Monthly Archives

December 2019

Food Lifestyle Yoga

An Ayurvedic Therapist’s Secrets to a Healthy Life – Day 6

December 4, 2019

Meditating (or pretending to) somewhere in the hills of Kotagiri. How I long to be back there meditating and breathing the fresh air. pc: Animesh Jain

Today I was posted to perhaps the most interesting department. The Gastroenterology department.

And I’ve finally made a friend!!! She’s doing a BSc. here and is also employed as an Ayurvedic therapist. So she studies and works at SVYASA. She’s become my one stop shop for any queries, and it’s nice to have a friend who knows her way around!

Since the full time therapists are always too busy to answer my questions (and there are always so many questions), I usually end up discussing my queries with Aishwarya. I usually observe silently as patients describe their symptoms to the doctors. The doctors make notes in the files.

Later I pick Aishwarya’s brain.

The symptoms that most patients report are things like bloating and indigestion. If ignored or left untreated these can lead to more serious issues such as chronic constipation, IBS and ulcers. At SVYASA the first line of treatment is to put these patients on an Ayurvedic diet and have them attend various yoga and meditation sessions.

“But do you think the answer to a medical problem so prevalent is as simple as changing the diet and moving a bit more?” I asked her.

Apparently it is. Patients who come in with even severe cases of gastritis report a marked improvement after just a week on the SVYASA routine. Here their food and meal times are regulated. Although the quantity of food can’t be controlled but what the patients (and us) eat is very very simple. It is basically rice, roti, dal, a sabji and buttermilk. Not once has the food been too spicy or too salty. There’s never dessert. Fruit isn’t on the menu and in the evenings they serve a dairy-based malt instead of coffee/tea. We end up eating at the same time every day, which promotes healthy digestion.

We exchanged some personal anecdotes as well. She told me about how she was overweight before she came to SVYASA and her diet underwent a sea-change during the time she’s been here (the last 2 years). I described my weight-loss journey as well and how it was a solid asana practice and a supremely controlled diet that helped me. Aishwarya’s diet is similar to an Ayurvedic diet. Below are a few of the guidelines she follows:
. no sugar
. no milk
. no coffee or tea
. no refined flour, refined rice, refined oil

I didn’t ask her about alcohol but I’m sure that’s also a no. Also, she feels that the food served in the mess isn’t wholesome and so she also makes a malt for herself every once in a while. It’s a powder containing multi grains which she mixes with water and jaggery. Served hot.

Along with what we eat it’s important to eat at the same time every day. It builds regularity in digestion. Erratic meal timings lead to erratic digestion. Erratic digestion gives rise to every single condition treated in the Gastroenterology ward.

Sleep and stress are two factors that simply can’t be overlooked when it comes to digestion. Insufficient or disturbed sleep interferes with the secretion of digestive enzymes which is why you feel sluggish when you’re sleep deprived. It’s the same story with stress. Chronic stress inhibits the secretion of digestive enzymes. Chronic stress will also interfere with the secretion of melatonin, which will in turn lead to sleeplessness, which will cause digestive disorders…and the viscous cycle continues.

The only way to break this cycle is to wake up one day and commit to living better, one decision at a time.

Lifestyle Yoga

Learning New Cleansing Techniques (LSP) – Day 5

December 3, 2019

Yesterday was my first day at the Department for Metabolic Disorders. The person in charge was short, squat and had a very aggressive look to him. His name is Shan and I decided to stay clear out of his way.

Class was almost over. All yoga sessions here are similar. Today many supine and prone asanas were included in the routine because we were dealing with metabolic conditions. I was surreptitiously checking the time when all of a sudden I realized Shan was talking to me. “Do you know how to do DRT?” he asked me with an evil glint in his eye.

‘No…uh yes!’ I stammered.
‘Yes or no?’
“I know what DRT is and I’ve attended sessions also but I’ve never conducted it,” I told him, finally getting a hold of myself.
“Hmmm….meet me in my office after class.” He looked at the other intern pointedly, indicating that she was also expected.

“What course are you doing here,” he asked in his office.
“MSc,” I said. “But distance,” I added, hoping that was some sort of justification for not knowing the Deep Relaxation Technique, a meditation technique patented by SVYASA.

“OK, first – tomorrow you both will bring your mats,” he said. “You guys must also participate in the classes. Seeing you the patients feel motivated to move.”

“Yes sir,” we both said in unison.

“Also tomorrow we don’t have class, we have kriyas. You guys be there by 6 am and help the patients.”

I saw this as my chance to practice kiryas under supervision, and quickly seized it. “I can do jal neti, but sutra neti and vamana dhouti are really difficult for me.”

“Then I will teach you. Do you know LSP?”
“Heard of it but I’ve never done it. But I want to!”

I reached the kriya block with my neti kit and my nerves in a bundle. It had been years since I’d done the sutra neti and vamana dhouti. And I was hoping LSP – Laghu Shankh Prakshalana wasn’t going to leave me with the runs.

