Post-Panchakarma – business as usual, mostly…

Mmmmm, coffee. Morning coffee. Mmmmm. No worries, before I indulged I still started my day with hot lemon water, fresh watermelon and a small portion of masala yoghurt*.

And the watermelon tasted all the sweeter for being a gift from one of Dr A’s harem. She’d brought it from her village and was happy for anyone to have it. Being as it was my last day that meant I was the only one allowed fruit. Lucky me. Dr A also gave me the remainder of my smoking medicine – that’s it next to the watermelon. I’ll be honest, I’ve not yet used it on my own – I hated doing that smoke decongesting part each morning (Dr A forgot one time and the hope that she’d forget again lived on, despite that never happening) – but I’ll have a go soon. Also on my last day I got another special treat.

Dr A’s clinic premises are much in need of some house repairs and maintenance. She’s only been in the building the past three months, so clearly the lack of love is down to the current owners. That said, they’ve finally got on with the job of doing some work on the place (but only because Dr A is footing most if not all of the bill). The areas needing urgent work are the toilets/wetrooms. As mentioned in an earlier post, when I was doing that purge thing, the toilet was a lot less than lovely. So my treat yesterday happened post-enema when I got to inaugurate Dr A’s newest toilet bowl! Now that’s a first for me – an enema excretion leading to a toilet inauguration.

Anyways, back to that coffee, the one poison I’ve not given up, and other foods. Thankfully, one small cup of the hot brown stuff is enough now. I no longer need a whole pot. What I was more concerned about was the other crap I’d been shoving down my gullet in the name of nutrition. Namely low-value carbohydrates in the form of white flour products – bread, biscuits, tortilla wraps, parotta – as well as cheese and paneer. Being almost exclusively vegetarian in India means I’ve tended to add more dairy to my diet. Hence those bastard fat bubbles. Anyhoo, Dr A’s dietary recommendations are simple enough – no white flour, no nightshade vegetables** and drastically reduce the quantity of cheese, paneer and butter (yoghurt and ghee are OK). Does that mean I won’t ever eat any of those foods again? No! Will I pass up the opportunity to have a nibble on a small slice of full-fat gorgonzola, or sweet brie? Again No! Will I shun a dip into a bag of chips  (that’s fat french fries to my North American friends) from my favourite local fish n’ chip shop in south London? Abso-bloomin’-lutely not!

So maybe you’re wondering what the heck I got up to on my first day post-Panchakarma. Did I laze around? Did I get extra cuddle time in bed with Mr D? Or did I bounce out of bed with excitement and enthusiasm for a new day that came with knowing I’d regained some fresh freedom?

Yes – I luxuriated in getting up later than normal, then crawling back to bed with a book.
Yes – I grabbed my extra morning cuddles.
Yes – I enthusiastically set about starting on a spring clean of my house (the bathroom is now the cleanest its been in weeks).
No – I did not bounce out of bed, but I was thrilled, excited and gratified to have my days and my time back.

As I write, the day is well-started even though its not yet 8am and despite the greyness of the sky this morning. It’s a Saturday. The kids are off school and hanging out nearby, their voices raised in play and games – I think I hear the thud of ball on cricket bat. And although I’m not missing rushing out the house for my early Panchakarma start, I’m kind of missing the cycle ride along our neighbourhood lane when daylight has been but a dirty smudge across the lower part of the sky. At one end of the lane is a milking spot. Cows are led there each morning and evening for milking. A milk broker sits nearby. He collects milk from the cow owners and doles it out, for payment, from those without their own cows, each person walking away with a small, metal, lidded milk pail swinging from their hands. For a city chick like me, simple morning sights like that fill my heart with a soft peace and a quiet bliss.

And so, away from enemas and powerful rub-a-dub-dubs, life goes on – the chores, chucking things off the To Do lists, the cuddles and laughter, and the integration of all I’ve been through this past month.

I’ll be back with a few more updates as and when they happen – possibly a photo too (which’ll probably be disappointing in its banality, but I’ll have a go anyway).

For now wishing you, in amongst the regular maelstrom of life, your own moments of soft peace, quiet bliss and a bundle of fun too.

* yoghurt (curd) masala – basically yoghurt mixed with any combination of flavourings you like; mine was with salt, turmeric, freshly-ground black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, ground jaggery (palm sugar), and a drop of water; goes well with a chapati 😉

** nightshade vegetables include potatoes, aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes, regular peppers/capsicum & chilli peppers (the following links give more detailed information, but it seems the delicious potato, when green and sprouty, is potentially the most lethal)

http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/nightshades/ (the author seems to have tried to back-up the information with scientific research)
http://paleomagazine.com/list-of-nightshades-foods (a fairly full list of nightshade-inclusive foods)
http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-eats/nutrition/4-myths-about-nightshade-vegetables/ (a counter-argument for those who like a balanced view on things)

 

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Day 31 & 32 of Panchakarma – farewells and fresh beginnings

Folks. I’m done in, so this’ll be a brief post. But I’m delighted to say all ended well today. I’m done. Wooohooo!

