Festival founders Ram and Sonali Banerjee continue to lead us through their Ayurvedic retreat diary.
Week two started with a change in treatment for Sonali. The pounding with leaf bundles has given way to oil, LOTS of oil - two gallons in fact. She is to undergo seven days of shirodhara and tailadhara. These treatments are often offered at ‘Ayurveda Spas’ almost as a menu item on a long list of treatments. This can be dangerous. All treatment should be specific to the patient. For example shirodhara for me would be completely wrong.
Shirodhara is a constant pouring of cool oil on the forehead from a height of ‘four fingers’. The oil is from a pot suspended above the forehead and manually made to swing from side to side so that the entire width of the forehead is treated. A bandana over the eyebrows ensures that none of this oil reaches the eyes. The treatment is good for nourishing nerves. At this stage neither of us know why this will help her but presumably after 34 years of being married to me, any help is welcome (!)
In parallel to shirodhara, she is to have tailadhara where a warm oil mixture is gathered from a bowl in a cloth and streamed onto the skin at a height of ‘eight fingers’. The combination of these two techniques is said to be very powerful. The hour-long process at first sight seems illogical. Why should oil administered in this way have any effect? As always the patient needs to have faith that the week-long treatment will work.
Today is the seventh day and I have to tell you that I am convinced. This morning was the first time in six months that Sonali has managed to tie a ponytail without pain from her right shoulder. Frozen shoulder we thought with no known cure – until now. Whether you believe it or not is immaterial, Sonali is a mighty happy bunny who woke up at 3am, woke me at 4.15 am and insisted on a morning walk before breakfast! Give me back the woman I know that allowed me to lie in!
Ayurveda says that for any successful treatment there needs to be four things; the treatment, the practitioner, the patient and the instruments of treatment. All these must come together unimpeded for the requisite period of time for the healing to take place. To celebrate the uninterrupted 7 days of the treatment, there is a Puja – an offering of thanks – today to celebrate the successful completion of this phase of Sonali’s treatment.
As for me, the daily ritual pounding continues but this time the pouches of powder are replaced with pouches of herbs. This is a slightly stronger version of the powder treatment leading to further sweating out of toxins. To this has been added what can only be described as a foot mask. A green herbal paste delicately smoothed over both feet up the ankle so that everything but my toes are covered. I then have to wait an hour while it dries when it is removed and the foot cleaned. The doctor noticed that my feet were swelling a little and the treatment is designed to remove the swelling. Two days into the 3-day treatment and the swelling has practically gone. Once again, mysterious and improbable, yet immensely effective.
Apparently for both of us, all this is still the preparatory stage of Panchkarma and we have not reached the actual treatment stage. When asked what will that be like, the doctor just giggles and that has me worried - VERY, VERY worried.