How it all went!
There’s been some radio silence on my domain lately, but now, I finally feel like jotting down words again. So, here we are, back in the game again. I’ll break the drought by writing about my recent trip to India – my first Ayurvedic retreat – or Ayurvedic boot camp as it was coined by one of my fellow retreaters. In this post, I’ll explain what Ayurveda is, how the retreat went and share some post-retreat thoughts.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda means the science of life or knowledge of life. It’s an ancient Hindu tradition originated in India thousands of years ago, and continues to be one of the world’s most holistic mind-body health systems of our time. The ayurvedic approach is based on what modern medicine just recently has been able to provide scientific evidence of mind-body-breath connection – look it up, hon!
Generally speaking, Ayurveda follows two principals:
1) The mind and body are inextricably connected.
2) The mind has the power to heal and transform the body.
This includes meditation, breathing and a diet based on your body type.
Meditation expands one’s awareness of the mind-body connection and creates inner peace and refreshes the mind and restores your body’s balance. On top of this, breathing also plays an important role as breathing is energy. Short and very simply put, if you can control your breath, you can control your mind. Thirdly, the diet is key to balance mind-body-breath. The diet and hence what you eat is considered as medicine to treat illnesses and imbalances in your mind and body. Thus, Ayurveda is not just about treating illnesses, it’s a system to prevent them to occur. it’s an approach to life; a science of life, as stated in the beginning.
In order to get started on the ayurvedic treatment and live by the ayurvedic principles, you will need to find out what your dosha is – what your mind-body type is.
The three types of mind-body types are derived from the 5 elements (fire, space, earth, water & air) and named: Vatta, Pitta, Kapha.
You have all three types in you, however, one is more prevalent than the others. Your most prevalent mind-body type represents your physical, mental and emotional characteristics.
Based on your mind-body type, you will be able to find out what kind of food, meditation, and movement that will keep you balanced and prevent illnesses, emotional fluctuations such as mood swings, stress, and even depressions.
The three different mind-body types and their elements:
Vatta: Space and air.
Pitta: Fire and water.
Kapha: Water and earth.
Anyways, I could write a lot more about Ayurveda science, but I’ll leave that to another time.
How does a typical day at an ayurvedic retreat look like?
The duration of the retreat was 2 weeks with a weekly “day off” on Sundays. Below is an overview of how a typical day including treatments would look like.
6:30 morning tea
10:30 green juice
15:00 afternoon snack
15:30 workshop (yoga alignment, yoga philosophy or group discussion on selected topics)
Treatments were scheduled either in the morning or early afternoon depending on your health consultants’ availability and would take around 1,5 hrs. Moreover, each treatment was accompanied by a consultancy with the on-site doctor, who would check in on your wellbeing, progress or lack of and also take your blood pressure, blood sugar, and pulse.
Let’s begin where it all started!
On December 2nd, 2019, I boarded my flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Kochi, India. I had very little idea of what an Ayurvedic retreat in India would be like and I’m happy that I didn’t have any preconceived thoughts nor expectations to what would await me. I arrived with an open mind, a willingness to learn more about Ayurveda science and try out this way of living for 2 whole weeks.
The retreat really did some wonders to my mind and body – I lost around 2 kg in 2 weeks, but that is the boring part of my experience. The interesting part is what happened to my mind.
In order to explain what happened, I’d like to envision my mind as a living room with a couch, a comfy chair, a table and a bookshelf filled with books, pictures of loved ones and posters to give the living room a bit of personality. There’s also a lamp to brighten up the room when it gets dark or to give some extra focus when reading, but oftentimes not fully used for its purpose.
My living room before the retreat was a livable, bright and spacious room, but honestly a bit messy, untidy and dusty in the corners. Some books have been left in stacks on the table taking up space and the lamp was sort of flickering, not shedding light on what matters. Marie Kondo would not have approved.
However, after just a couple of days on a strict plant-based diet without any sugar, caffeine, gluten or alcohol (obviously) and daily massage treatments as well as morning meditation and yoga, I started to feel so much better. Relaxed. Less stressed. And I managed to leave certain memories and conflicts behind. My physical health also changed. The tension I had in my upper back and shoulders diminished slowly and steadily day by day. I felt my body was more light and especially when doing yoga. I felt a better connection with myself and the way I would move from posture to posture. My mediation also became a lot more meaningful and today an absolute priority in my daily life. It’s safe to say, that the retreat opened up some doors and taught me a lot about how connected the mind and the body really are.
So all in all, I improved my physical health and learned some meditation techniques that help me deal with my tendency to feel stressed, coping with uncertainty and a floating mind.
Although it is easy to get carried away when you find yourself at a beautiful and serene paradise, with a view to the Arabic Sea, delicious plant-based Indian food served 5 times a day made by Indian food magicians, I still think it is important to be critical to all of this.
The first thing, I want to address is the language usage – the rhetorics. For instance, I was “diagnosed” with a pitta imbalance. The word imbalance connotes that something is not working, or something is not stable or you have lost control over yourself. Maybe this is true in some cases, but I would be careful using the word imbalance and “diagnosed” as it can easily create a feeling of being wrong. I would rather think of my “imbalance” as a way to map out my current health condition to find out how to improve and tweak my health in order to be the best version of myself – like, you can be a good version, a better one or the best version of yourself all depending on how you live.
After the completion of the retreat, we were advised to stick to the diet and do yoga and meditation every day for the next 3 months.
While I had the best intention, I also knew it would be difficult as Christmas and New Year’s Eve came right after my return. Although I had the best intentions to refrain from the temptations, I fell short on keeping the diet for the simple reason, that I don’t believe in strict diets. I also don’t believe in bad and good when it comes to food and drinks. For me, food and drinks are something to be enjoyed and something that should bring you joy – not concerns about how many calories and carbs a certain meal contains, etc.
A conscious mind and moderations are key when eating. Be present when you eat (stove away from the phone and switch off the TV) and eat in moderations and eat food made with <3 – it is that simple.