After traveling around Thailand and India for the past month shooting a photo assignment, eating and drinking a little too much at times, having an occasional cigarette (I know, I quit years ago!), and never seeming to get enough sleep, I decided it was time to do a body reset. When I initially started my travel photography blog, one of the things I wanted to do was to research health and wellness around the world and the benefits of massage and meditation. I haven’t always been kind to my body and pulled my lower back several times over the years working as a photographer. Recently, I have been doing acupuncture regularly, got intonga stick massages in South Africa, “lived” for daily Thai massages in Chiang Mai, visited hammams in Morroco, enjoyed the advantage of reflexology, try to meditate on as many mornings as I can, and even tested cupping a few times, among other things. I’d heard a few things about Ayurveda, which is a system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent, so I decided to learn more about it while I was there. I would have loved to visit the state of Kerala in the southern region of the country where Ayurveda is most well known for the recommended duration of 7-14 days, but I was only able to squeeze in five days in Delhi at a center called The White Lotus. My days consisted of doing basic yoga (my first time), various kinds of massages, hot medicated oil treatments, vegetarian meals, and lots of green tea. I’m strolling out leaving six pounds and a little stress behind, with the sense of being focused and relaxed.
Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of medicine (at least 5000 years) and seeks to treat and integrate body, mind, and spirit using a complete, holistic approach by emphasizing diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing, and physical therapy. Its goal is to provide direction regarding diet and lifestyle so that healthy people can stay that way and people with issues can improve their condition. From the Sanskrit words “Ayur,” meaning life, and “Veda,” meaning knowledge, Ayurveda essentially means “to know life”.
On my first day at The White Lotus, I was greeted by Dr. Amit Verma who did a quick examination and asked a series of questions about my health, and what I wanted to achieve on my visit. I explained that I’d been riding around rural areas of Northern India on the back of a motorcycle carrying heavy photographic equipment, and not eating or sleeping properly. I wanted to relax, feel rejuvenated, and maybe lose a few pounds. He gave me some advice and then wrote out his instructions on a prescription pad. After weighing in, I was whisked away to my apartment-style room and began my “treatment” within an hour.
Ritesh, the in-house yoga guru, had his hands full helping me to get started with Yoga. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to try and knew I’d love it once I did. Being 50, 6 foot 5, overweight, uncoordinated, and not a fan of the gym, was a dangerous combination on my first attempt at all the stretching. He was patient, professional, and precisely the kind of instructor I needed to get started. Part of the reason why I never tried yoga before now was the fear of being in a room full of people who already knew it all. It was perfect for me to have this chance to be introduced to yoga in a personalized fashion. When my first session ended, I said “that’s it?” “awesome!”
My daily physical therapy consisted of various procedures which lasted roughly 3 hours in the late morning/early afternoon performed faithfully by Joyal, Nikku, and Pradeep. The main ones were Nasya, Shirodhara, Abhyangam, Patra Panda Sweda (PPS). Nasya is the practice of lubricating the delicate skin of the nasal passages and the Eustachian tubes of the ears with a special herbal-infused oil referred to as nasya oil. The cervical lymph, which houses the majority of the immunity in our ears, nose and throat, also benefits from the lubrication provided by the nasya practice. Shirodhara is done by pouring warn medicated oil on the forehead in a sweeping motion which helps relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, fatigue and hypertension. It also reduces tension, worry, depression, and sleep disorders. Abhyangam involves a full-body massage with large amounts of warm oil. The oil is pre-medicated with herbs for specific conditions. Two therapists do the massage in firm synchronized manner. PPS uses the leaves of various plants that are fried with the selected oil along with the other medicine, which have the pharmacological and therapeutic property of relieving pain, inflammation, and stiffness. The warm ingredients are wrapped in thin paper and patted firmly around the whole body, and this was my favorite procedure.
All of these therapeutic procedures, along with a balanced and healthy diet, stretching, and rest sure seemed to work for me. Will they cure a life-threatening disease? I am not sure. But will they help relieve stress and assist the body in a system reset? Absolutely! And the best part is that it helped prepare me for my 24 hour+ trip home to the U.S. I’ve never felt so relaxed going to the airport, walking with newly found confidence! I highly recommend giving Ayurveda a try and the staff at The White Lotus.
Here are a few shots that were taken on my iPhone on my stay at The White Lotus, located in a quiet lush area just outside of New Delhi: