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20

| Extraordinary Experiences 2018

Extraordinary Experiences 2018 |

21

A

gentle breeze sweeps in from the Arabian Sea,

causing the white linen curtains in my treatment

room to billow ever so slightly. Save for the steady

drip of herb-infused oil from a copper pot suspended

above my head, it’s all stillness and quiet here at

Somatheeram Ayurvedic Beach Resort in Kovalam,

Kerala, India.

Stretched out and face up on a hand-carved teak

tabletop, wearing what can be best described as

a minimalist loincloth, I dreamily submit to my first

Ayurvedic experience.

Each drop of lukewarm oil onto my forehead

(my eyes protected by a damp cloth) lulls me deeper

and deeper into a state of sheer relaxation. Muscle

tension dissipates. Worries flee. When my attendant

first explained Shirodhara therapy, a form of

Ayurveda, I thought I’d be unsettled by an oil-on-the-

forehead treatment. But not so: A welcome warmth

spreads throughout my entire body.

Ayurveda, which is Sanskrit for “the science of life,”

is a holistic healing practice that began in India more

than 5,000 years ago, long favoured by everyday

working folk as well as the royal families of the

Maharajas. Kerala is the epicenter of Ayurvedic

medicine, attracting legions of visitors who sign up for

rejuvenation therapy, detoxification/body purification,

stress management, weight loss, anti-aging and

beauty care programs, among others. Many health-

minded visitors, like me, simply seek to reboot,

while others look to Ayurvedic medicine to address

concerns such as arthritis, heart disease, severe

anxiety, acne and persistent insomnia.

Ayurvedic regimens, which last anywhere from a few

days to a few weeks (though one-time treatments

are available), begin with an assessment by a doctor

trained in the science of Ayurveda. (There are plenty

of Ayurvedic centres throughout Kerala.) The ultimate

goal is to bring equilibrium to the body, mind, and

spirit by balancing the three elemental energies:

Vata (air/space), Pitta (fire/water), and Kapha (water/

earth). This is achieved through various combinations

of oils (mostly herb-infused), massages and dietary

changes to rid the body of toxins.

My prescribed treatments – which one day includes

a skin-softening buttermilk bath – take place each

morning. Afterward, I’m free to wander the 15-acre

grounds of Somatheeram (the world’s first resort-

style Ayurvedic treatment centre), lunch on

vegetarian curry served atop plantain leaves, loll on a

nearby beach, or (admittedly) grab a mid-day nap in

my private bungalow. Late afternoons are sacrosanct:

meditation, followed by outdoor yoga.

I awake on day three feeling energetic yet peaceful,

my body free of tension – physical and emotional. I

am greedy for more, so I opt for the much-talked-

about, four-handed Pizhichil hot-oil massage. Face

down on the wood table this time, I feel the rhythmic,

synchronized hand motions of two attendants as

they massage heated herbal oil directly onto my

shoulders, neck, and back. One attendant, Surej,

assures me that the warm oil extracts will enhance

blood circulation, relieve muscle pain – and equally

important – “boost the spirit.”

It certainly does: I return home on a Kerala high.

The tropical province of Kerala, India, is the birthplace of Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old wellness

tradition based on the harmony of one’s body, mind, and soul.

Ancient wellness

treatments in Kerala

INDIA

By Doug O’Neill

HOWTO EXPLORE KERALA

Kerala, the southernmost province of India, is

a soothing antidote to the madding crowds of

Varanasi or the Taj Mahal. G Adventures’

South

India: Explore Kerala – seven-days, Kochi to Vypin

Island

itinerary features languid afternoons on a

houseboat in the backwaters of tropical Alleppey,

strolls along Cherai Beach, and enlightening talks

with a spice expert in Kochi. Those who venture

into this ancient land will visit the Tripunithura Hill

Palace, ramble through the green paddy fields of

Kumarakom, and have the chance to luxuriate in

an afternoon massage on Vypin Island.