I tested

My Ayurvedic retreat at Mattindia Center, Kerala, India

July 26, 2017

MY ARRIVAL AT THE ATINURVEDIC CENTER MATTINDIA

I arrived at the Mattindia Ayurvedic Center in Kerala, on a Tuesday night, around 11.30pm, after 22 hours of travel. The taxi driver, also employee at the center, brought me to my room, as everyone was already asleep and there is not really any scheduled welcome at this time. I discovered my room for the 3 weeks to come: simple, clean, with a single bed decorated with a mosquito net of course, essential accessory in this month of monsoon, a private bathroom, also essential for this kind of retreat (you’ll understand why when I explain the treatments … Oh joy!).

After unpacking and settling down in my new home, and after a cold shower, I fall quickly  and deeply asleep until the next morning. This is the big day. I will finally discover my dosha and especially the list of delights (understand treatments of the cure). But right now, it’s breakfast time. No luck, this morning were served the idles (steered fermented lentils and rice) a super healthy ayurvedic specialty, but clearly not my specialty… with fruits and fresh juice. The food is always vegetarian, delicious and very healthy and the breakfasts are excellent (apart from the idlis).

DIAGNOSIS

I am now ready to meet the doctor. They are 2, clearly a senior doctor and a younger one. Then, starts analysis of my dosha by a whole series of questions on: my medical history, my physical ailments, my weight, my toilets habits, etc. Everything is checked. Some of my physical characteristics will also allow them to identify my dosha. Then, she looks inside my eyes, my mouth, takes my pulse with 3 fingers (each finger point corresponds to a dosha).

At the end of this interview, which lasts about 45 minutes, the doctor confirms that I am Pitta (70%) and Vata (30%). This is my basic constitution, when balanced, with this predominance Pitta-Vata. Basically, I was born like that. However today, my condition, with all the imbalances related to stress, accidents, food, bad habits etc. looks like this:

Well, then… Indeed, it’s a bit unbalanced. My Pitta is way too high, my Vata is not far behind and my kapha… well… it’s also too high. In short, let’s start now…

The 3 weeks that follow will therefore serve to rebalance my doshas by decreasing them all.

THE PRESCRIPTION

To do this, the doctor first prescribes a whole list of Ayurvedic medicines, obviously all natural, plants based, with an action over time: they take longer to act while still being very effective. I will start taking them at lunchtime (medications are taken before or after meals).

Then comes the list of treatments and therapies that I will follow. I had arrived there thinking that I would be the one to choose y therapy (I wanted the regeneration one), but obviously, it does not happen like that. Yes, there are different therapies offered that you will find on their website, however, the first and most popular because the most “important” is the Panchakarma. All the patients of the center, new or not (some came for the 4th or 5th time) were all having the Panchakarma. Why? Because before doing any other therapy, it is the one that will prepare, purify and regenerate the physical, emotional and spiritual self. Unless we do the panchakarma prior to another therapy, if we do an ayurvedic therapy per year for example, it will be better to re-do a Panchakarma to clean up all the toxins accumulated during the year.

THE TREATMENT

So my Panchakarma will happen as follows (I will detail each treatment further):

Week 1 – Preparation

– Massages (for 7 days)

– Amladhara (for 5 days)

– Sirodhara (for 2 days)

Panchakarma Therapy

– Virechanam (1 time)

Week 2 – Purification

– Pizhichil (for 7 days)

– Sirodhara (for 1 day)

– Muthirakizhi (for 6 days)

Panchakarma Therapy

– Nasyam (for 5 days)

Week 3 – Regeneration

– Udwarthanam (for 7 days)

– Elakizhi (for 7 days)

Panchakarma Therapy

– Vasthi (for 5 days)

– Virechanam (1 time)

A big program, Yay! I can’t wait to get started. And it’s going to start now actually. Just after finishing the interview with the doctor. I am introduced to the team of therapists (the best <3) that will take care of me: Rani, Pasana and Deva.

