The Start of a New Discovery

 Initiating an Exploration into Ayurvedic Medicine and My Own Body

Yesterday I went in search of an Ayurvedic practitioner and thankfully, I think, found one. I’m hoping the start of a new discovery will lead to a life-enhancing outcome. Perhaps a life-long adventure too.

Why did I go on such a search?

Because I’m feeling like shit. Physically and mentally.

I’ve not been in great shape for a few years. Went through a terrible time with my menses for a while. They were heavier, and lasted longer, than an overactive and destructive volcanic eruption – and as messy and devastating. Think about it. When there’s a heavy and sustained loss of blood for a couple of years, where’s it coming from? From my bone marrow is where. Before I reached the final resolution with a second, small operation – to remove the troublesome intra-uterine fibroids at fault – I needed two mega doses of iron, given intravenously, before they would do the op. That resolving operation was about three and a half years ago. Recovery from all of which has taken time. Too long. In the process of recovering I seem to have slipped into sluggishness and apathy – on all sorts of levels. However, this past year in particular I’ve been experiencing near-constant abdomen discomfort, bloated daily, and a lot of lethargy.

Due to whatever fucked-up reason, this time round I just don’t seem to be able to get it together to do what I know can and will work. The result – I keep feeling shit. Every day. All day. Feeling shitty and fucked-up is NOT good. Ever. Feeling shitty and fucked-up when trying to motor through creative output, to be a fully-involved person in an intimate relationship, to keep kicking-arse is NOT good. Ever. So, what to do? What the hell to do? That is what I have been asking myself. Something has to give.

For a while the key questions running around my head, like growing kittens in search of milky nipples, have been:
– What is it I really need to do?
– How I can do that?

– I need to lose weight and find healthier ways of living. Not just for the aesthetics, but more importantly for my health and wellness.
– I need to be more active too, for the same reasons.
– I need to readjust my dietary intake to support all that.

I’ve been here before, getting help with my health. In this way, what I’m about to start is a new discovery because of the method, rather than the intention.

A short bit of back-peddling/backstory:
In case you didn’t already know, I’m in India. In particular a small town in Tamil Nadu (I’ve written about this elsewhere). I love here. Apart from being with Mr D, there was something about the place when I first visited back in 2007 that grabbed me and held me in a firm embrace of love and compassion and kindness. I happily fall into that embrace every time I return. The natural consequence of my staying in India is that when I consider seeking out help with this persistent problem I want something, someone, local. So naturally that had to be Ayurvedic Medicine. (If you want the low-down on Ayurvedic Medicine there is plenty online.)

During the ruminations about my persistent problems I happened to tune into a TV programme last Sunday during which a celebrated Indian health and lifestyle guru* spoke cogently and emphatically about the need to, sometimes, detox the body. Apparently he’s had excellent success with his detox programmes for cancer patients, as well as helping people with weight loss and improved health generally. From the manner in which he spoke, and the specifics, I believe him. His chat and obvious knowledge on the subject of health convinced me – I need to detox.

Clearly I could just do this at home. The guru chap already gave a few pointers. Simple stuff. But I’ve never been great at detoxing. Let’s face it, retoxing is always way more fun and easier. Given my brain fog and entrenched lethargy, how the hell was I going to get a start on detoxing? I figured it was time to get help.

While out and about a few days ago I took a detour and saw an advertising hoarding outside a suburban house: Ayurvedic treatments for all kinds of illnesses and health issues. Yesterday I met the owner of that hoarding, Dr A. I liked her from the off. Female (preferable given my complaints), direct, forthright, approachable. I told her I needed an outside agency, someone other than me, to help me shift my shit.

What I actually told her was I feel stuck. My whole body feels stuck. I feel stagnant, almost on hold. Definitely not girl interrupted – that passed by a long while back – more like woman halted. Even though I’ve been feeling this way for a few years, more recently the sense that this stagnation is not just physical but affecting all of me has grown.
Here’s a list of my physical issues:

  • Bloated belly – almost constantly
  • Aching joints
  • Sluggish colon activity – too often constipated
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss and thinning
  • Painful joints
  • Overweight with – because of the bloated belly – a girth-to-hip ratio tipping me towards diabetes, heart problems and the like

My other issues include:

  • Brain fog
  • Erratic energies, but mostly lethargy
  • Unfocused in my activities

With a smidgeon of info about Ayurvedic medicine I already knew that one of the treatments might be an enema. I told her I was not keen on having one. She wanted to know more. I explained I’d already had colonic irrigation, twice some years back. While the irrigation itself was mildly unpleasant – warm water gushing past my anus and up my rectum was an odd experience – the fact of the cost with no obvious positive outcome (coupled with a lackadaisical practitioner of that fine art!) meant I was not enthusiastic about going through something similar.

