>> Over the years I noticed travelling had an immensely positive impact on me. Especially solo travel can push us out of our comfort zone and teach us many aspects of our personalities. It highlights our strengths and weaknesses and helps us develop tools to live a richer & more fulfilling life. I knew I wasn’t the only one who reaped the benefits of travelling for personal development.
This guest post series ‘Travel for Personal Development’ introduces you to others who have, in one way or another, travelled for personal development: be it to learn a new language, to mend a broken heart or to overcome an anxiety. Hopefully it will encourage you to travel more yourself and perhaps even help you to overcome barriers. <<
Meet Ellie who looked to reaped benefits from an ayurvedic experience in Kerala India – but found something else instead. I love a good serendipity story – this is one of them. <<
What I didn’t expect from my Ayurveda Treatment in Kerala
Four hours into day five in Kerala and i’d just re-emerged from my tenth visit to the bathroom, hands wrapped around my stomach and vaguely whimpering.
When planning my time in India and choosing for 2 weeks of Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala, I did a bit of reading up. Erratic digestion had been annoying – if not a serious problem – for years, and being a believer in natural medicine, yoga, and spiritual connection, Ayurveda sounded like just the right thing for me. And where better to experience it, than in its birthplace, in Kerala, Southern India?
I was looking for a tranquil place to unwind, relax, and soak up some of the Indian sun in subtropical India. Most of all, I was looking to cleanse my body so that I would be full of energy and fighting fit for the rest of my travels and my return home afterwards. My time in India would be in the middle of a 3-month asia trip, with 6 weeks of travelling after the retreat would be over. Next stop after Kerala would be Sri Lanka for 2 weeks of travelling and surfing with my boyfriend.
What I got, was not exactly what i’d bargained for!
Panchakarma is the process of purification of the body. Pancha – meaning five, and karma – meaning treatments, are the five methods of purifying and detoxing the body. The five treatments are Vamana (therapeutic vomiting), Nasya (medicine via the nostrils), Basti (enemas), Virechana (purgation) and Rakthamoksha (purification of the blood or blood letting). The last being used very rarely in modern times, and not practiced at the retreat centre where I had my Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala.
When booking my retreat, I’d seen that there were daily activities at the Ayurvedic retreat centre, as well as the daily panchakarma treatments. Two days in, it became apparent that far from being optional, participants were expected to attend the daily Poojas (prayer ceremonies) at 5am.
The sinking feeling felt complete after my first Kalari lesson (a Keralan martial art). On turning up, as the only participant in the class in a humid dark room with a temperature of +30 degrees and my middle-aged (male) teacher dressed in little more than a loin-cloth, I was instructed to watch and then mirror a series of stances and warlike grunts. Feeling like an uncoordinated elephant attempting to do kung fu, 10 minutes in and I was edging to the door.
One of the days that I will never forget was my day of Purgation — the purpose being to remove excess Pitta (‘fire’ Dosha) from my body. Ten minutes after being fed what I can only describe as the most vile tasting herbal medicine I can ever imagine, I ran back to my room. Trying desperately not to vomit (as that would have meant having to re-take the medicine), I dialled my boyfriend who was celebrating his birthday that day, in a different timezone and on a different continent. Cheerfully wishing someone a happy birthday whilst trying not to throw up will not go down as my finest moment.
I think it’s fair to say that I found the detoxification process more challenging than I had imagined! But there’s a reason that they say that sometimes the greatest breakthroughs come through experiencing the tough times. If we don’t experience the pain – physical or otherwise – we cannot truly appreciate the joy of the good stuff!
I will never regret having made the decision to go through Panchakarma and to stay at the Ayurvedic retreat in Kerala: the treatments during my detox were always conducted with so much love! I felt safe and comforted by my wonderful and dedicated therapists. I found warmth and love in the other guests at the retreat, in the yoga teachers, in the beautiful jungle that surrounded us — but most of all, in the staff at the retreat centre.
In my therapists who looked after me and so many others every day for our treatments, who worked 7 days a week from 7am to 7pm with only a handful of days off a year, but with what I can only describe as the most kindly souls.
I found that as the days wore on the slowly blended into each other, and I found a deep place of contentment. I found peace sitting and reading whilst listening to the tropical rain bounce on the tin roof of the veranda I learnt to smile to myself, writing in my journal, just simply feeling the joy of being. In that place, in that time, and in that particular moment.
As the days wore on I found not only rest and rejuvenation but also joy in my daily yoga classes. As someone who has always suffered from not really sticking with things – particularly of the physical activity / hobby variety – I had always dipped in and out of yoga. I knew a handful of asanas (yoga poses) but that was about it. From struggling through the 6am and 4pm daily classes, I started to find that I looked forward to them. And not just for the mini snooze sivassana (corpse pose) would bring.
Today I can still hear my yoga teacher’s voice in my head, with his kind but clear and deliberate traditional instructions for daily sun salutations. A series of asanas that, as a newbie to yoga, I would always muddle my way through, but over those two weeks in Kerala I grew to love and were my daily grounding.
Standing after six rounds of the sun salutations with my palms outstretched and facing the wall, feeling the buzzing current of energy pulsing through my body changed something profoundly for me. They say you can know things on an intellectual level until the cows come home, but until you have that knowledge on an experiential level – until you experience it – you do not fully understand. At that moment I started to understand the Power of Yoga.
It is because of these 2 weeks that I now keep a regular weekly yoga practise, and I still hear the loving sternness of my yoga teacher’s voice from Kerala in my head, telling us about the benefits of each asana, making sure we remembered to flex our feet. In coming to Kerala in search of ayurvedic medicine and treatment, I instead found a love for yoga!
We never really know what life will serve us. But unless we take the plunge and open ourselves to trying new things, like travel, new places, and new people, it’s much harder to find out. Through this trip I went looking for healing – and I found it – but not at all in the way I thought it would come!
What about you? Have you ever enrolled to do a ayurvedic treatment somewhere? Did you like it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
About the Author
Ellie Cleary is the creator of Soul Travel Blog, a sustainable and mindful travel blog. Ellie believes that we can travel and have a positive impact, on both ourselves and the world around us despite the environmental, social and economic challenges that the world today is faced with. Originally from London, UK, Ellie has been living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands since 2010 and is trying to perfect the knack of travelling to see as much of the world as possible, as often as possible.
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