Remember my post 20 reasons to visit the Art of Living Foundation? I had mentioned the “Ayurveda Panchakarma” and promised a standalone post about my special experience there. I’ve finally compiled my photos and it is a privilege and pleasure to tell you more about it.
Most people are aware that the Art of Living Foundation specializes in ayurvedic treatments. I was too, but during my visit, I learned a lot more about this wonderful 5000-year old practice that is Ayurveda.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a holistic system of healing and medicine practiced in India for over 5000 years. It focuses on mind-body-soul wellness and balance – balance of the mind, body and spirit in rhythm and harmony with nature. Also called the ‘Science of Life’, ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Ayu’ = life and ‘Veda’ = knowledge.
Two fundamental theories form the foundation of Ayurveda:
- The Pancha Mahabhuttas
- Tridosha theory
Ayurvedic philosophy believes that everything in the universe is made of the five elements. When the Pancha Mahabhuttas or five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) are in balance, the body is healthy. When they are not in balance, there is illness. These elements form our life forces making each of us unique, physically and mentally. The elements combine into three Doshas or life forces: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The combination of the three Doshas influences our mental, emotional and physical wellness.
Ayurveda focuses on preventing illness through a healthy lifestyle. It seeks to balance and restore health via wholesome food, exercise, meditation, relaxation and cleansing. Easy eh?
The five elements or Pancha Mahabuttas influence our five senses: Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste and Smell. Just think about it.
- When you see pleasing sights, it is a treat to the eyes
- When you listen to soothing music, it is a treat to the ears
- When you experience soothing touch, you respond by relaxing
- When you eat delicious food, you savor health
- When you inhale fragrance, you enjoy aroma therapy
And that is what the experience at the Art of Living’s Ayurveda Panchakarma is all about.
The Sri Sri Ayurveda Panchakarma is an initiative of the Art of Living Foundation, specializing in holistic wellness and rejuvenation through ayurvedic practices and alternative therapies under the guidance of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Established with a vision to bring the best of ayurveda to the world, it focuses on physical, mental and emotional well-being using the principles of Panchakarma, the ancient and proven ayurvedic system. This is done through therapeutic massages, personalized diets, rigorous detoxification and lifestyle transforming experiences to promote healing.
So there’s your background on ayurveda.
On my day there which started with breakfast at 8 am, we were scheduled to be at the Ayurveda Panchakarma at the Krishna Kutir around 12.30 pm. My host for the day, Sujeet bhaiyya suggested that I skip my mid-morning cuppa coffee as a “nadi pareeksha’ was planned for me, although he okayed as much water as I wanted and thoughtfully carried a bottle along.
What is the nadi pareeksha? It is a technique where the doctor diagnoses the individual’s health by reading their pulse. I was fascinated to learn that they only need a few seconds to get a snapshot of the person’s health, based on which they make personalized treatment plans including diet recommendations.
I had a quick consultation with the doctor for nadi pareeksha and got an accurate diagnosis with treatment suggestions, one of which included spending 15 days at the ashram to undergo a specialized regimen that would include yoga and meditation to detox and work on rejuvenating my body. I am thinking about it.
After this, we proceeded to the campus multi-cuisine veg restaurant, Panchamrut, that serves healthy “Sattvic” food, cooked in line with ayurvedic principles. I noticed that there was a register at the counter that noted the meal time, preferences and diet recommendations for those who were visiting the ashram for treatment and served them accordingly. I loved the restaurant’s ambiance.
I enjoyed a tour of the Meera Vanam and Maharaja cottage after lunch.
The Maharaja cottage is an exclusive private spa cottage and positively luxurious where visitors receive the royal treatment. It has a number of healing water features, a Zen garden, a meditation room and beautifully appointed rooms with antique fittings and furnishings. There is also a tree top outside the cottage for an evening getaway with a view of the placid lake.
Meera Vanam inspired by ancient Kerala temple architecture, on the other hand, houses more guests and is tastefully decorated.
All the herbs and fragrant oils used in the ayurvedic treatment is homegrown on the ashram.
Guests receive their treatment and therapies at the Krishna Kutir, a tranquil setting. The staff is super-courteous and treatment starts by invoking the blessings of Dhanvantri, the Hindu god of medicine.
A number of therapies are offered to rejuvenate, recuperate and relax, with treatment for various ailments, ayurvedic and alternative therapies, skin, hair and eye care, spa, body wraps, yoga and meditation and wellness packages.
I had the pleasure of experiencing a complimentary 45-minute reflexology treatment and received a very soothing and relaxing hand and foot massage. It practically put me in a trance – the gorgeous surroundings, the green lawns, the warm afternoon sunshine – lulled me into a state of happiness. This was enhanced by the thoughtful turmeric tea served in a terracotta cup. Delicious.
The Art of Living Foundation is doing a fantastic service at the Panchakarma Center by offering a variety of non-invasive treatments for a number of conditions that usually require surgery.
In fact, while I was there, I was happy to hear the story of a 7-year old child with a squint, who was advised immediate surgery. Through the AOL’s holistic eye care program, Netra Jyoti, his squint has been cured. Since I was born with a severe squint, I can identify with this. Mine was corrected via herbal treatment and exercise too.
Sigh. It was wonderful to spend the day at the Art of Living Foundation and the kind people there made me feel so welcome. I am looking forward to visiting again.
Here’s a video of the Ayurveda Panchakarma center to give you a quick tour of this beautiful retreat.Enjoy!