Dr A sent me away with the agreement that I would return the next morning, before breakfast, when she would make a diagnosis by taking my pulses. After the pulse diagnosis she would make her recommendations.

That diagnosis took place this morning. In Dr A’s consulting room she sat me down, placed her fingers on my left wrist and took my pulse.
“Fire,” she muttered after only a few moments.
Given all I know about my body and personality type, that one-word assessment was not a surprise. But I was surprised when she gave her diagnosis – all of my key elements (doshas or humours) are out of balance. That ain’t good. No wonder I feel so crappy. Her diagnosis confirms what I thought – I am fucked-up. She reckons she can reverse my shittiness.

Following her pulse assessment she went on to explain the proposed programme. Now that was not just a surprise but a bloody shock.

Panchakarma is a detoxification procedure that involves a variety of processes and lasts for between 30-45 days. Thirty days! Holy shit. And, less holy but more shit – enemas too. Crappolla.

We chatted some more. Dr A. gave an overview of the procedures involved in panchakarma, said she’d prepare a full outline when I start. At that point I hadn’t yet agreed I would start  – but I was aware that something in me felt drawn to doing her detox. She left me for a while to go and attend to another client who was coming to the last few days of her own panchakarma programme. I mulled over what Dr A had just told me.

Although we hadn’t yet discussed it, cost was definitely going to be a consideration. Could I afford to undergo such an intensive programme? Could I afford not to, whatever the cost? Clearly doing a panchakarma in India was going to be cheaper than if I did something similar in London. That was a worthy factor. Also a factor is that I have the time to do this. No need to try and fit the programme around a full time job. No need to worry about how to juggle work, commuting, and other commitments. But could I afford it?

She told me the cost. Higher than I expected. But understandably so given the procedures and herbal medicines involved, the – gulp – enemas and food too. She made me a coffee and we chatted some more.

When I left her some 50 minutes later I had a small batch of tablets and she had my agreement that I would undergo the programme. The start of a new discovery has begun.

I’ve also decided using my blog to document my experiences during the process might be fun as well as interesting for anyone thinking about taking Ayurvedic treatments, or undergoing panchakarma in particular. I’ll try to post daily.

Today, as one means of assessment, I have taken a few body measurements. No weight recorded as I’ve no weighing scales. I’ll take these same measurements at the end of the programme. Here’s the awful truth:
Bust 102 cm/40 inches
Waist 93 cm/36.5 inches
Hips 103 cm/40.5 inches
Right Upper arm – 33.5 cm/13 inches
Left Upper arm – 35 cm/13.5 inches
Right Thigh – 64 cm/25 inches
Left Thigh – 62.5 cm/24.5 inches
Right Knee – 43.5 cm/17 inches
Left Knee – 42.5 cm/16.5 inches
At a height of 156 cm/5 feet 1 inch all of those measurements mean I’s fat! Clearly I’m hoping there’ll be a reduction in all these figures, including my own, along with all the other intended improvements.

So tomorrow morning at 7am is my start on a new discovery, but just a start. I know that these next 30+ days are only a beginning. After the panchakarma is complete I’ll need to keep on implementing better lifestyle choices. Here’s to my starting a new discovery that supports all the health improvements I’m aiming for – because right now I need them more than ever.

If you have any questions as I go through this process, please throw them my way.

For now, let me leave you with this quote (taken from Dr A’s panchakarma info sheet):
The doshas, the dhatus, digestive fire and excretion, when balanced (along with) a happy soul, senses and mind, then the person is called healthy. —— Vaghbhata ——
(Sama dosha sama dhatu samaagni malakriyah. Prasanna atmendriyamanah swastah ityabhideeyate.)

And this (gruesome) image:


I hope I look better than this come March…

* see Luke Coutinho website for details

A New Tourist in a Familiar Town

Here in this ordinarily-quiet, unassuming part of the world we are in the midst of a wild and wide-ranging festival – Karthigai Deepam. I’m not going to go into details about the festival in this post (for that kind of information, see the links at the end). Rather, I wanted to share the small experience I had yesterday afternoon when I went into town with Mr D to for some of the festivities.

We had already agreed it would be fun to explore aspects of the Deepam festival together at some stage, but we had not yet made any specific plans (making specific plans is not one of our strengths, but that’s another story). So yesterday, around 3:30pm, Mr D spontaneously suggested and I immediately accepted that we go into town and see what was happening.

