Rejuvenation is no easy matter

Gokarna, India. (Don takes over the blog.)

Yesterday I started the second phase of the Ayurvedic treatment sessions in my seven-day rejuvenation program.

The first part of the twice-daily sessions – the pouring of hot, medicated water all over my body and the pounding of same with dry cloth pouches filled with some mixture of herbs and powders – was just the preliminary preparation for the main event of Ayurveda. That means hot oil.

The first session of each day was the kizhi (or polti) treatment with the pounding of the pouches. But the advanced version features medicated oil instead of the dry process.

The second session was perhaps the most famous of all Ayurvedic procedures. Namely, the shirodhara, where a steady stream of warm oil is funneled slowly back and forth across the forehead.

As my Ayurvedic doctors told me, the dry and hot water treatments draw the poisons out of the body and the oil treatments are to nourish the body.

I’m not sure how much of that oil soaks into my inner self, but the sessions sure have been intense.

For the oil-filled pouches, I noticed that a large container with my name on it of some dark liquid was on the table next to the heating pouches. This, it turns out, was the specially formulated oil created to address my specific issues. Whatever that means.

I’m glad I had the previous treatments because they were like trainer experiences for the oil sessions. Somehow, getting pounded by the oil pouches left me disoriented and feeling like I had lost control of my body. Maybe it was the fragrance of the oils. I’m not sure. I did notice, however, that I jiggled less. Is that because I’m recovering muscle tone? Or I’ve lost so much weight on this spartan diet that all that is left is skin and bone. (Bone doesn’t jiggle.)

But the oil on the forehead experience was even more discombobulating. The therapist runs a thin stream of oil (specially formulated?) across the forehead for about 30 minutes. I was warned by the doctor not to follow the motion of the oil but to concentrate on maintaining steady breathing and try to fall asleep. Otherwise, he said, you could get sick. Good advice. And, indeed, I fell asleep. When I was awakened, I didn’t know where I was and was uncertain whether or not I would be able to stand up and walk. It’s a good thing I don’t carry the knowledge of any state secrets with me or I would have blurted them all out. But I recovered, only to have to repeat the whole process today – and again tomorrow.

When I told the doctor how rattled I was by that experience, he told me that many people mistakenly don’t bother to have the preliminary therapies before jumping into this most famous of all Ayurvedic treatments and end up not getting any benefit. “Places here do it for the tourists and don’t care,” he said. (Things are far more serious at SwaSwara.)

In between these two sessions, they performed a pedicure on me. The emphasis here was on “cure” of the “peds” and not just cutting the nails. It took two men an hour to go through the many steps of this pedicure. I sat on a maharaja-style throne and put my feet in a series of various copper basins that were changed as the process proceeded. Like everything in this country, it was complex and magical. I lost count of the various medicated waters, oils and mud packs – all natural ingredients, of course — that were used to scrub and moisturize my feet and lower legs. The result, however, delivered feet as smooth and soft as a newborn. Now that WAS rejuvenation. Rather breathtaking.

Today followed the same pattern. The hot oil pouches in the morning, following my 7am yoga class and a bowl of millet porridge for breakfast. I survived the pouches a little better than yesterday because I knew what to expect.

But I was kind of dreading the funneled oil on the forehead treatment in the afternoon. The treatment starts with a vigorous massage of head and forehead. I guess to make your brain more receptive for the flowing “nourishment” of the warm oil that follows. I survived the entire session, but there were a few moments when I lost my breath as if I were gagging. This is not a soothing experience despite the photos you might have seen of it in practice. Don’t try this at home.

In between the two Ayruvedic treatments, I had a manicure that followed the same sequence of procedure that they did on my feet. There was a different throne and copper bowl for the manicure, with a completely different set of oils, waters and scrubs. Now I have the hands of a newborn to match my newborn feet.

Tomorrow they work on my face and hair. I’m not expecting a reversal to newborn. But 25 would be nice.

I’m hoping for the best. We’ll be able to judge the final results on Sunday.

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