Diary of a Conversion
Ayurveda – a word that I, as avowedly non-esoteric, had initially filed away in that drawer. I listened benevolently to reports of the many wonderful experiences, but it never occurred to me to try it myself. Until one day the perfect moment came: I was stressed, my boyfriend was gone and my old job had come to an end. I started researching and learned, with the help of Dr. Google, that Ayurveda is the world’s oldest medical science with at least 2000 years of tradition. Its aim, through and intense system of purification, (Panchakarma) is to bring the Doshas back into equilibrium after stress, illness and poor nutrition has thrown them out of kilter. The Doshas? These are the three life energies that are found in all of us:
- Vata (wind, air/ether), the principle of movement
- Pitta (fire/water), the fire or metabolic principle
- Kapha (earth/water), the structural principle
In my search for a destination I focus on the countries of origin, India and Sri Lanka in the southeast, and come across the resort Ayurveda Garden and Shakti Villa. The resort was founded by Mr. Böhm and his Sri Lankan wife and incorporates their own herb and vegetable garden and doctor etc. Moreover, the villa looked as if it might correspond to my idea of a place to spend a holiday. Clicked, booked, suitcase packed. In my luggage: a lot of cotton underwear, a diary. Otherwise just pure curiosity… and a slight case of the jitters.
Day 1: The Shakti Villa driver welcomes me at Colombo airport. From there we drive for another two hours towards Abalonga, in Sri Lanka’s southwest. At the Shakti Villa, which is located directly on the beach, I am greeted by four radiant faces. I’ve brought the rain with me, but unlike us, people here are happy about that. I would have preferred sun. But maybe that’s to remind me not to just think about myself. As a first measure, my feet, swollen from the flight, are massaged. I’m thinking I may have done the right thing here! Before dinner I sit on my couch and enjoy the view of the Indian Ocean, where the sun is just setting over the waves. Then I hear the bell ringing for the first time. This is my signal to drink some hot water, one of the most important rituals in Ayurveda. There’s always a thermos on my terrace. The bell will ring again in half an hour, this time for dinner. There I meet the other guests. The Shakti Villa has 12 seats and we are seven. As expected, they are mostly women travelling alone and there is a nice girl about my age, Kristina from Lake Constance. The food tastes delicious and interesting and I am allowed large portions. Since this is my first day, I can still eat everything.
Things get serious
Day 2: 6:26 a.m., definitely not my best time of day. But since I’ve slept deeply and soundly since 9 pm yesterday, despite the thunderous noise of the surf, I’m in great shape. And here comes the waiter with my hot water. Off into my yoga outfit, and at 7 o’clock I’m already in the downward-facing dog posture. If someone had told me this a while ago, I would have flipped him the bird! Then there’s breakfast and my first consultation with the doctor. After the pulse diagnosis the doctor asks me some incredible questions, all of which I can answer affirmatively. He then prescribes a 14-day Panchakarma cure which is necessary because of my reddened facial skin and, of course, for the weight that I, like any Westerner, certainly want to lose. Nope that I don’t want – I’m just here to de-stress. But if that goes hand in hand with losing three or four kilos, who am I to argue? I’m apparently a Pitta-Kapha type and both are out of balance. I actually feel quite healthy, but then again, I do have a few problems. The stress. Yeah, just before the burnout. And then my skin. Rosacea, you see? Yeah, he sees. And allergies – sun and birch. Then we’re done. My first treatment is already scheduled for 10.30 a.m: head, hand, foot and full body massage with warm oil. What those with massage experience would consider a dream, is an absolute nightmare for me. 90 minutes of lying completely still. Sometimes it’s ticklish, sometimes it hurts like hell. I’m completely wiped out afterwards and fall blissfully on to my bed. I have my first diet meal at noon. It’s okay, but there’s not much of it. Dinner tops it off, thin green soup and two pieces of toast. I’m so hungry!