Fond Farewells
In preparation for a thank you treat for the harem women, on the way home yesterday I popped into the local ladies handicrafts shop to buy cards and ribbon. After this morning’s treatments I picked up a length of strung jasmine outside the ashram where the woman who sells flowers is always smiley. Back home I wrote out cards, enclosed cash, attached ribbon and jasmine, and then pedalled back to the clinic for my last rub-a-dub-dub.

I had planned to dole out gifts after the treatment, but because one of the main harem massage therapists was leaving early I handed them out before we got started. As you can see, I wrote in Tamil the names of each of the three women I was giving cards to. We took photos, me and my Panchakarma Comrade. So now you can see the lovelies who’ve been pummelling, rubbing, tapping and using hot herb balls to do a (not-always so soft) soft shoe shuffle across my skin these last three weeks.

Version 2

Version 2

So that was my first Panchakarma treatment. In the next couple of days or so I’ll wrap things up properly, but as far as tomorrow goes – I intend to rest. It’ll be my first free day in three weeks. Whoop, whoop. Can’t wait!

Thank You
Thank you for keeping up with me. Having people check-in on the Panchakarma progress has been encouraging and much appreciated.

And a big shout out to Mr D who has been patient, caring, intrigued and supportive throughout.

Today, I thought I’d end this post with a poem by Mary Oliver:
– Wild Geese –
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Throughout my posting on the subject of my Panchakarma experience I feel:
– I’ve been telling you of my despair
– like “the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,” that I’ve now returned home to myself for a fresh beginning
– gratitude for your listening and creating a space in this quirky “family of things” out here in Facebook cyberspace

So anytime you need to, find someone to tell of your despair, of what your body loves, and (like the wild geese flying high in the clean blue air across the landscapes of your life), of all the ways in which the world calls to you, however harsh, however exciting.

Wherever you, however you feel, whatever your despair or your loves – travel well.

Day 29 & 30 of Panchakarma – acts of love and kindness

These early starts are proving a bit of a killer. I’m cream crackered mid-morning. I won’t be surprised come Friday morning when I just stay in bed, enjoy a wonderful lie in, laze around and snuggle up to Mr D. That’s the kind of colour and form coming into view now I’m only two days away from completion. Two days until freedom! Sweet.

Food and Love
However, the weariness is not just from clinic attendances, but also that darn pre-menstrual thing. Got the tell-tale spots too. So on Monday night when I was at that stage of feeling too tired to eat I nearly caved when Mr D suggested he’d head out and go forage for his supper. Not happy with that idea given he’s also in need of good food, I said I’d cook a simple supper for him. I said, “It’s an act of love and kindness. It’ll be my pleasure.” I made a quick but delicious dinner of nothing I could eat. But guess what? I did. That’s how come I know it was delicious. Food prepared and cooked with love – makes all the difference no?

Then yesterday while lying on the massage table I started imagining what I’d do for that night’s supper. When Mr D came to collect me he asked Dr A if I was allowed biscuits. She said no problem. Confession – I had a ragi biscuit yesterday! Then I though that was what he was on about, but when I got back home I discovered that all my cogitations about what to cook where cancelled out. On the stove was not one but two pots of beautifully cooked veg. To put that into context – in the eight years Mr D and I have been together (during which he has obviously performed many acts of love and kindness) he has never cooked us a meal. Ever! To come home to freshly cooked food on a day when I was feeling knackered – an awesome act of kindness that went straight to my heart.

Kolam Kindness
With regards my Panchakarma Comrade – she’s back on form, her splodge of difficulty not exactly passed, but more manageable. She’s also been keen on having Dr A have a kolam outside her clinic. A kolam (also known as a rangoli) is a design of powder created fresh each morning at the entrance to a person’s home or business. Frequently just white powder is used, sometimes a ruddy-brown powder is added as well, then other times they’re a fab splash of colour. Traditionally the powder was rice flour, but now most people use rock powder. Kolams are good-luck and welcoming symbols and the designs vary from simple dots and interlinking lines to all sorts of fancy stuff. With Panchakarma Comrade in refreshed and ebullient spirits, a couple of days ago she insisted Dr A have one outside the clinic. Dr A duly instructed one of the harem to set about doing that very thing. First up was the ritualistic prepping of the intended kolam area by sweeping and washing the space down, then it was out with a bowl of rice flour (no rock powder available) and on with making the kolam. As you can see from on of the photos, my Panchakarma Comrade was happy with the outcome.

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Monkey Care
Not long after leaving the clinic yesterday with Mr D we passed some monkeys perched on the top of a concrete wall. Because it’s a fairly narrow and pot-holed lane we were going slow enough for Mr D to spot that one of the monkeys had just given birth. We stopped. Signs of fresh birth matted the hair of the mother’s backside. Her new-born baby clung to her chest. The monkeys beside them were tending to the mother with so much care and kindness. Although I hated to intrude – as well as being worried we might get attacked for being so close – seeing the exhausted mother, the tiny baby monkey and their attendants like that, right next to the road in full view, felt like an amazing gift of natural kindness.

