Travel Diary: Authentic Ayurveda In Kerala, India
I feel so fortunate to be writing on the backwaters of the Punnamada Resort in Alleppey, Kerala in the south of India.
After traveling from the very busy and heavily polluted (but still very beautiful) city of Mumbai, Kerala is very quiet and mystical-like. To be surrounded by fresh water and lush green nature is the ultimate gift we can give to our bodies. In fact, I could feel my body detoxifying itself as soon as I landed. The air is dense and humid, wonderful for the balancing the Vata dosha after travelling.
Kerala is known for many things including seafood and spices, but most importantly it is the home of Ayurveda. Ayurveda, of course meaning “the science of life,” has been handed over through the centuries by ancient physicians who greatly valued health and fitness of the human body. It is very well accepted here in India as a natural and effective form of medicine for keeping the body healthy and free of toxins.
For five days I have been able to immerse myself in yoga, meditation, vegetarian food and Ayurvedic treatments. During my time I tried two treatments:
Abhyanga (Body Massage)
This general body massage is done using medicated oils with specific strokes according to the individuals body-type. It is designed to improve circulation in the body, tone the muscles, reduce body pain, reduce stiffness of the muscles and joints plus plenty more.
I’ve had many Abhyanga massages back in Australia but there is something so special about experiencing it in India. It’s like stepping back in time to 5,000 years ago when Ayurveda all began.
The Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor), so warm and humble, and the therapists are so willing to exchange their good energy into healing and offer their blessings.
The massage was 60 minutes of pure bliss as I laid listening to the rhythms of ancient instrumental music. Unlike a lot of other types of massage which can leave us feeling tired, sleepy or sore, Abhyanga allows us to walk away full of energy and excitement.
Shirodhara (Head Oil)
A unique form of ancient therapy involves pouring oil on the forehead from a specific height and for a specific period of time continuously and rhythmically allowing the oil to run through the scalp and into the hair. It is highly beneficial in Vata disorders including loss of sleep, stress, headache and psychological diseases.
It begins with 30 minutes of traditional Abhyanga massage and then Shirodhara for 30 minutes. This treatment seriously sent goose bumps all through my body. I could feel myself enter a deep meditative state and as time went on I could feel my body releasing.
Afterward, I felt so calm, relaxed and somewhat vulnerable as if a layer had been lifted off my body.
Other treatments on offer at the resort include:
Udwarthanam (Powder Massage)
This special massage uses warm medicated powder which is rubbed in the opposite direction with specific strokes. It is highly beneficial in melting excess fat, improving circulation and removing dead tissues. Very good for Kapha types.
The use of long upward stokes is soothing and healing and therapists are willing to spend extra time on any sore spots in the body. What I love about Ayurvedic treatments is that they treat every persons needs individually. It's certainly not one massage fits all.
Ushma Swedam (Medicated Steam Bath)
This treatment is recommended after massage and is designed to remove toxins in the body by opening the sweat pores through the use of steam.
As the oil from the massage melts through the skin, it gives an incredible feeling of purity in the body.
Mukha Kanthi Lepam (Ayurvedic Facial)
This special beauty treatment helping in curing acne, pimples and wrinkles. It is done firstly by a face massage either with medicated cream or oil and then a special herbal pack is applied on the face. It cleanses your face, nourishes and improves complexion to give you that GLOW!!
One very important thing I feel is worth mentioning is how differently womens bodies are perceived in India. Upon any treatment, there should be no shyness or negative feelings about being entirely naked in front of the therapist. Women only work on women and men only work on men.
Sadly for many women living the in west, body image is such a common mistake of the intelligence and society is so fixated on achieving the 'perfect body.' Many would be embarrassed to go nude in front of someone they don't know and start focussing on all the things that don't like about their body. Indian women just don't care about those things. It's so refreshing to be around!