Have you ever wished that you could take a time-out for a few weeks to rest, recharge and detox your soul? That is exactly what happened when I went to Ayurvedagram near Bangalore, India. As I sit at home writing this post in the early hours of the morning, completely jet lagged and utterly happy, I'm realizing that this trip was exactly what I needed.
Ayurvedagram means "Ayurveda village." It is a gorgeous wellness oasis. The stone walking path leads around sculpted gardens, a calming lotus pond and the traditional Kerala-style buildings of a palace. Previous warnings of deep poverty, begging, illness and congestion had me prepared for something difficult and grueling. Instead, my dad and I were greeted by our driver at the airport with a sign, whisked to the wellness center and treated with yoga, massage and 2-hour doctor consultations on our first day. Not to mention delicious vegetarian food and very friendly staff. I did have a mini break-down with the doctor in the first ten minutes of my consultation. I blame the 20-hour flight, exhaustion and overwhelm. I got to see my beloved teacher, Dr. Jay, for a few minutes because he happened to be in India at the same time. It was funny to me that he's from India, but seeing his face reminded me so much of home and the many hours spent learning in the Wallingford Kerala Ayurveda Academy. It was all too much and the tears bubbled over. Luckily my doctor, Dr. Manu, passed me some tissues and told me never to suppress a natural urge, thereby giving me the green light to cry my heart out. I love that man.
It took a few days to adjust to being on the other side of the world (12.5 hour time difference). My dad and I greeted the daylight by walking the grounds and listening to nature. During our stay, we saw white owls, huge butterflies, frogs, bats, squirrels that chirp, crows that caw so loud they wake you up, crickets, geckos, mosquitoes that loved me too much, dogs, turtles, geese and so many cows. I reconnected with nature during many relaxing hours on our veranda with my journal, book and thoughts, watching and listening to the sounds. When I first arrived at Ayurvedagram, I toured the gardens, library, yoga studio and wondered, "Am I going to be bored here?" There were times when I wondered what to do with myself. It was a real adjustment to release my need to be productive, soak in the moment and turn 45 minutes of meditation into the most important part of my afternoon. It's incredible what comes up and out when not constantly distracted and busy with daily life.
During our stay, it was unusually busy for August. The entire center was full, which meant that we made many international friends and enjoyed long meals and interesting conversations. Guests from India, England, Malaysia, the States, Tanzania and the Netherlands joined us at the long table in the dining hall. It felt like we got to have a healthy dinner party every night. Most people go to Ayurvedagram with a specific health problem or to lose weight. Many people had special diets, and we all learned the lingo that went along with each detox treatment. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but chatting about oil and herbal enemas and purgation days (herbal laxatives) became the new dinner table norm.
Our daily schedule:
6:00 morning walk
7:00 morning routine- a therapist arrives at your door to rinse your eyes, administer nasya (nasal drops), have you gargle with triphala water with honey and take your medicine (a shot of herbal goodness).
7:30 yoga class
8:30 morning treatment (incredible oil massages)
12:15 pranayama (breathing exercises)
4:00 afternoon treatment
As you can see we were "busy," but it was all meant to help release toxins, clear the physical and mental clutter and learn to relax. I love to walk and exercise and stay busy. But during my time at Ayurvedagram, the doctors were focused on helping me heal my knee. They told me not to walk too much. So while my dad was power walking for 45 minutes in the morning, I was only allowed to take 2 laps around the grounds. Maybe it took me going to India to finally learn how to rest. My knee is doing better than ever and I was sent home with a big bag of herbal medicines and paste to continue my healing now.
This experience has helped my Ayurveda study really sink in. I was able to experience so many different treatments (34 to be exact) with medicated oils specific for me and herbal medicine shots 4 times a day designed to strengthen my joints, slow down degenerative changes and improve metabolism. Dr. Manu and Dr. Natasha shared so much Ayurvedic knowledge with me. My lovely therapists pampered me multiple times a day and made me feel so cared for. Our yoga teacher, Mohanty, taught and inspired me with new pranayama techniques and a loving example of the yogic lifestyle. It was truly humbling to realize that there is so much more to learn and that I am still at the beginning of my journey with Ayurveda and yoga. I know I've barely scratched the surface of India's rich culture. I have a feeling this won't be my last visit. I feel so lucky and grateful to be able to carve out this time, share this experience with my dad and come back feeling inspired and rejuvenated. Let the Ayurveda adventure continue!