December 19, Shirovasti and Bijina

At 7AM this morning I reported to the treatment area for my Shirovasti, my rejuvenation treatment.  First I had a face and neck massage, a quick steam, followed by a cool face mask and a warm oil bath.  I wished that the warm oil would continue to pour on me for the entire hour.  It seemed to lift the morning chill and any lingering stiffness to a faraway place.  But soon I had to get dressed and sit down for my head to be wrapped.  When Dr. Abhijith first told me I was getting Shirovasti he said, “you know, the one where you have the big chef’s hat on your head.”  It’s true, the two therapists first wrapped yards of sticky white cloth around my head and then continued building upward with a piece of stiff black sheet to construct a cone/funnel.  I caught a reflection of myself this morning and thought rather than a chef’s hat, I had on an Egyptian headpiece.  Sitting there with my black robe and this elaborate contraption, all I needed was some fierce eye makeup and I could play Cleopatra.

Once the therapists were satisfied that this hat was firmly affixed and there were no gaps for anything to slip through, they placed something else inside (it felt like a ring, maybe 4 inches in diameter).  Only after then did they start pouring warm oil into it, onto my head.  There I sat, wearing a royal crown filled with warm oil.  I was instructed to look straight ahead to an oil lamp with a single flame.  It was placed in front of a framed picture of Lord Dhanwantari, God of Ayurveda.  Two incense sticks were lit and soon the warmth on my head started to spread down to the rest of my body.  Finally, all the lights were turned off and everything quieted down for the next 10 minutes.

Today was my second day on Shirovasti.  Staring silently on that flame I meditated on gratefulness.  I sent thanks to my wonderful therapist Bijina for her smiles and her kindness.  During my month-long stay here I got to know her much better than my last visit.  She’s just 22, from Calicut, and has been working for 4 years.  She has a beautiful voice and during one of the treatments while we waited for the medicine to take, we sang for each other to pass the time.  Me, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, her, lullabies in Malayalam.  We’ve had a running joke that she treats me like a baby; for those treatment sessions where I had to eat rice she’s dab my mouth for me with a napkin, her corners of her eyes curling up with a smile.  I always see her sitting in the back row and quietly singing along during bhajan.  Tonight I will see here there for the last time since I won’t be here for the Saturday bhajan.  I’m really going to miss her.

I found out recently that her boyfriend not only works here, he is also a therapist and is the kind fellow who did my Vamana.  He has a gentleness about him that I like very much and I think the two of them make a lovely couple.  Of course I think she’s too young to get married and not use her skills as a therapist again, but for my own selfish reasons I hope they don’t get married soon; I’d love to see Bijina again when I come back.  Recently she’s been saying she could get married when she’s 24 so maybe there is a chance she’ll be my therapist again next time.  No matter what happens, I know that I will forever remember her playing an important part of my experience here at AYV.

Nanni, Bijina.  Thank you.


* Lord Dhanwantari has four arms, each hand holds the following objects- palm leaf (representing scripture), leech (treatments), bundle of herbs (medicine), a large seashell (quantity of medicine)

** photos to come later

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