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Gratitude
So despite not much to report on the Panchakarma front – bar the rising excitement that it’ll be over very, very, very soon – there’s been magic and beauty and kindness a plenty. I’m also taking the image of that new life as a symbol of fresh life flowing in me too. And no matter what else I say, no matter how tired or moaning I get, because of that fresh flow I continue to be really bloody grateful.

To all you lovelies everywhere – wishing you your own magic, beauty and acts of love and kindness.

Days 23 to 25 of Panchakarma – orange is my favourite colour, but …

I’m turning orange. Or rather my skin is. And no, I’ve not been ‘Tangoed’ – but it’s starting to feel that way.

Since my last post I haven’t felt inclined to sit and tap away at a keyboard. Some days are just like that. Also, I’ve been well tired (waking around 3:30am can do that to a person) as well as a feeling a bit battle weary – but I’ll come to that in a moment. First, that orange thing.

A few days ago the sand rub down that comes as the last section of the massage changed. Where before it was a darkish sand colour, now the rub is with a similar kind of powder but much darker. The texture is almost the same but the colour reminds me of red earth. Also this stuff has an aroma to it. Since the change of medicine for the powder rub-down, I now also get sluiced with warm water by the harem while I’m still on the massage table, after which I tread carefully to the shower. I’m still kind of orange even after that.

As for feeling a tad battle weary. That’s a delicate issue to be airing publicly, but I will because I’ve already written honestly about the potentially funnier side of things.

Let’s start this way: A couple of days ago I tallied up the days I’d done and the exact end date of the treatment. When this is over I’ve got shit loads to do before I return to London, including visits out of town. I need to make arrangements. I need to know the date I’m free to get on with my life again. When I asked Dr A for confirmation I had to repeat my request, that I wanted to know she had the same date as me. I did not, do not, want any surprise additions. As it was, she seemed to be under the impression I would be doing an extra week. Fuck me but – NO!

I’ve also taken to arriving at the clinic later than the time specified by Dr A – by about 30 minutes – because otherwise I am just left sitting for about half an hour waiting for my treatment to begin. Even arriving late I can still be waiting. Pre- and post-treatment time the doctor always seems keen for me to sit and eat or drink with her. Again, no thanks. The little time I have outside attending the clinic is precious to me, as it would be to anyone with a life – which means everyone I know or can think of.

Another stress point is the pocket of time after the morning treatments where I dash home to cook, eat and digest breakfast before trotting back for the afternoon massage. Perhaps if during the many waiting times I was learning something relevant to the treatment process, or what to expect afterwards for example, then that time would be well-used. As things currently stand that’s not how it’s playing out.

Adding to my frustrations and weariness is the whole diet thing. Or to be more precise, the  lack of clear guidance.

Because I’m not residential in an Ayurvedic health resort the responsibility for my dietary intake rests with me. Ordinarily that would mean (having been on various healing diets over the years) I would have been given clear guidelines about what foods I can eat and therefore what to buy and how to cook it. The guidelines from Dr A have all been verbally given and even then on a drip-drip basis. She prefers to ask after the fact about what I have eaten only to find a way to tell me I’ve eaten the wrong thing or didn’t prepare it the correct way. So the other day, when there were no other distractions for her (of which there have been several this past week or more) I tried to pin her down over a few things and ask for clear guidelines. Her immediate response, and the one she repeated by interrupting me even as I was explaining what I needed, was “Don’t worry. You can come and ask me anytime.” Despite my asking her several times to listen and understand from my perspective I did not get what I wanted. I don’t want to have to seek her out every time I want a fucking meal. I don’t want to go begging her for information about what to shop for every time I go to the grocery store.

All of which means I’m feeling battle weary because communications with the doctor are like that – a lack of true listening, with the knock-on effect, of course and yet again in these situations, there is no win-win just loss-loss. I lose out on being heard or getting any kind of satisfactory outcome. My interlocutor (currently the doctor, but this is a recurring theme ain’t it folks) loses my respect and willingness. I become less compliant and less accommodating. We all lose. That actually makes me sad and, frankly, exhausted. I’m an introvert. I’m easily over-stimulated by interactions at the best of times, but when the people I’m interacting with are overbearing, domineering, pompous, know-it-alls who need to be right rather than happy, I retreat. I pull up bridges and deepen moats around the fortress in the forest I withdraw to.

As I write I am at the start of my last seven days. I’ve had doubts about continuing. I still have those doubts. How much more can be achieved in these next seven days when for the past few I’ve not noticed any significant changes? OK, significant may not be the thing. Other subtle changes might be going on. But still. Each day almost a duplicate of the last. Also, my skin is looking and feeling sore and overstimulated by the daily massages. I guess I thought my skin would be glowing and happy by now – it ain’t.