“Sir, this sutra isn’t going into my nose,” I said as I worked the rubber catheter into my nostril. But he kept encouraging me and eventually the catheter was in the back of my throat. In fact, this morning (because he threatened that he would do it himself) I was able to reach into my throat and pull out the other end of the catheter. This was the second time in my life that I was able to do this.

Vamana Dhouti

 

Sutra neti. I wish I had images of me doing the kriyas, but I was so busy doing them that I forgot to document them!

During vamana dhouti he told me about the importance and relevance of cleansing practices. “If you’re a regular practitioner you should do this once a week. Your asanas will improve. These practices are important.” I tried to re-gurgitate the water without resorting to pushing my fingers down my throat. In the end, it was my fingers that did the trick.

LSP is a technique to clear the entire digestive system. I drank 4 glasses of salt water and then did the basic stretching exercises. Then drank another 4 glasses and did them again. By the time I was back in my room I was ready to exploded in the thunderbox. It took a long long time. The water makes it way through the entire digestive system, bringing along toxins. You know your digestive system is clean when the water coming out of you is clear. As he said, “The water should look like your urine. If it doesn’t you have to go again.” It took me all of one hour, but I’m happy to report that my first time at LSP was good. I’m going to continue doing this practice at home too.

As I got the final sign-off from him, I noticed that his smile didn’t look evil or intimidating anymore. Note to self: the greatest lessons sometimes come from the most unexpected sources.

Lifestyle Yoga

Who Was Swamy Vivekananda? – Day 4

December 2, 2019

 

Swamy Vivekananda is arguably one of the most popular spiritual leaders of India. He was born on Jan 12, 1863 to wealthy parents. He was christened Narendranath. Born to priviledge he was also well educated and had a liberal upbriging. As a young adult the question of God and the Supreme Being fascinated him, and he tried finding answers to his spritual crisis with reason and logic. The quest for an answer took him to many religious teachers and masters. He finally found what he was looking for in Sri Ramakrishna, another prominent spiritual master at the time. This resulted in a deep spiritual bond and Narendranath became Swamy Vivekananda.

In 1893 Swamy Vivekananda represented India in the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. His lecture was about India, Hinduism and Sri Ramakrishna’s philosophies. His speech drew a lot of interest and he spent the next two and half years in America, and eventually established the Vedanta Society of New York.

Despite a deep respect and love for Hinduism, Swamy Vivekananda thought of his countrymen first which is why he is considered to be an early nationalist.

This institute is named after him because he represents a scientific approach to Indian culture. SVYASA endeavors to explain the expansiveness of Indian culture and attempts to cultivate a love for the country among the students. For this reason we have bhajan classes and talks, students learn desh-bhakti songs as well, the national anthem and the national song are a daily affair and discourses are held on important lessons from the Gita. I know it sounds a lot, and maybe a tad bit too Hindutva for many of you. But…it’s not that bad!

Lifestyle Yoga

It Starts With a Cleanse – Day 3

December 1, 2019

If you’ve ever consulted with me, or attended any class with me, you would know that I focus more on well-rounded asana classes more than ‘do this asana for this problem’. The reason is that yoga isn’t a quick fix. You will start to derive benefits from a regular practice even if you only practice for a week, but you need to put in that week. And once you reap the benefits, if you quit, then the benefits also disappear. It’s pretty straightforward.

It was my second (and last day) at the Spinal Disorders department at Arogyadhama. Here patients are called participants. Every participant is prescribed a combination of yoga therapy and at least one other treatment for the duration of their stay here. This other treatment could be allopathic in nature, it could be an ayurvedic treatment or even plain old physiotherapy. The point is, yoga is essential in their treatment. Which is why OM Meditation and certain other sessions during the day are mandated for everyone.

In alternative medicine the focus is not the symptom of the disease, it is the source of the disease. The source of the disease could be external (such as strained personal relationships) or internal (a congenital physical issue such as epilepsy). Here at SVYASA, treatment starts with cleansing. The daily OM meditations, the bhajan sessions, the Sanskrit chanting etc. are ‘prescribed’ to everyone to start the process of mental and emotional cleansing. It is believed that chanting raises your spiritual quotient and the particular vibrations of the chants cleanse your nadis, which in turn cleanse you emotionally and mentally. Which is why every single participant at SVYASA is put through a deluge of meditation sessions.

Another aspect of cleansing is internal cleansing of the body. For this there are several kriyas that are taught here. So this morning all the participants were marched to the ‘kriya‘ block. Kriya simply means a practice. And on Sundays at SVYASA everyone does Jal Neti, Sutra Neti, Vamana Dhouti and LSP. These techniques ensure a certain level of internal cleanliness.

Detox diets to ‘reset’ the body have become a fad around the world now. In fact, I’m about to go on one in Jan. SVYASA is doing pretty much the same thing. Treatments for all ailments and conditions start with a round of cleansing. Patients here report an instant feeling of lightness after the LSP (Laghu Shankha Parikshalana) and Jal Neti practices. After 4 days of OM meditation along with Cyclic Meditation, patients start to report a sense of calmness and relaxation. Once this happens, patients are ready for the treatment, both emotionally and physically.

The famous Swamy Vivekananda statue in the background, in front of which I have attended many yoga classes.