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Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Eat, Love, Pray Moment....

Back in February Doug and I visited an Ashram for a 48 detox.   We actually had won a stay from a charity silent auction back in November.   Our Ashram was as commercial as an ashram can get because it's part of a chain - Ayuravedagram (    Before I take you inside the visit, here are a couple of terms that might help you understand the experience:

Ayurveda - ancient practice of medicine that originated in Kerala, India (southwest coast, see my blog on All that with a broken foot)  The traditional Hindu system of medicine, which uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.
Ashram - A hermitage, monastic community, or other place of religious retreat for Hindus or a place of religious retreat or community life modeled on the Indian ashram.

Restaurant  Doug and I arrived on a Friday evening just after work and in time for dinner.  We entered the reception area which was a magnificent Keralan house with amazing antiques and incense burning.    Our first plan of action was to set our appointment with a doctor for the next morning and our schedule would flow around that.    We made our way to our room even though it was dark and raining via unlit brick paths.   The room was basic, low beds, wool blankets however the bathroom had a very nice concrete modern shower.    A small flat screen was positioned about shoulder height in front of the bed.   I was 1) happy it was clean 2) glad there was a TV 3) liked that we had a nice porch to sit on.    Doug was not happy we had two twin beds that were as soft as crushed concrete....Thankfully he brought his own contraband with us - gin, tonic and glasses.   Yes the Ashram is alcohol and smoke free- but we are rule breakers.    

After we settled, we walked to the restaurant that served Vegetarian only meals buffet style.   After nearly 10 months in India, I am quite used to this and have figured out my favorites and what to avoid.  Our meal started with hot cumin water.  A little strange but oddly satisfying.   We munched on our meals and watched the other guests pour in.    Older couples, some singles from Germany, a few Indian women and several expat couples like ourselves.     This would be interesting.

Our next day began at 630 am with Coffee service to our room, I was thankful this vice was allowed.    We enjoyed our filtered coffee and then proceeded to the 730 am Yoga course which was in the hall adjacent to our room.    I have been an avid yogi for about 8 years but mostly practicing Bikram.    It's always different when you go to a new place- the teacher, the flow of the asanas and the general facilities greatly impact your ability to focus and enjoy.  This was Doug's first ever yoga course!  We purposely did not sit next to each other as to minimize my competitive spirit.  I think he liked it and he was definitely surprised how sweaty you can get.     We enjoyed a vegetarian breakfast and then headed over to doctors appointment.   After a quick questionnaire, he determined that my body type (Dosha) if Pitta-Vatta and Doug's is Pitta-Kapha.  Now you can go very deep into the science of this analysis, where you alter all the food you eat, the rhythms of your day and exercise to suit your body type.  The belief is that if you match your intake of food to your dosha you will achieve a healthy weight and minimize illnesses.     Our prescription was a hot oil massage and steam bath.  Sounded good.

We headed over to the treatment center only to be stripped down (separately of course!) and made to put on this paper undergarment that was reminiscent of a sumo wrestlers uniform.   Up on the massage table (face up) were one liter of hot oil was poured very slowly over our bodies.  Still not terrible, but then the double massage which was akin to to an aggressive beat down took place for the next 30 min.   Given the amount of oil I was sliding all over the table, praying this would be over soon.   As abruptly as the massage started, it ended and I was put into a steam box.   It reminded me of old cartoons where villains were put into a box in the town square with only their head exposed.  Yes that was me, however the temperature in the box was well over 100 degrees F.   After 10 min, I was ready to expire and was pushed into the shower.   Washing the oil off and getting dressed was the most enjoyable part of the experience.    Doug and I compared notes and found the "treatment" to be identical and unfortunately identically painful.    The rest of our day was followed by a Veg lunch, a long nap, yoga, veg dinner and then a repeat of the same the next day.    We could have stayed until 5pm on the second day but after a double yoga course, second torturous massage and steam bath; we busted out right after lunch.     Back home to Palm Meadows and we cracked open a beer and potato chips, feeling we needed a reward for being so good.

For all of you who feel inspired to go to an ashram and detox; I challenge you to take stock of what it means to render control of your schedule, food and daily routine....I am not sure i will ever do it again! 

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