But the truth is that I’m probably going to see this through to the end. And here’s why:
– My spine feels looser and more straight
– The sharp pains I used to get at the top of my right shoulder have reduced
– Yesterday I started expectorating proper gunge instead of just mouth foam – seems it takes around 8-9 days for that to happen, I took longer
– The weight is staying off
– I guess I’m getting to practise the encouragement from Brecht “…you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself.”
– I usually see things through to the end

To close today’s catch-up post, I thought I’d leave you with some images I captured the last couple of days.
– Black-faced monkeys visiting a neighbour, who doled out bananas
– Peacocks at the main ashram
– A lovely bunch of coconuts Mr D is enjoying

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lovely-bunch-of-coconuts

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing – stand tall, stay strong, be brave, find the beauty. Peace out.

Day 21 & 22 of Panchakarma – a tale of bloated microbes

Eleven days of the core Panchakarma treatment are done. That means only ten more to go! Woohoo. Only ten more days – I can almost taste freedom.

The last couple of days have been quiet on the treatment front, more of the same as before. So in lieu of anything Panchakarma-entertaining, I thought I’d re-post an edited version of something I wrote last year about the microbes playing havoc inside our guts:

“Mindful Microbes – What’s your gut telling you?

A while ago I read an article in New Scientist magazine, Gut Thinking: There are strange forces at work behind our food desires. The author of the piece, Chloe Lambert, reported on new findings concerning food desires. The article was well-written, the key information presented cogently, and new directions for research identified. Unfortunately, having read the article I’m not really the wiser about what I can do to mitigate my own food cravings.

Despite the lack of anything more than a damp branch of hope to grasp in the tumbling river that is weight gain, loss, gain, unhealthy food cravings and exercise struggles, I think there is value in sharing some of the key information contained in the article. Namely, what’s going on in our guts is potentially wreaking havoc on our weight management efforts.

But first, and at the risk of sounding like an ad campaign for a new diet (faddy or otherwise), a few questions:
Q1: Are you overweight?
Q2: Have you ever been overweight?
Q3: Have you ever been on a diet?
Q4: Did it ever work?
Q5: Do you continue to struggle with keeping your weight down, with reducing your food intake, with making different and better food choices?

I can answer those questions in the blink of lizard’s eye….
A1: Yes, again
A2: Repeatedly
A3: Of course!
A4: Not for long (see answer to Q1)
A5: Yes (please refer to previous answer), yes – always, Oh god yesssssss.

In the article Ms Lambert gives a couple of interesting quotes an endocrinologist at Imperial College London (Tony Goldstone), one of which was used to highlight the futility of telling overweight people to change their eating habits, i.e. “We don’t just tell asthmatic people to breathe more.” Exactly! Telling overweight and obese people simply to eat less is equally pointless, meaningless and downright offensive. Obviously if you’re overweight and give a crap about your body you’ll have tried that very thing – to eat less – and probably failed repeatedly.

A Little Bit of Science:
In case you didn’t already know this, and in fewer words than should be allowed for such a complex physical function, here’s how the whole hunger-eating-satisfaction cycle apparently works:
• hormones in the gut assess what’s been eaten and when
• the hormones then send notifications of hunger to the brain to tell us we need to eat
• we go foraging, hunting down a meal or snack – from the kitchen larder, the fridge, the canteen at work, or the nearest vending machine

Unfortunately the brain, with reward pathways hard-wired when food was scarce, gets a stronger hit from foods that would ordinarily be off the weight-management list. Yep those scrummy fatty and sugary ones of course. So those vending machines and convenience stores, with their easy to grab goodies we can immediately stuff down our gullets, are frequently what we reach for.

But Here’s the Interesting Bit:
Recent research has discovered that it’s not just hormones and brain chemistry involved in our food desires and cravings, but also some rather clever microbes deep inside our guts. Our gut microbes and bits of bacteria hanging out in our bellies outweigh the brain. And our brains are apparently the heaviest organ in the body – not anymore it isn’t.

That explains my bloated belly then.

And – get this – our microbes might even be clever enough to control the kinds of foods we crave with the sole purpose of selfishly feasting. Essentially, our gut is full of gluttonous, self-serving microbes having a wild time partying on all the fatty, sugary foods we keep consuming.

It’s Not My Fault!
This then means the mass of microbes lurking in my gut are probably the bastards that have caused all my years of shame about my weight and erratic eating habits. At last, I have something other than my non-existent willpower to blame. At last, I can begin to understand why the power of some foods seems to overcome any rational thinking or judicial assessment or even the gainfully-acquired food and health knowledge I’ve taken time to investigate over the years. It’s not my fault! It’s the microbes. Being able to say it’s not my fault feels a bit like saying the cat peed all over my homework – but a lot less smelly – and backed up by science! Wow.

Willpower No More
Fortunately, Ms Lambert states in her excellent article, “…expecting people to rely purely on willpower…is misguided.” And in the end, that’s what all diets suggest you use – willpower. I’m taking solace in her words.

