The ayurvedic retreat where I was staying had no internet connection for the past few days so this is about 5 days old. I just arrived in Mysore this afternoon and can get online again! Anyway. This is from January 19, 2011.
My ayurvedic treatment changed today to “sirodhara,” where a continuous stream of warm oil is dripped over your forehead. Finally, I am getting the relaxation treatment I read about, seen photos of, and hoped I’d receive! My treatment started as usual though. I sat down to get a ten-minute head, scalp, and shoulder massage from Sumathi (one of my therapist ladies). Then I climbed onto the treatment table to lie down. Today there were towels on the table to give me some extra cushioning and I suppose to catch the extra oil that might (and did) drip down. I snuggled under some more towels, and Bijina (the other therapist) gave me a facial and then put on a cool mask for me. After the lovely facial (can you imagine getting a facial everyday for 2 weeks! Lucky girl, I am), I scooted down to the end of the table to sit while Sumathi gave me a steam treatment. She held a hose in her hand that was connected to a large pot of boiling water, and she directed the steam at first to my face, then to my chest, and then to my knees. The steam was like vaporized Tiger Balm, nicely mentholated (my guess would be with eucalyptus). When she felt that those body parts were sufficiently steamed and hot, I was directed to move back up to lie down again with my hands folded over my abdomen. Next, Bijina tied a long strip of cotton cloth around my head that stretched behind the neck to my forehead; it rested above my eyebrows. It created a barrier so that the oil wouldn’t pour into my eyes. She put patches of cloth soaked with something cool on my eyelids and cotton pads into my ears for the same purpose.
I kept my eyes closed the entire time so I have no idea what actually happened next, so I had to ask the doctor about the equipment and contraptions used for my treatment during my consultation. The doctor told me a tall poll is brought over near the treatment table so that a small pot can hang from there, above my forehead. The pot has a hole in the middle where they put through a piece of thread. The thread is to hang about four fingertips above the patient’s forehead. Once the pot is filled with warm oil, the therapist will tab the pot gently so that the oil streams down to the patients forehead back and forth. The stream of oil is not to be disrupted during the treatment and the temperature of the oil is kept constant, so the therapists have to heat the oil, refill the pot, and also make sure that it is in continuous movement. I had such a wonderfully warm feeling while this was going on; the stream of oil was like a slow moving pendulum swinging straight across my forehead. The warm oil flowed down into my hair and drained out of the table. The doctor later told me that sirodhara is designed to bring equilibrium to your brain and to your senses. It affects your pituitary glands to relax and calm your entire body.
Sirodhara is performed in conjunction with urovasthi, which is meant to warm up and relax your chest. I felt a cool circular object being placed on my chest and filled with warm oil. Every 5 or 10 minutes, one of the ladies poured more warm oil in to keep the temperature even. Dr. Saomira told me that the cool circular object I felt is made the evening before out of black gram. The plant is pounded, made into a paste, and then formed into a ring; imagine a napkin holder but about five times bigger. To treat my weak knees, they placed a ring on each of my knees, pasted/glued on, and warm oil was constantly poured into them as well. This must have gone on for about 30 minutes but I couldn’t really tell how much time had passed. I was put in such a state of deep relaxation that I know that I almost fell asleep a few times. When all was finished, Sumathi did a thorough job of toweling off all of the excess oil from my hair for me. I was no longer aware of space or time. I think I may have floated outside into the sun.
The doctor said that after sirodhara your mind is in such a state of calmness that I should continue it by going to the riverside to meditate. She also said that during sirodhara treatments you should bathe in the evenings rather than in the morning. I did, after my treatment, meditate for a while but took a shower and changed because I was so hungry for lunch! I guess no matter how relaxed and peaceful my mind is, the hunger pangs override everything else in my brain. I’ll try it again tomorrow.
I finished my jar of medicinal ghee and the bottle of green swamp-y tonic so I was given a fresh new supply today. More yummy goodness! Now there are more people here doing 28 day or 40+ day panchakarma (ayurvedic detoxification program) than those of us who are here for a few weeks. You need to be committed and believe in ayurveda to do panchakarma, which starts with the patient drinking only ghee and eating porridge for up to a week. I know very little about this ancient form of purification but I believe there are 5 steps in panchakarma; they include induced vomiting, nasal drops, diarrhea treatments, and different enemas. In certain specific cases, bloodletting is also recommended. It is meant to address the three doshas and rid your body of toxins.
During the panchakarma process, your own ailments are treated with ayurvedic medicine and you have daily ayurvedic massages catered to your body condition. While the ghee and the tonic I take are manufactured and bottled elsewhere, Dr. Anoop told me that the face mask and the oil used for my ayurvedic massage are prepared specifically for me. I’m definitely not ready for panchakarma now but I can see the benefits of doing something like this. I’ve been told that one should have this full body detoxification every 5 years or so. Aside from the obvious physical process, I think it also tests your mental state and can be quite transformative. I wonder if my parents would want to come and do this with me next year? I asked the doctors and they said it’s never too late! I know you’re reading this Mom and Dad… sounds too good to pass up, right?