Guest blog by Doke Oosterholt, a student and friend of the Tree
Three weeks in August 2017, Doke and Silke went to an ayurvedic yoga village in Kerala for a panchakarma treatment. Why? Because they wanted to rid their bodies of toxins that accumulated through western treatment of cancer. And because they believed in the Ayurvedic vision on disease, namely that all disease is caused by toxins (ama) that accumulate in our bodies. Below is Doke’s story. We hope you enjoy it.
Did we have any idea beforehand of this 5 stage detox-program we had to undergo? Well, we did have a general idea of what to expect. That is, we read a book about pancha-karma (5 actions or treatments) before we went, so that we knew the difference between constitution (Prakruiti) and actual condition (Vikruiti) in Ayurveda, and how the 3 doshas (humors) are related to the 5 elements and the different zones of the body.
We knew something about the different tissues in Ayurveda, and how some are deeper situated in our body than others, and consequently later to be reached by food and toxins than others. We knew that food is considered to be very important for your health according to Ayurveda, be it material food or mental food. These foods can have different qualities (gunas); and of course sattvic (balanced) food is the best for us. Digestion with the help of fire (Agni) is really at the core of Ayurvedic thinking. With our fast western way of living, according to Ayurveda, we tend to take too little care of what we take in as food or impressions and also we tend to have too little consideration for well processing of these foods and impressions. Consequently, toxins called ama can accumulate in our bodies. Doing things in a calm way, living according to the rhythms of nature, having our daily rituals of yoga or walking, breathing exercises, and meditation will prevent the toxins from accumulating and will help them get out of our body again. Without a healthy body, spirituality is very difficult, according to Ayurveda.
But we also knew that an Ayurvedic doctor in India is university trained for at least 5 years to be a general practitioner and another 3 years to be a specialist. So we were very well aware that we knew only a tiny little bit about Ayurveda, this art of living well.
The ayurvedic yoga village
Our doctor Vipin in the Ayurvedic yoga village was a well known specialist for cancer treatment. When we arrived in our compound, we heard stories about him having cured someone with liver cancer who western oncologists had given up on. Also a story about someone being paralysed by Multiple Sclerosis and after a treatment of half a year, this person could walk again. So we were very motivated when we started our treatment. And that was necessary, because what followed were very difficult moments, almost intolerable at times, with cramps and nausea, feeling hot and shivering at the same time, almost fainting and sometimes feeling feverish. The toxins did not want to leave our bodies easily.
But motivation helped us get through it all. Plus we were surrounded by a team of very devoted and accomplished workers who gave us a sort of immersion in the hinduistic or ayurvedic lifestyle and their deeply felt beliefs and conceptualisations of what it takes to live a healthy and happy life.
Every day we had a consultation with our doctor, to see how we were doing and to prepare us for the next stage of our treatment. We were given daily rituals and affirmations to help us digest the sometimes horrible medicines, like the drinking of more and more ghee at the beginning of our stay to help us loosen the toxins in the kapha region (lungs to shoulders up to the top of the head). And after the vamana-day, where we were made to vomit after drinking 9 liters of medicated fluids, we were supposed to start alkalising our cells by drinking cow-urine…
Apart from our daily consultation with the doctor, we had 2 hours of massage every day that helped to loosen the toxins and lead them to the targeted region of our body for the next purgation. Some of us got mud on the forehead te help calm the mind, or mud on the throat to help recover the voice.
And then there was the daily program to help the curing process, beginning with a morning puja to help burn away negative thoughts and emotions in the fire, which was necessary to restore our relationship with god or mother nature. We were invited to choose our own gods or deities or archangels.
Afterwards, there was a water ceremony to help cleanse our relationship with our ancestors and to reset our cell-memory and be more open to all the positive influences of nature.
Then we did yoga for 1.5 hours, with a lot of chanting and pranayama and sun salutations, followed by long-held poses to stimulate the digestive fire and the vital force canals. We concluded the yoga sessions with 20 min of pranayama: fire breathing for 3 rounds of 60 breaths, and 14-21 rounds of nostril breathing.
Then there was the puja for the cows, who were giving us all these healthy medicines. We were invited to feed the cows ourselves to strengthen our relationship with nature. We were encouraged to walk through the rice fields with the little cottages, the white ibis, along the river and passing a nature reserve with lots of monkeys, and also big groups of wild elephants.
While taking the ghee you could do an extra pranayama session to help calm the mind and release any emotions that might arise.
Afterwards, a yoga nidra session followed to bring the body into a deeply relaxed state, also very important to allow deep body cells to release toxins.
The day was concluded with a lighter yoga session at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and after dinner a puja during sunset to prepare the body for sleep.
We were encouraged to go to sleep before 10 o’clock because at that hour we enter a pitta period of 4 h, during which the liver is working at its best. The body needs to be in a deeply relaxed state to help your liver do its proper work.
As we were part of a group organised by Lies Ameeuw who runs a school for Ayurveda in Gent, we could take part in another program with walks to a museum for tribal art and around a mountain, including a visit to a local market and the tribal shop.
We were offered lectures on Indian culture, stories about Gods, dancing, singing and acting. Lies Ameeuw gave a lecture about Ayurveda and the main Indian gods and major religious concepts. We had a dramatised performance about Arjuna as a youngster with too much pride, who was provoked by the gods to become more adult and integer. We also enjoyed an evening with dances of two of our doctors and other dances of the beautiful girls of the restaurant.
Lies also offered “opstellingen” for those interested to get more insight into their own inner conflicts, which were very moving.
Now we are back home in Belgium, with all our cells detoxified, but wide open, so still more sensitive than usually. Most of us are very tired because the panchakarma asks a lot of the body. Each of us was given a special diet to help us stay alkaline and get our guts restored after the purgations.
We were told to live more calmly (satvic) and in a closer and continuous relation with nature. Beginning our days early in the morning to take more profit of the healthy properties of the sunrise. Your should start with cleaning your mouth with sesame-oil and taking a shower after having massaged your full body with sesame-oil. Going to bed earlier, preferably after massaging your feet with warm sesame oil and calming your mind with some pranayama and a mantra to stop your mind from thinking.
Doing yoga every day, preferably in the morning, before breakfast, to prepare your body for pranayama that will heal your energetic body, thereby curing and preventing every disease from developing.
Last but not least, it is important to restore one’s relationship with nature. Being grateful for the opportunity to live this life on earth and learn our life purpose. Do the things you have to do with happiness (your dharma) and devotion, aligning yourself more and more with mother nature or your true self, instead of desiring things and persons outside of you. Be happy with what is in the here and now.
Story to be continued
Within three months all the group members will meet again in Gent in an Indian restaurant to see how we have been doing these (coming) 3 months. It is said that the effects of a major panchakarma will only be felt gradually in the course of 3 months, given that you keep eating properly and doing the daily rituals.
One thing is sure for me. By doing my improvised puja every morning, plus my yoga-exercises for my lungs and immunity, plus my panchakarma, plus meditation, all before my freshly prepared warm breakfast, I realise that by hurrying so much in my life, I lost my connection to my true Self. Which made me remember a conversation I had in the yoga village with another woman with breast cancer. She told me that before she came to the yoga village she was so involved with her husband and children and immersed in their family-life, that she forgot she also was an independent soul with a relationship and responsibility to her own destiny and purpose. Now that she had lived apart from her family for almost a year, she felt reborn, because she had restored her relationship with the divine and had seen that everybody around her was able to live their own life. She felt like another person with so much more freedom and independence. According to our doctor Vipin, all diseases are related to forgetting our true destiny and relationship with the divine. Now these words are more meaningful to me.