If willpower is out of the equation what else can we do? Here’s what Ms Lambert’s article pointed to that might help chubby folk:
1. Surgery – specifically gastric bypass surgery. If you’ve been tussling with the idea of either a gastric band or gastric bypass surgery (and who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to have the help of some outside agency in the battle for a better body?) – go for the bypass. Gastric bypass surgery will affect those all-important gut hormones in a way that a gastric band won’t ever.
2. Wait for hormone or genetic therapies to mitigate the gut’s hormones and microbes – in the meantime keep letting your gut do the talking.
3. Add fibre to your diet. Ms Lambert reported on a study that had shown some success with adding fibre to familiar and popular foods. But again, this finding is new and undergoing further research. For example, what kind of fibre are we talking about, and in what quantities, etc?
4. Include probiotics in your diet. Probiotics can potentially produce a better balance of hormones and microbes. Once more, further research is ongoing into how this is applicable in the real world.”

As you can see, no mention of deep, month-long health treatments. But I think the Panchakarma approach is a goodie if you suspect microbes are interfering with either your weight management or health.

As a side note – I did try high-density probiotics for a while, which seemed to help calm the microbes down a bit, but not enough. Although undergoing a rigorous Panchakarma programme is not for everyone, I felt I had no other meaningful alternatives to getting my health back on track. I’m glad I took on the programme. That said, only ten more days to go. Dee-lighted!

So if you suspect microbe mania or other internal mayhem are giving you and your body gip – you might want to consider some kind of gut cleanse. Just a thought.

In the meantime, how about this – clear the diary, clear the dishes, and give yourself a whole day without any commitments. Apparently that’s also a great way to detox.

But whatever you do or don’t do, remember – keeping things real and keeping it loving can be a good way to go to it.

Day 20 of Panchakarma – more non-European flavours & a miracle!

First off – apologies to all the vegetarians, vegans and anyone who loves healthy food. My last post included an offending image for some. But stotties (and other carb-laden foods) remind me of my childhood in the North East of England. The years when, I’m sure, my penchant for all things stodgy began.

Right, back to India and this Panchakarma lark. Attending the clinic twice a day for hours on end eats into a lot of time each day. There’s not much of the day left to crack on with other projects – some of which have deadlines. So for the past two days I’ve been eating breakfast at a new restaurant where I can do work rather than cycle home and cook my own breakfast. My Panchakarma Comrade mentioned the restaurant to me because they have an Ayurvedic-friendly menu. Sure enough they cooked my food in ghee and kept things simple. The first day I had a rather delicious kitcheree and paratha. Yesterday I went for a smaller meal – the ragi roti as pictured. When it arrived it looked like a delicious dark chocolate pancake of some sort. Sadly not (although munching on that much chocolate would have felt a lot less delicious by the end). I don’t use ragi, but after yesterday’s roti I have a new-found appreciation for the grain. (In case you missed my mention of ragi in an earlier post – ragi is a whole grain/cereal and a type of millet that originates from Africa). May have to add that to my slim culinary repertoire.

I’ve no doubt my telling you that ‘Panchakarma’ is a Sanskrit word will not come as a surprise. ‘Pancha’ means five and ‘karma’ means action, so a Panchakarma treatment consists of five core treatments. However, my earlier understanding of the word karma was the law of cause and effect, which can mean all the affects occurring in our lives in all sorts of ways. So, fancifully perhaps, I had linked that understanding of karma with the recent experience that I’m not just having a physical cleanse but also a karmic one. Seriously, I feel there is a depth of healing taking place that is hard to imagine given I’ve only been on the overall treatment programme three weeks, the core Panchakarma treatment a mere nine days.

Initially I thought I was getting rid of crappy build up from the past few years. But as the treatment progresses I get the sense that the cleanse is so deep, layers of gunk from decades ago are getting hauled out for examination and release. I feel as though I have Ayurveda elves sifting through my body machinations – like one of those factory conveyor belts and as bits of me pass under the hands of the Ayurvedic elves all the unhealthy, unnecessary deadweight is being chucked off the conveyor belt and out of my body, out of existence almost.

So apart from the visible signs both good (weight loss, muscles and flesh firming), not so great (dry, flaky skin), and that uncomfortable pain in my lower abdomen now mostly gone, last night’s discovery was, ta dah, a miracle!

I was lounging around on the sofa when I happened to point my toes (I know, who the fuck goes around pointing toes? but if you’ve ever done a lot of dance or some such it’s not so strange) and had another one of those “Oh my god, it doesn’t hurt” moments.

Under the ball of my right foot I’ve had what I assumed was a bony growth, a hard lump at the base of one toe. It’s been there for about 15 years and can give me problems when I’m standing or walking for too long (see, I told you I was speeding towards decrepitude faster than Humpty- Dumpty fell of his wall). Because of the location of the hard lump, it also restricts movement in my foot, giving me a cramp-like sensation when I point the toes, rotate that foot or ankle, or even, on those rare occasions I bother, to massage my foot. I figured I was stuck with the bony growth and it would eventually get worse to the point of surgery. But no! Woohoo – Miracle! My toes, my foot pointed and no pain. No cramping. Nothing in fact. That my friends, that is a bloody miracle. I’m flabbigasted (OK, not enough to not write about it, but still – AMAZING!).

