Festival founders Ram and Sonali Banerjee continue to lead us through their Ayurvedic retreat diary.
With tales of my colonic irrigation going viral around the Internet, we had reached the end of week two on our Ayurvedic journey. There is a strange thing about colonic irrigation, you get very blasé about it and don’t seem too disturbed by it once it's been done to you. So it was that I entered the treatment room on my third day of treatment to be told that the liquid being injected had been changed from oil to an herbal concoction. It was not this that worried me; it was the quantity – more than a litre of it! Quite honestly if I had that much spare capacity in my colon then I must be under eating!
This time the treatment is not to be held in and instead within a few minutes of being squeezed into you, it is time for you to squeeze it back out. Not that you have to squeeze hard. It’s more like a full wine bottle without a cork that is turned upside down – it comes out all by itself. After weeks of pre-treatment, this was it. Just two more days with the oil to settle things back down again and it’s all over.
It was coming to the end of our stay and I took note of what I was feeling. My body was going through a process of drying – internally and externally. Only noticeable on the outside by the dryness of the skin and the excess fluid in the ankles had all but disappeared. But how? The treatments are not logical yet their results are quantifiable. In western medicine, it took 1800 years for the idea that the heart created blood to thinking (incorrectly) that the liver created blood and the heart merely pumped it. Simple observation and trial and error does not lead to rapid progress and the millions of combinations and permutations documented in Ayurveda needed a superior source than a human mind. This is why before proceeding with any treatment, a prayer is said and gratitude acknowledged to the revealed wisdom of Ayurveda.
While I was familiarising myself with all my ‘treatments’, Sonali was being treated to five days of Navarakizhi - gentle massages with milk administered using bundles of special cooked rice and herbs. This pattern of favouritism continued when in the final two days of post-treatment, we were introduced to some daily routines, associated with our sense organs that are recommended for the maintenance of a healthy body.
Clearly the oil massage was the routine for our skin – the sense of touch. For the mouth – sense of taste – one performs what in the west is known as ‘teeth pulling’ where one takes half a mouthful of medicated oil and swirls it around the mouth for a few minutes before spitting it out (never swallowing). The oil is far more effective at tackling plaque and other microbes that live in the mouth than brushing with toothpaste. Then a few drops of oil in the ears to keep the ear moist and clean. A few drops in the eyes also help to clean them and the tear glands successfully. Finally two drops into every nostril that had to be sniffed upwards while holding the other nostril shut.
The nasal area is considered the gateway to the brain and in Ayurveda, nourishment for the brain is often administered through the nose. All this was once done routinely every day but once a week now seems all that may be possible in the west. Of all this, I disliked the stinging caused by the eye drops, the most. When asking Sonali about her experience, she said that all she could experience was the soothing nature and aroma of rose water. Definite conspiracy here when the same eye drops feel like sulphuric acid in my eyes and gentle rose water in her’s. That is exactly what Ayurveda is about. Every individual is different and this difference even continues into vastly differing reactions.
Having gone through pre-treatment and treatment, we were told that although post treatment was being started, it must continue for one or two months at home. This is very important. Your body has spent a lifetime getting to where it is now and it cannot be reversed overnight. We were given food guidelines. A lucky omission had meant that coffee was excluded from Sonali’s diet but not mine! My delight was short lived however, when informed that it was a simple printing error ☹
A month of post treatment was to finish on Christmas day! What luck. Mind you, after two months of abstinence, half a glass of champagne is sure to see me sleeping through The Queen’s speech!