A Journey to Parts Unknown: Kerala, India

Looking back through my posts of India, I realized that there are a few moments I did not mention. In my previous post about Abu Dhabi, I mentioned that Kelly and I were going to India for a very specific reason. When we planned this trip, our main reason for going to India was to attend Michele Fife’s Yoga/Ayurveda Retreat. Today, I want to talk a little about that and some of the other experiences we had during our stay in Kerala.

For those of you who do not know, Kerala is a state in the South of India on the Malabar Coast. It is mostly known for its gorgeous beaches, lush tropical landscape and numerous Ayurvedic resorts. Recently, I discovered that I know a surprising number of people who have visited this beautiful part of the world. I asked them how they liked it and if they would go back and just about everyone had wonderful things to say about Kerala. I think when I go back to India, I will be a little more prepared for the culture shock. Kerala is such a beautiful, and mostly clean, part of India. After experiencing the culture there, I think it has prepared me for what the rest of the country has to offer.

Kelly and I  had so many wonderful experiences in India, from our Ayurvedic treatments, to exploring the backwaters, and our day spent with a local taxi driver who showed us the towns and villages (also a mall).

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First, a little about the retreat. Ayurveda is an ancient art of healing dating back over 5000 years. Focusing on mind, body and soul they use various treatments to help people with all kinds of problems. When we signed up for the retreat, I had no idea what Ayurveda was and what it would mean to me. Something you may not know about me, is that I suffer from IBS (irritable bowl syndrome). It sucks, and for those of you who have it, I am sorry. Having IBS means that I have to be very careful about what I eat (no meat except fish, no milk products, limited spicy foods etc..). I have been told that a big trigger with IBS is stress! Needless to say, I needed this retreat more than I thought I would.

When I first started researching Ayurveda, I came across numerous posts from people who suffered from the same type of IBS that I have. Almost all the posts I read said that Ayurveda was the way to go. So off I went, to India, to find health, peace and hopefully some answers on how to deal with this, sometimes, crippling illness.

As soon as we arrived at Manaltheeram Ayurveda Beach Village, we were given an appointment time to meet with the doctor. Yes, there are doctors here, real doctors. I had no idea that you could get a degree in Ayurvedic medicine, but apparently there are a lot of schools for this! I quickly filled out my forms, listed ALL of my problems and sipped on some fresh coconut water while I waited to be seen by my doctor. It was almost as if he had seen this all before and he knew exactly what needed to be done to help me. I wish I could put him in my pocket and take him with me everywhere!

In my research about the Ayurvedic treatments, I read a lot about how you get massages, steam saunas, oil treatments etc.. This sounded like heaven. I will tell you, it is not like what you would think, its better. My doctor gave me a book of treatments that would be given to me through out the week, and I was assigned a technician that I would have with me during my scheduled time. The treatments lasted anywhere from 2-3 hours every day, and they were intense. If you are serious about getting help for your ailments (not just IBS, but anything), this is worth the visit 1000 times over. All of the treatments are done in a private room. I was surprised to see that there was no ceiling in the room, so you can hear all of the surrounding sounds outside (think chanting, chickens and cows). There is something about these treatments that transports your mind somewhere else, honestly you don’t even know what is happening outside. The massages consisted of a LOT of oil. More like an oil bath than a massage. My ladies would heat oil in a pan and pour it over me in a constant stream, this would last for a long time, then they would put the oil in a jar and drip it on my forehead. It was hypnotic and there is something about this treatment that allows you to let go of all the control in your mind. Aside from the oil baths, I had a steam sauna (picture of me below where I am in the steam box, you can see my ladies standing next to me), a foot massage (not like what you think, they actually gave me a massage with their feet) and so much more. I won’t go into all the details, but lets just say I feel healthier than I have in a very long time. Every person there gets a different treatment program, and the doctor will create a list of specific treatments for your ailments. It is all very unique and customized for each individual.

Here is Kelly, relaxing in a hammock at the resort. No stress 🙂

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In addition to the treatments, they also gave us a very strict diet to follow, and we were encouraged to take part in the yoga and meditation, which is a big part of Ayurveda. I learned so much during my stay in India, and came home with some techniques to help me deal with my IBS and stress. Even though it will never completely go away, I feel like I learned a lot about how to manage the symptoms. Michele is hosting another retreat in India next March, and if you can make it, I highly recommend signing up for this. I cannot thank Michele enough for introducing me to India and for hosting this retreat. You don’t have to be into yoga, or be scared of traveling so far away, it is a once in a lifetime experience you will never forget!

Here are some images I captured on our many adventures that week:

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Fine art by Jen Badalamenti

Here are a few shots we captured with our phones. I don’t have any images of the treatment rooms but you can see me in the steam box with my technicians. Also pictured is our little guest house at the village, the pool and Kelly getting some really horrible henna at the mall (fortunately I do not have any evidence of mine):

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And, as promised, I will end my post with a cow picture 🙂

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If you have been to Kerala or anywhere in India, I would love to hear about your experiences. Share your story in a comment below!