I’ll be honest, I’ve been griping about my days being consumed by treatment time, but when small miracles like disappearing lumps happen, a rapid regain of flexibility  and an overall reduction in pain are showing up – I reckon I best shut up and put up.

I wish you a day where your miracles appear too – they are out there…..!

Day 19 of Panchakarma – a drool-worthy stottie & more improvements

I saw the photo on Facebook. I drooled. All the kinds of food I’m not allowed to eat just now – not that anything like that is available here in India of course. But still. A mouthful of quality, thick-cut ham, peas pudding and a soft and tasty stottie (North East England bread) would be smashing…

Today’s post is a brief update – mostly about improvements:

Yesterday morning when I was clambering out of bed I stopped mid-clamber because I was suddenly aware something was different. The different was that my left knee didn’t immediately click. I’ve had a clicky left knee for about 30 years. Sometimes that knee gives me trouble, trouble that can also affect the left hip. Occasionally I hobble rather than stride, but overall the trouble is mild. One activity my left knee hates is lying face down on a massage table. Always after a massage I hobble. I can mitigate against that by using a rolled up towel to support the knee joint. Since my first massage with Dr A’s harem that’s what I’ve been doing, along with them starting on my back rather than doing my front first. That way my knee has a chance to recover from lying face down on it. Nevertheless, the massages seem to be easing out the underlying orthopaedic problem. Likewise my dodgy shoulders and cervical spine. For about 10 years, I’ve gradually felt more and more crippled by the lack of movement due to muscle tension and joint pain around there. At times the pain on movement has been sharp and excruciating. That’s also easing off. Thank fuck quite frankly.

Sadly my skin is feeling less lovely. I’m hoping that will improve as more toxins get shoved out of my body, obviously through my skin as well as those other regular methods.

Speaking of which, the last couple of days I’ve been evacuating my enema medicine a bit quickly. I’m now spending less time walking around and more time staying put on the massage bench, bum in the air, while I let that dark-brown, oily liquid do its thing.

Another strange thing is my periods. I seem to be having a perpetual, but not quite proper period. Dr A says I’m going through menopausal changes. Given my periods having been changing of late that could be true. What might also be true is that I have a Mirena coil fitted – that went in the same time the troublesome fibroid was removed back in 2013 – and that might also be the cause. I’m not worried about that, but it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds gynaecologically over the coming months.

Also yesterday I had a bit of a run-in with Dr A. As already mentioned, I have a flabby belly. Clearly I’d like it to be more trim. Some exercise would surely help. But I don’t got a lot of time just now – I spend a lot of hours at the clinic while also trying to fit the rest of my life in around those treatment times. Consequently exercise is one of those things that is down the priority list. Not uncommon. Anyways, Dr A was thinking of me when she bought an exercise gadget. I hate exercise gadgets. On the whole they are useless and a waste of money, especially when they are cheap versions. This was a cheap version of a pulley system. Despite my telling Dr A that I think such gizmos are crap, I played along for a while, a short while. The gizmo was attached to the window grille, a yoga mat placed on the floor, Dr A instructed me to lie on my belly while she tried to figure out how to get the thing on me. All the while I’m complaining while she’s faffing with the thing. I get up and tell her to demonstrate first. She gets on her back, not her front as she’d asked me to do. At that point I walked away. Kindly but firmly and said, “No. I hate these things. I will not use it.” She acquiesced.

I see this interaction as an improvement too. I have been far too pliable to the will of others, especially those who appear to have some authority over me – such as a doctor-patient, boss-employee relationship. What a pathetic fuckwit I’ve been. Why do I do it? Mostly because I’m a kind, considerate person; like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But the benefit people get from me frequently ends up with me being the loser. That is not a win-win situation. But not this time. I feel proud of myself for being firm without being unkind, and certainly without being unkind to me. Was it a win-win? Maybe not, but at least the loss was not just in my direction this time.

On that note, I’ll leave you with this I recently lifted from a Tweet:
“… you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself.
Surely you see that.”
(excerpt taken from ‘And I Always Thought’ – Bertolt Brecht Poems 1913-1956)

Day 18 of Panchakarma – hot herb balls & a painful third nipple

As mentioned in a previous post, when the core Panchakarma programme began I thought I wouldn’t post so frequently as the daily procedures weren’t going to vary. Needless to say, what has been various are my responses to those treatments as well as additional new discoveries and delights. So far I’ve written mostly of my improvements, but today I discovered a down side to those hot herb balls used during the rub-a-dub-dubs.

Confession time: I have a third nipple.

Before you get freaked out, grossed out, or start thinking I’m some kind of human anomaly (although truth be told, that could be the case), a third nipple is not uncommon. I learned that alarming fact about 30 years ago. At the time I was horrified and distraught at the notion of my having a third nipple, until I read further and discovered such a thing is fairly normal. Mine is situated on the left side of my wide, but not deep, cleavage – almost on a line with my nipples proper. So if you’ve got something that looks like a mole somewhere on your chest, chances are high that you too have a third nipple.

