7AM, Wayanad, Kerala, India. With my hands in prayer I kneel in front of a golden altar piece and listen to a young woman chant in Sanskrit. Her voice is thin, angelically high, and sweet. The ancient words and melodies seem to float over the spicy incense filled air, foggy and dream-like. She hands me a cup of warm ghee which I drink in one big gulp without hesitating. I feel the rich buttery liquid slither its way down my throat into my belly. I slowly hand the empty cup back to the woman and she looks at me with a smile. She asks, “Good?” I am only half sure she’s kidding and I want to chuckle, but I just say, “Not bad. Not good but not bad.” Wordlessly she lets me have some hot water and watches patiently as I take small sips. She then extends her right fist over to me and waits until I hold out my hand and unfurl my own fist. Out drops little yellow raisins. I pop them in my mouth two at a time, feeling thankful for the unexpected gift. I think they are my reward for keeping the ghee down. How will I manage to drink more of this tomorrow?
January 2010 I came to Ayurveda Yoga Villa in the mountains of Wayanad, Kerala, less than one month into my four-month stay in India. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived here but I so enjoyed this peaceful retreat that I vowed to return for a round of Panchakarma. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the Indian detoxification process then but I knew one day I would be. November, 26, 2012 I am sitting on the patio of my cottage named “Sarath” surrounded by lush greenery and sounds of nature. I am still recovering from my epic 42 hour journey from Pennsylvania to Kerala (PA->NY->BRU->IST->BOM->CCJ->AYV) and I assume this dull headache is my body rebelling against the abrupt discontinuation of caffeine consumption. It is now 5PM and all I’ve had to eat today is the ~2oz of ghee (60ml), clarified butter (medicated), this morning.
As my first day of 28-day Panchakarma nears its end I am surprised by the lack of… everything. I was discouraged from any physical activity so I didn’t practice yoga. I took a short walk down the road and returned quickly when I came across a pack of black dogs ready to pounce. I have had no appetite and felt no hunger all day, so I didn’t even eat any rice porridge my doctor told me I could have. Because I’m having my pre-cleanse ghee, I am not even getting any Ayurvedic massage treatments. Except for the daily consultation with my doctor I haven’t spoken too many words today. I have just been sitting here reading, writing, and watching trails of ants go in and out of my cottage.
Dr. Suhas taught me yesterday that in order to properly cleanse my system it has to be first prepped. He used the analogy of washing clothes. He said just as we first soak the clothes in water before washing, we have to soak and lubricate our system before cleansing. So three days of ghee is what I am currently going through in order to ready my body for detoxification- this process is called Snehapana in Sanskrit, which means “to oleate” or “to make smooth.” One down, two more days to go. The only hiccup I’ve encountered so far are these little bumps on my arms that appeared out of nowhere about 2 hours ago. Both Dr. Vipin and Suhas think that it’s an allergic reaction to the ghee and lactose. But since the bumps are not too itchy and are limited to my arms, they told me they’ll adjust the medication in the ghee a bit and will continue. My water has been changed from tulsi infused to ginger water and tomorrow morning my ghee dose will be increased. Oh, I can hardly wait!