansing (Basti). I had a very strong reaction from Basti: migraine, vomiting. I do have a lot of “pitta” to puke out 😦
Actions: Mostly trying to survive from Basti, tried to sleep. At 4 pm I was feeling okay, but still weak. I didn’t want to follow the others to the Mookambika Temple festival. Instead I took a walk on my own to Dharma Pheeta Meditation Temple nearby. I made “Pradakshina” (walked three times around the temple), watched the priests to perform the prayer rituals “Puja” and meditated. It is so calm and cool inside the temple by the Shiva linga with water around it. On the way back I had a salty lemon soda and a warm milk at the stall by the road.
Pleasant things: That I survived Basti, having silent time at Dharma Pheeta. The discussion with dr Shrikant in the morning: so many practical advice again. Going through my Dreams-chart with Ravi (a go-patient, now a good but far-away friend of mine): so many precious insights with the help of him getting me out of my old thinking patterns.
Unpleasant things: Got a lot of (deserved) scold from Ravi for being foolish walking back from Dharma Pheeta in the dark alone along the road. Feeling horrible when having the migraine – almost wanting to die…
Thoughts: “I am going to die!”; “I don’t want to leave tomorrow!”; “I have never been taken care of like this and it feels so good and secure!”; “I deserve my happiness, how to keep this when I enter my personal battle field back home?”
Emotions: Super emotional&sad in the morning, happy&joyful in the evening.