Day 3: And every day the yoga groundhog greets us in the form of what’s his name! Oh crap!. Never mind, he does it in a very pleasant and especially gentle way. Today there are only two of us for yoga. To start off we sing a song together, shanti. He sings it to us and we‘re supposed to join in. But I hear nothing from my comrade-in-arms, so I don’t dare. After yoga, breakfast is served. The mean green soup first, then fruit. Even worse is the medicine: Herbal juices and pills – the less said about the taste of those the better! Otherwise I have another three massages and a steam bath.
This disgusting swill
Day 4: Purging is on the agenda today and that is to be taken literally. At 7.40 a.m. I am taken to a treatment room where my stomach is dabbed with a hot herbal bag. It’s good, but it’s very hot. Back in the room the doctor waits with the infamous cup. As harmless as this one looks, so mean is its content: a dark brown brew, salty and sour at the same time. I try holding my nose. You learn that as a child. No sooner said than done, and there it goes…. that biting, salty stuff runs straight up my nose and burns like hell. DISGUSTING!!! When the deed is finally done, the doctor gives me a few instructions: no sport (at 40 degrees, that wasn’t on the plan anyway), no swimming (even dafter) and above all, no sleeping, otherwise it won’t work (quite stupid if you have nothing else to do). Exercise helps, she explains. So I walk down to the beach and stretch my legs for 20 minutes in the sultry morning air. Just in time I’m back to my room drinking hot water as instructed. And then… off we go…!
Days 5 and 6: I am sitting in the most beautiful place in the world with music in my ears. The sun is setting, the ocean stretches out in front of me. I’m still wearing my turban – Shirodara, the famous oil-pouring head treatment is on the therapy plan these days. According to Ayurveda, it calms the entire vegetative nervous system, harmonizes and balances. While some of my companions have found the Shirodara days to be the most difficult, I am in a good mood.
Chill mode from today onward
Days 7 to 9: These days are just sooooo calm and relaxed. No scarf, no nasal rinsing. My intestines are left in peace and there is enough to eat. We’ve become a three-person apartment, Kristina, Sybille and me. No more guests have arrived. This morning I am alone at yoga, then Kristina and I decide to go to swimming. Unfortunately it’s so wild that we have to fight to get out of the waves while keeping our bikinis on. Otherwise, I’m really chilled by now. A Buddhist monk has come to teach us meditation. It’s interesting,but sitting still and keeping my mouth shut is a bit too hard for me.
Day 10: The time has arrived, the first oil enema is coming up. I’m terrified. The doctor explains what this is all about. Ayurveda cleanses from above so Shirodara works to first loosen the toxins which are now all in the intestines. And they’ve got to be removed. I’ll immediately feel so much better, sleep wonderfully and be even more relaxed than before. Kristina has already had her second enema today and says she felt completely high afterwards. The procedure isn’t that bad. I can’t imagine what I was so afraid of. I walk up and down in the room for 50 minutes and shortly afterwards it’s all over.
Days 11 to 14: The last days of the cure are by far the most beautiful. One feels as light as a feather and looks radiant. I enjoy the ocean, the sun, the peace and quiet and fully intend to take as much of the cure as possible home with me. At least to drink hot water in the morning, keep up the yoga exercises and the mindfulness and to give more. This new feeling of contentment and balance is already making itself felt on my journey home. I sit in Dubai Airport and I feel so incredibly and deeply relaxed. I smile at the frazzled travellers who shove or bark at each other and let them go past me in the line. When I get home, I know I am going to be one of those of the converted who praise their Ayurveda treatment as one of the best things they have ever done.
CultureAndCream Author from Duesseldorf
I am a graduated historian and journalist. Time ago I worked fulltime as journalist, since a few years I have dedicated myself to the beauty industry. However, the love of writing and traveling has remained. To connect the beautiful aspects of life, I just continue to do both. A little bit „culture“, a little bit „cream“ and always a dose of curiosity in the luggage – let‘s go the wild ride.