First off (by way of a minor digression and information dump) here’s the ear-catching beauty we rode to town on.


Mr D’s marvellous machine

This Royal Enfield Thunderbird bike has a custom paint job chosen by Mr D himself – the colour inspired by one of Royal Enfield’s own models a couple of years back. I mention the bike because, unlike the more popular style of bikes and scooters used by nearly every other family here abouts, the Thunderbird is bulky and grunts even at low speeds. The pleasure of riding pillion on Mr D’s Thunderbird is that I get to sit pretty on a wide seat with a comfy and securing backrest. Needless to say we tend to draw attention for two reasons – the stark combination of non-Indian woman and Tamil man and also the bike, sometimes one more than the other.

On a second note – the Deepam activities centre around the big temple at the heart of the town


Arunachaleswarar Temple – Tiruvannamalai

See, it is big. Also central to the festivities is the holy, sacred hill known as Arunachala.


One view of Arunachala – a holy hill of Tamil Nadu

My first experience of Deepam was back in 2008 when, as a much fitter woman and along with hundreds of other people, I climbed to the top of the mountain to see and receive darshan from the mighty flame that gets lit at 6pm on the full-moon night of Deepam.

Sara Laksimi - 2008

Happy to have survived a bare-foot descent of the holy hill Arunachala during Deepam 2008

Okay, digressions over and back to the point I want to make:

What I enjoyed about our short visit to town yesterday was the sense of being a tourist

Last night was when I realised I’ve not given myself the treat of being a tourist in this town for a while. And being a tourist is just that, a treat, because whether you indulge yourself in a new place or a familiar one, the time spent behaving like a tourist can definitely be a fresh pleasure. And here are some whys, simple whys, but ones that can so easily be forgotten in the day-to-day mêlée of regular life:

  • Seeing people and the world immediately around you in fresh ways
  • Freeing up yourself to be more inquisitive than normal
  • Stepping away from one kind of fray and into another less regular one
  • Immersion into something unexpected, possibly even thrilling
  • Shifting a staid perspective
  • Questioning assumptions
  • Opening your heart and mind away from the banal and mundane
  • Momentarily but purposefully slowing down the pace
  • Not curbing your enthusiasm

And more besides of course.

Even Mr D, who has known the town all his life, agreed that he’d felt like a tourist for a short while. Though the crowd increased the pollution he detests, together we happily wandered and wondered, moseyed and meandered, jostled and jiggled our way through the throngs gathered along the streets or flocked around the temple.

The whole thing was a lovely afternoon. My only gripe was that with the equivalent of a paltry few pounds in my pocket (the demonetisation debacle continues – despite the overly positive spin the media are now playing) I was not in a position to buy any goodies. After a while, we noted the crowds getting thicker and decided to depart the scene. With the memory of possible purchases still uppermost in my mind I got Mr D to drop me off at one of our main shops, bought a mango ice-lolly and, more crucially, received some much-needed ₹100 notes in exchange for the almost-unusable ₹2,000 that had been lurking in my wallet for over a week. By choice I walked home to savour the warmth of the evening as the sun began its descent through the sky, the air soft, and watched with anxiety and trepidation as the less frequently seen black-faced monkeys galloped across the busy road, thankfully safely.

I relayed all of this to Mr D and said how much fun it was to be a tourist in our own town. Back in London I would occasionally take myself off down some unfamiliar track, or just stop and have a coffee in a new place, or at a regular tourist spot or museum and enjoy being a tourist. Sadly, I’ve not taken the time to do that for a while. Yesterday reminded me how much fun wearing the tourist persona can be. There was a subtle recall of previously entrancing and energising moments. In fact, yesterday’s jaunt got me all fuzzed up with pleasure.

With that in mind, I thought I would write to encourage everyone to occasionally take time to be a tourist. You could do that at home, in your garden, down your street and around your neighbourhood. After all, as tourists we wander around the rooms of others, the gardens of stately homes, the neighbourhoods of never-before-visited towns and cities, so why not where we are, the places we inhabit daily, and give ourselves that fuzz of pleasure?

For me, today or tomorrow, I intend another visit, again as a tourist of course, but this time with a few easy readies in my wallet and, more importantly, an even stronger sense of curiosity and wonder.

Likewise, I’d love to know about your experiences of being a tourist in your own town or neighbourhood. Let’s share the love ❤︎

❃     ❃     ❃

As promised, here are some links for anyone interested in this wonderful festival:

What is Karthigai Deepam?
Some of the key events of the 10-day festival
Arunachaleswarar Temple website
A snippet about arrangements for the festival from The Hindu newspaper
A sweet word about darshan – a form of spiritual blessing