Anyways, last night in the shower I noticed the colour of that spot was different, whereas it has always been a soft brown it was looking kind of red and inflamed. Sure enough today during the massage, when the hot balls were being tapped and rubbed in circles on my chest, that point felt sore. I made the three harem women laugh when I explained it was my third nipple. I’m guessing they thought I was just joking. Of course I was joking, but about a true thing. From tomorrow, a sticking plaster to cover it might the thing to ensure it’s free from injury while it heals.

Other than that, I think further progress is now becoming more subtle. After the initial speedy weight loss (although slight, it was rapid), the brighter eyes and clearer brain the changes now taking place will, I suspect, be about consolidating those improvements so that the benefits last way beyond the end of the programme. That said, I can see that undergoing a similar programme every two years or so would keep a person’s body  and mind strong, resilient and supple.

Many people who do go through various intensive Ayurvedic treatment programmes, including Panchakarma, go residential. A two-week or month-long stay in an Ayurvedic hospital under constant supervision must be a sure fire way to bust through the toxins, dis-eases and whatnots we acquire and accumulate through the daily grind. The idea of doing that residential thing appeals. And why the hell not? A more genteel approach to the ignominy of enemas and all that. Certainly there’d be more attention and less stress with having all your food and dietary needs handled for you. However, the way I’m taking this treatment means I also get to practice my new and improved lifestyle away from the clinic but also while I’m undergoing an intense treatment programme unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Although there’s less luxury this way, somehow the approach feels more balanced. Here’s hoping anyways.

Once again that time of day is upon me when I need to do a few exercises, wash down the body, cook, and relax this evening with my lovely Mr D.
Until next time, next discovery or next embarrassing admission – stay strong.

Day 17 of Panchakarma – on the theme of dough

Not a lot to report for Day 17. I managed to have hot food for both my breakfast and supper. Supper was the bowl of rice, sautéd onion and cauliflower, and something saucy with mushrooms and other veg. The food felt healthy going down. The taste was unexpected.

The Culinary Swing Towards Asia
Mostly the results of my recent culinary efforts have tasted different from my usual output. Not only have I had to ditch the olive oil for ghee, I’ve started using different flavourings. Ordinarily my style of cooking tends towards a Mediterranean theme. Now, in my attempts to tow the Ayurvedic line, the slow swing towards an Indian style has picked up. For example, I don’t know what fenugreek is (methi in India), but I’ve started adding powdered fenugreek to dishes sometimes – and discovering that it has a slightly bitter flavour. Cumin (jeera in India) has always been part of my stock, but just in powdered form. I’m now incorporating the seeds too. For example yesterday, instead of plain chapatis for my (late) breakfast I added both cumin seeds and powder to the mix. What I didn’t add enough of was salt. But the chapatis tasted great. And to keep me sweet, I had one with a drizzle of honey.

That Enema Thing
At Dr A’s clinic yesterday, the enema came in the douche bucket and the liquid looked dark and oily. I swear, when it’s going in I feel I’m going to expel the thing along with more than just medical liquid. Even though I’m making every effort to relax (I think that might be some kind of oxymoron – effort & relax?!) my anxiety rises with the worry about what’s doing down. I stay on my side and try to ensure some absorption has happened before I get up. Also, at the first hint of movement around my back passage I head straight for the toilet. If I’m a bit premature I just walk around outside for a little longer before trotting back to the loo. And phewie, at least no accidents at the clinic. No, that came later. When I was home for breakfast I managed to misinterpret things and once more *shock, horror* I pooped my pants. Damn! Fortunately, my Panchakarma Comrade and I have fun sharing our various mishaps and incidents as they unfold. Mixed in with the embarrassment is plenty of hilarity.

Another Cooking Lesson
After my massage Dr A demonstrated a new recipe – I’m calling it the jazzed-up paratha. Ingredients included whole wheat flour, chickpea flour, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, turmeric, dried-leaf methi/fenugreek, a red-chilli powder (but which was not particularly spicy) and salt. Water added, the ingredients mixed then kneaded into a soft dough – as with a chapati. Not long after Dr A had started putting the ingredients into a bowl a few of the harem also gathered round to observe. When Dr A got to kneading the dough (a crucial element of the process to make the paratha light and crisp) I pointed out to the youngest harem member that during the last part of the massage I had been like the dough with four pairs of hands pummelling and pulling me as the medicinal sand was rubbed into my flesh.

The Daily Rub-a-dub-dub – two types of dough get kneaded
Seriously, that is so what it feels like – my blubber is kneaded as hands grab flesh and pull it in a different direction from the one it normally clings to. Hands working against each other horizontally across my body. Thigh flesh, belly blubber, hip wobble rubbed and knead under the fine sand. “Rub-a-dub-dub,” as my Panchakarma Comrade says. And rub-a-dub-dub the dough too. Needless to say, under Dr A’s expert hands and years of experience, the paratha tasted dee-licious. The two paratha I ate kept my hunger monsters occupied right up until supper. Which means the rub-a-dub-dubs of doughy flesh and edible dough are all working their magic – although I’m not looking to be crispy, just lighter.

