Ayurvedic Treatment in Kovalam

Our correspondent undergoes bizarre and intense Ayurveda practices in South India.

 Ayurveda treatments often involve an oil that smells like peanut butter, and they can be quite intense

Ayurveda treatments often involve an oil that smells like peanut butter, and they can be quite intense

The more I heard about Ayurveda, the more intrigued I became. Why the heck isn’t this a major trend here in the United States, like yoga, acupuncture, or heck, even cupping? Could someone please inform Gwyneth Paltrow she needs to start a new fad?

Our friend Kelly went off to India to attend a yoga retreat to break out of a rut in her practice. While in the beach town of Kovalam in the southern state of Kerala, she also investigated Ayurvedic treatments.

“Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences,” Kelly told us. Here she describes her intense Ayurvedic treatment during her stay in India.

You would lay down on a table and have this oil receptacle that was hung by a chain. A woman would slowly drizzle oil over your forehead, back and forth, for 20 minutes at a time.
 The quality of your hair, how oily or dry your skin is, how cold or hot you get — all of these factor into what your dosha is

The quality of your hair, how oily or dry your skin is, how cold or hot you get — all of these factor into what your dosha is

What exactly is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is the practice of balancing your body’s natural constitution, also known as your dosha. Everyone is one of three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. They’re aligned to different elements. I’m a pitta dosha, so I have certain imbalances in my body that Ayurveda tries to correct.

The doctor did an assessment. Your dosha is made up of physical traits as well as personality characteristics. As a pitta dosha, I’m supposed to eat cooling foods. There’s a whole diet I’m supposed to follow.

 The three doshas at the center of the star are aligned with different elements and characteristics

The three doshas at the center of the star are aligned with different elements and characteristics

What was the facility like?

I went to two. The first one was super sketch. I went twice and decided it was maybe violating some child labor practices. The second facility was a proper one. It was beautiful inside — a huge wooden, three- or four-story hospital.

 

Describe the Ayurvedic treatments.

If you want treatment, you have to sign up for a minimum of 10 days. Every day I went for about three hours. The way that it broke down was, they would do a massage for an hour, and then a variety of treatments, depending on where I was in the Ayurveda course.

There was a treatment where they would take cotton cloths filled with herbed powder that they would dip in really hot oil and smack all over my body. Smack, smack, smack, smack!

The Ayurvedic oil they used smelled like peanut butter. The oil is believed to cure basically everything, so they use it in almost all of their treatments.

After that, they would do a powder massage rub. There were three women who would work on you together, in unison.

There were baths with this milk substance, which they’d heat and pour over you again and again. There were herbed water baths. There was this one treatment where there was a wooden pillar with a hanging oil receptacle. You would lay down on the table and you’d have this oil receptacle that was hung by a chain, and the woman would slowly drizzle it over your forehead, creating a line, back and forth, for 20 minutes at a time.

 

What was that like?

It was very relaxing — but a lot of the treatments were actually very stressful, especially after 10 days.

There a bunch of quizzes you can take to determine what dosha you are. I’ve taken a few — and gotten varying answers. I also tend to get dual prakriti, which signifies that I’m influenced by two doshas. From what Kelly has said, that means I’m a big ol’ mess. –Wally