WEEK 1

They take me to the massage room, where I have to undress completely, and lie down on a little yoga mat covered with a towel on the floor. Yes, that’s how Ayurvedic massages are done. Farewell candles, soft music, fragrant oils and relaxation. The first massage is tonic but not too painful, it goes pretty well. I am then taken to the treatment room where I lie down on a large wooden table to receive the Amladhara treatment which consists in pouring very hot water (with plants) continuously on the body. It is pretty nice! A little suffocating sometimes but very detoxifying since it is a a “sweating” treatment to eliminate a toxins and also reduce rheumatism. After this treatment, the therapists take me back to my room to make sure everything is okay because after these 2 hours I kind of feel a little dizzy, especially with the warmth. Now I have to wait about 30 minutes (fan off) to regain my regular body temperature naturally and wash myself e with hot water (that was brought to me in a bucket). Ah the good old way :)! Love it!

The next day, small change. Pasana tells me “today, foot massage”. Wow, so cool! A little reflexology I thought! Hahaha so naive! She grabs the 2 strings that are stretched to the ceiling on each side of the room (I wondered the day before what they were for, well now I get it…) then climbs calmly with her 2 feet, on my body . It is a massage with feet and not a foot massage. OK, NOW WE’RE TALKING! It is very painful on some parts of the body, where there are energy blockages. But it’s really necessary. I realize how much my body is intoxicated and blocked. But that’s before I discovered the hands of Joy, the owner of the center. Joy is called when there are big blockages to clean (we called him Magic Fingers). When he enters the room, you understand you’re in for a joyride hehe! I arrived at the center with the first 5 lumbars very inflamed because of a fall in snowboard on my tailbone that happened a few months earlier and that was not healed yet. Although I had forgotten to talk about it to the doctor during the diagnosis, the therapists immediately noticed it and took care of it and talked to Joy who visited me on my 3rd day. I spent a moment that I would describe as … how would I say … rather really unbearable. Basically, he re-created a trauma by massaging y swollen lumbers very deeply and strongly so that they could then provide the necessary care. I was full of bruises. They applied an anti-inflammatory paste for several days after each treatment and it all gently healed.

This first week was challenging physically, mentally and emotionally. It is important to trust this medicine that is so far from ours, to be open and to welcome everything that happens. It is not always easy, even if we have made the choice to come and take care of ourselves here. I had a lot of fears, a feeling of insecurity which I think was being cleansed with the treatments in addition to releasing physical blocages as body and mind work together…

But that’s not all … This first week ended on a Panchakarma therapy, THE TREATMENT that create a lot of discussions at the retreat: Virechanam or Purge (hmmm dreamy right?).

So obviously this treatment is not very sexy… However, the well-being felt afterwards is pretty surprising. It is a treatment that will support the Pitta dosha by thoroughly cleansing the liver, the gallbladder and the digestive tract and purifying the blood toxins related to this dosha. Basically, one hour after dinner on the 7th day, I take 2 tiny pills that will start their effect about 2h30 after swallowing them. And what effect… It is a laxative. So I won’t give you the details of my evening. Note that the cramps that accompany this lovely interlude make it even more delicious. Now you also understand why it is necessary to have its own bathroom. The next morning it’s rice porridge and rice juice at breakfast, hmm. I slept well in the ned (for the few hours I slept) and I feel honestly well physically and most of all mentally, with the mind clear and light. When is the next one ?? Yes, as I am Pitta, I have 2 purges over the 3 weeks, yay !!

It took me some time to figure out why the doctor was so interested in “my toilets” as she says. It is not so often that people are interested in this topic. It is actually because it is “an activity” that Pittas must do more regularly than other doshas and purging is a very good way to regulate a high Pitta. Well well fellow Pittas, you know what to do;)!

