Kerala Ayurveda Tour

There is an increasing international interest in these ancient Indian disciplines for physical and spiritual wellbeing, several hotels and resorts have made yoga, meditation and ayurveda therapies available to their guests. Both short-and long-term courses are offered, and at some upmarket resorts there are daily sessions for beginners at fixed hours.

For more serious yoga students, the beginners and advanced courses at ashrams and government-approved institutions may be preferable. Neyyar near Trivandrum and Nileshwar near Kasargod, are among the most renowned places for yoga institution.

The Home of Ayurveda

Ayurveda probably started in the Himalayas in about 5000 years back, and is a type of herbal medicine which is used in most parts of India. It is associated with Kerala on account of the many colleges and hospitals, such as the one at Kottakal, and the many Ayurvedic resorts that have recently become established in the state.

The word ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words of 'wisdom' and 'life', and the philosophy is based on a holistic understanding of the human body, mind and spirit; illness affects both the body and the mind, and these should therefore not be treated separately.

Physical and emotional health can be maintained by balancing energies, and diagnosis is based on the philosophy that illness is the result of a loss of balance of doshas, a combination of elements that comprise the human body, making use of the 107 marmas or sensitive points. Ayurvedic physicians prescribe traditional healing techniques such as purification, diet, herbal medicine, massage, meditation and yoga.

Ayurvedic was discouraged by the British Raj, but after India became independent in 1947, it was promoted by the government as an important form of medicine.

For most visitors to Kerala, the most enjoyable and relaxing ayurvedic treatment is a massage, which is also the first cleansing therapy offered to most patients as a form of pre-detoxification. The massage oils have properties that help to heal and protect the skin; the therapist uses gentle, circular movements-with the degree of pressure depending on the patient's condition-covering the head and the body, and the massage is followed by a steam bath.

Some resorts also offer synchronised massages by two or more therapists, as well as Chavtti-Uzhichil, which is done by foot instead of by hand, for rejuvenation, muscle toning, weight loss and improved circulation.

The ayurvedic programmes offered by most hotels and resort are Rasayana Chikitsa (rejuvenation therapy), Kayakalpa Chikitsa (body immunisation and longevity, therapy), Sveda Karma (involving body cleansing by inducing perspiration as part of pre- detoxification) and Panchakaram (for overall wellbeing).

Treatments at Ayurvedic Resorts

Dhara: In Sirodhara, a thin flow of herbal oil, from a pot with a hole suspended over the patient's head, is directed to spot on the forehead near the eyebrows and then stroked down the hair by the stroked down the hair by the therapist and allowed to permeate the skin.

The oil may be massaged into the scalp if prescribed by the physician. Other forms of dhara involve the pouring of buttermilk, fermented yoghurt-based fluids or medicated milk over the forehead or body.

Karnapoornam: Ear treatment.

Marma Kizhi: Massage with herbal powder-filled cloth bags.

Nasyam or Nasya Karma: Nasal therapy, which involves inhaling, medicated vapors.

Pzhichil: A herbal compress.

Sirolepam: Application of herbal pastes chosen for the patient.

Sveda: Induces perspiration by application of herbal bundles, along with medicated steam baths or herbal tub baths.

Tharapanam and Ajanam: Eye treatments.

Udvarthanam: Herbal powder massage.

Urovasti: Administration of oil to the chest.

Ayurvedic treatment aims to restore the balance, and hence good health, principally through two methods: panchakarma (internal purification), and herbal massage.

Panchakarma is used to treat serious ailments, and is an intense detox regime, a combination of five types of different therapies (panchakarma means 'five actions) to rid the body of built-up endotoxins. These include: vaman -therapeutic vomiting: virechan - purgation: vasti - enemas: nasya - elimination of toxins through the nose: and raktamoksha - detoxification of the blood.

Before panchakarma begins, the body is first prepared over several days with a special diet, oil massages (snehana) and herbal steam- baths (swedana). Although it may sound pretty grim, panchakarma purification might only use a few of these treatments at a time, with therapies like bloodletting and leeches only used in rare cases. Still, this is no spa holiday.

The herbs used in ayurveda grow in abundance in Kerala's humid climate - the monsoon is thought to be the best time of year for treatment, when there is less dust in the air and the pores are open and the body is most receptive to treatment - and every village has its own ayurvedic pharmacy.

Enriching Detours

Explore an Ayurvedic medicine factory. Visit a herbal farm. Learn more about the science from traditional practitioners. Enjoy an Ayurveda lunch. Visit an ayurveda museum.

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