Onwards – Hope and Trepidation
Day 18 will mark my seventh day on the core part of the Panchakarma treatment – the head decongesting, the medicine administration up the bum, the two-hour massages – and will mean I’m a third of the way through. Clearly, given the improvements so far, I’m hopeful for more and better, but I’m guarded about that expectation. Because we all know what happens with expectations, right? They rarely match up with reality. So with caution and trepidation I am hopeful of how I’m going to feel at the end of the treatment programme. The image that springs to mind is of Dr A’s previous patient (Dr A’s first Panchakarma patient here in Tiru). I happened to pass her on my cycle as she walked up the lane away from the clinic for the last time. She was free and she looked great. As I called out “Free at last,” she threw her arms outward, a smile brightened her already beautiful face and the joy of healthy freedom pulsated from her. Sweet. Remembering that moment is a totem of sorts. Reminds me of what I’m aiming for, of what’s possible. I may not end up looking as awesome as she did, but I might, at the very least, feel as great as she did that day we passed each other in a shared moment of joy.

For today
Let me encourage you to take care of your own health, starting now, in whatever ways work for you. One small step for today, one giant leap towards your improved health.
Keep it real and, go to it!

Day 16 of Panchakarma – that slimming thing

“Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” That was what my Panchakarma Comrade said to me not long after we met at Dr A’s clinic. We say it to each other frequently. I feel like it’s become our motivation mantra.

That said, both of us are going through the Panchakarma ordeal for more reasons than weight loss. Dr A is not bothered about our weight, loss or otherwise – more important is our health and how that benefits us. But – and in the spirit of ‘keeping it real’ – there’s no getting away from the truth that slimming down is one of those much-loved side effects of these kinds of treatments. I’m dee-lighted to report that my clothes are no longer clinging to or, worse still, ruching around the bulges. The struggle to pull my tunics over my weighty shoulders, down my blubbery back and over hips a pregnant hippo would be proud of has been less arduous the last few days.

Obviously the eating less (especially a significant reduction in sugar intake), cycling back and forth between home and the clinic every day (about a 12 minute distance each way), and having two-hour massages will do that to a body. And this body surely and sorely needed it.

Speaking of massages – towards the end of yesterday’s not only were two people working my body but four. Four pairs of hands worked that fine sand (not actually sand, but precious medicine) into my body. That was pampering. The kind of pampering not many of us give ourselves. Mostly those with money, time and the intention can indulge in those kinds of regular body treats, which is why they frequently look to be in such great shape. Ordinarily, my time and money banks are not replete enough to indulge. But this time round, my mind and body were in a weak condition, a condition that seemed to be presenting me with a bleak future in all sorts of ways. Surrendering to the need for help, for powerful intervention was necessary. So although those four-handed (sometimes eight-handed) massages seem like a luxury, they are a crucial part of the treatment programme that is taking me to better physical and mental health.

An update on noticeable improvements:
– Weight loss (nothing tastes as good as thin feels – SO TRUE!)
– Waist is almost discernible again
– Spine feels looser and elongated
– Skin on my neck no longer looks like a dried out old turtle’s
– Bags under my eyes look like a few more Airbus passengers and their luggage have been chucked out

Yesterday Dr A gave me a couple of stretching exercises to start incorporating into my day. I’ll be doing them in a moment. During today’s massage she informed me that the gristly bit at the top of my inside thigh is a “fat bubble”. Fat bubbles get formed in different parts of the body. Ordinarily fatty foods get dispersed throughout the body (I can definitely vouch for that). What I didn’t know was that sometimes the fat gets deposited as hard lumps in different parts of the body. Weird but true. Knowing that has put a whole new spin on eating cheese that’s for sure. When I next do, and I’m sure I will, I’ll be thinking of the fat bubble that might get deposited some place. I’m not finding that a pleasant notion.

I’m also still chucking out toxins through my skin. But no surprises there given how toxic I’ve become in the last few years. I reckon if I’d undergone this programme not long after my last surgical operation (2013) I would never have ended up in the morass of poor health the way I did. Hindsight, eh!

And so now, instead of that scrummy morning coffee (yes, I am still hankering after a good one) it’s the hot lemon water. Now, for a quick snack it’s a homemade chapati. And tonight’s supper will be brown rice, sautéd cauliflower and onions, and something saucy with mushrooms.

Right, better go to it. I’ve got exercises and cooking to do because: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” and for me, thin feels like good health. “Get thee begone you foul fat bubbles. Begone I say.”

So whatever you’re feeling (thin, fat or anything else), have a healthy, happy day – however you do it.

P.S. Also in the spirit of keeping things as close to real as possible – the numbering of my days on the Panchakarma programme started with the first day of treatment so does include the few days of rest I had before the main part of the programme began:
Preparation = 5 days
Rest = 2 days
Purge = 1 day
Rest = 3 days
Panchakarma start date = Friday 10th February