|Ayurveda medicines use the herbs and spices of the land|
For both the neophyte spa patron and serious connoisseur of body treatments, South India is heaven on Earth for undertaking treatments of all types. Whether for pure enjoyment or more serious medical reasons, the South Indian practice of ayurveda is an integral part of the culture and remains highly respected to this day, just as it has been for thousands of years. The name ayurveda means “life science” and practitioners of ayurveda are highly respected pillars of their communities; they include the doctors working at ayurveda clinics and resorts frequented by foreign visitors, some of whom come for weeks on end to feel the full impact of ayurveda’s power. Authentic ayurveda programs are created for each client individually after a personal consultation with the ayurveda doctor, who can discern a remarkable amount of information about a person’s health simply by taking a pulse. The shortest programs run 7 days, but 14-, 21-, and 30-day programs are not at all uncommon, depending on how long the client is available and the purpose of the program.
|Traditional preparation of ayurveda medicines|
Pure ayurveda is not simply a walk-in, walk-out treatment administered for an hour or two. It is an all-encompassing experience that takes food and physical activity into consideration as well. These are part of the program, the essence of which is still the various massages and therapies administered by expert staff. Anyone who has experienced an ayurveda massage can tell of its longlasting effects, both physical and mental, and the wellbeing they engender.
For Westerners accustomed to any activity associated with health to be exorbitantly expensive, the cost of residential programs at ayurveda clinics are surprisingly low. Many Europeans come to Kerala in winter, closing down their homes in cold places and actually spending less money while enjoying the agreeable climate and health benefits of an ayurveda program than they would if they stayed home heating their homes. In keeping with their ideals of paring down the complications of Life, most ayurveda facilities are certainly comfortable and rigorously clean, though not deluxe in a five-star hotel style.
Where to go, then, to experience ayurveda in its purest form? First, be aware that the term ‘hospital’ is used in ayurveda to mean something different than it does in Western countries. With regard to ayurveda, the word hospital is used in its essential meaning, i.e., a place for people to feel better. The Vaidyaratnam complex located in Thaikkattussery north of Kochi includes a highly respected ayurveda college as well as a hospital and a very informative museum on the history and practices of ayurveda. The residential and treatment facilities are spartan, but their austerity should not be mistaken for lack of quality. Indeed, as in all ayurveda facilities, the practice of ayurveda is taken very seriously at Vaidyaratnam and any program undertaken will certainly yield a positive result.
|Special tables are built for ayurvedic treatments|
Another ayurveda hospital, this one in the mountains, is called Sahyadri. Located in the small village of Peermade, Sahyadri’s individual treatments can be combined into health packages administered by expert staff in a supremely quiet location. The many German, Austrian, and Swiss guests here attest to the high quality and effectiveness of the treatments. Sahyadri produces ayurveda products for sale and distribution all over the world. If the accommodation is too basic but the treatments appeal, accommodation at Paradisa Plantation Retreat can be taken in lieu of the residential options on the premises.
For the casual visitor wanting to include ayurveda in a holiday rather than make it a focus, a stay at Marari Beach Resort is just the ticket. Located on a strand of sand south of Kochi, Marari’s individual bungalows occupy a large property dotted with tropical plants, flowers, and trees. The ayurveda program here, run under the observant eye of Dr Sooraj, caters to visitors wanting individual interactions with ayurveda rather than looking to follow a multiday program (though these, too, are available at Marari). Two-hand and four-hand massages, herbal poultice treatments, and the famous shirodhara (oil running continuously over the forehead) are all available for guests of the resort, which is part of the CGH Earth group of hotels. CGH Earth also runs what is perhaps the most luxurious ayurveda facility in India; located in the former palace of a Kerala royal family, the Kalari Kovilakom resort is the last word in ayurveda excellence in the place where ayurveda began.
|Paradisa Plantation Retreat cottages are superbly comfortable and well appointed|
More information about ayurveda travels to Kerala is available on the websites of India Tourism and Kerala Tourism. With India’s new visa on arrival policy now in operation, travellers from many countries, including Australia, can receive their tourist visas at any of nine international airports in India, including Kochi International Airport, if they come prepared with pre-authorisation obtained online beforehand. Ready for a restorative time away from home? The soothing hands of Kerala’s masseurs await!