It is a rather funny highlight of the retreat. We speak of purging and enemas in a rather liberated manner, we know all everybody’s habits, and  and above all, we laugh about it. We’re only human after all…

WEEK 2

Shirodhara Ayurveda Massage

Sirodhara, © Mattindia

The massages are now finished (thank God!) and are replaced by the Muthirakizhi treatment. Coton pouches are filled with hot salt and grilled rice grains. The therapists then pass these hot pouches over the body by tapping, rubbing etc. It gives a little scrubbing effect and it’s pretty energetic. For the next 3 days, I will then enjoy the famous Sirodhara which is a treatment where therapists pour hot oil on the forehead for about 1 hour. The result… A deep relaxation. This treatment is recommended to calm the mind and bring a physical and emotional balance. Well then congratst! it’s purely a bliss and it’s hard not to fall asleep… After three days, it was replaced by Pizhichil which is an oil bath. Exactly like Amladhara but this time it is hot oil that is poured continuously on the body. This treatment is excellent for relaxation and rejuvenation and has many other virtues (decreases hypertension, rheumatism, etc.). Very pleasant…

Starting on the 3rd day of this second week, I receive a second Panchakarma therapy called Nasyam. Here, the therapist will first massage the face for a while and especially at the sinuses level and then introduce drops of herbal medicinal solutions in the nostrils and rub my nose energetically while I have to breathe heavily. Then, I dive my face into a small steam bath for a few minutes, to assimilate the benefits of the plants. Finally, a few drops of another kind of medicine are introduced into the nostrils and the treatment is now finished.

The second week was a bit more difficult for me, with ups and downs in terms of energy and mood. Again, it is a therapy that makes a lot of things move internally, physically and emotionally so this energetic and emotional lift is quite natural. The supervision of the doctors and the therapists is very reassuring and very professional. And the fellow patients are also of great support so whatever happens, it’s always in a pleasant atmosphere.

WEEK 3

I started this last week with a certain nostalgia. The kindness of the therapists, the medical team, all this great family and the patients make me feel a little at home here and I already fear a little the moment to leave…

Elakizhi Specialities Ayurveda

Elakizhi © Mattindia

But, there is still a week to go and a few surprises… For this last week, my treatment has therefore changed to the regeneration phase. So I get a rather dynamic massage with a slightly sandy powder Udwarthanam (used mainly in slimming treatments) followed by Elakizhi which consists of patting and rubbing the body with pouches filled with leaves of plants and soaked in a very hot oil. This treatment will help to treat arthritis, rheumatism etc. These are not my favorite treatments, however I still feel that my energy is quite optimal and I really start to feel the effects of the cure both physically and mentally.

And all of this, before having the immense joy of discovering the Vasthi, an enema treatment the Panchakarma therapy. For five days, every afternoon, I was lucky enough to get half a liter of oil pushed into the rectum. Said like that, it may  not sound very glamorous, I agree. It is however a very smooth treatment and administrated in laughters… the therapist massages the belly and the lower back and uses heat (hot towels applied on these parts) to prepare the body for treatment and then when the liquid is being introduced (with a disposable syringe of course) I have to say “AAAAAAAAAAAAAA” until the syringe is completely empty. Then, the therapist pats the buttocks (which surprised me the first time) to help the liquid go up or stay, I do not really know. No need to say that “farting” is not an option for the next hour… Because yes, it is advisable to keep the oil for an hour, during which I stayed lying on my bed. This treatment will relieve the colon by removing toxins in very smooth ways thanks to the oil and it will also relieve lower back problems. After 5 days of treatment, I was very surprised to realize that during the massages, I felt that my belly was much more soft and supple and that I had no more discomfort.

I continued this week with the second purge of my stay which was a little harder than the first but the results are just as positive.

This third and last week was very important and for me. It is advised to do 3 weeks of the Panchakarma and I understand why. Every week has its importance, rhythm and depth. I really started to see all the positive effects of treatments the last week. My energy is much better and more consistent and I feel much lighter both physically and mentally.

DEPARTURE

After these 3 weeks of intense treatments, laughters, joy, doubts and introspection, I feel good. It is now time to meet the doctor to check how my doshas are doing. These results will continue to evolve in the coming months, as the action of the medicines and of all the treatments lasts several months after the end of the treatment.

So here is a quick before-after of my doshas Panchakarma below: