The Sivananda Institute of Health
A personal account of an Ayurvedic cleansing programme at the Sivananda Institute of Health Neyyar Dam, Kerala, South India.
By Swami Karunananda
Through the blessing of Swami Durgananda’s 75th Birth Year Celebration, I was able to visit the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in Kerala. During the stay, I started a three week therapy for a long-lasting vocal chord problem at the Sivananda Institute of Health (SIH). The SIH is a highlyregarded ayurveda treatment centre set within the grounds of the Sivananda Ashram, and I was pleased to be able to try one of their therapies.
My first appointment was with Dr. Vishnu, one of the ayurvedic doctors who work at SIH. Dr. Vishnu has an openminded and friendly way about him which immediately put me at ease, and I felt very comfortable talking to him. After learning more about my condition, he was willing to help and compiled a suitable therapy programme for me. His only condition was that the therapy needed to show signs of progress or benefit after a week in order to continue with the full programme.
I was interested to see what the effects of the programme would be, and was pleased that my general well-being increased during the first week, and my voice problem also showed signs of improving.
The therapy was an adapted form of a Pancha Karma treatment, which is a cleansing programme consisting of three stages: preparation, elimination, and after-treatment time. One of the aims of the treatment is to help the body to balance the doshas and the pranas. In my case, the focus was on balancing vata dosha and the speech producing prana sitting in the throat (Udana Vayu).
The first part of the therapy was the preparation stage. I took prescribed ayurvedic medicines in the form of herbal pills, herbal elixirs, an oil paste which was applied to the crown of my head, and a daily drink of medicated oil.
The second part of the therapy was the elimination part. It started with a purgation. I drank a specific purgation oil in the morning, then was instructed to rest for the next two hours after which I was to start drinking a cup of water every ten minutes. During the two hours of rest, one of the SIH staff would bring me a large vessel filled with purified ayurvedic water.
All patients receive a visit from a doctor on their purgation day to ensure that all is going well. When Dr. Vishnu came to see me, he told me to start drinking the water as he left. Following instructions, I drank my first cup of water, after which I almost had only to look at the water for the cleansing reaction to take place. That kept me busy until the afternoon!
The next step was alternately receiving small oil enemas and large herbal mix enemas. To prepare for the small oil enemas, I was given a one hour oil massage on a large wooden treatment table. Warm oil was deeply worked into the tissue through the skin. I noticed that each therapist worked very thoroughly and, though each was slightly different, the basic procedure remained the same.
After the oil massage, I found my posture greatly improved each time: I felt at least three centimetres taller and more upright, with a sense of calm, joy and balance creating harmony within. The therapist would fill a big bucket with warm water and supply fresh soap and a clean towel so that I could take time to rinse off the excess oil which covered me from head to foot.
I was prepared for the large enemas by having specific parts of my body (e.g. lower back, abdomen, legs) tapped with hot herbal bunches in order to increase the blood circulation and help to facilitate the release of accumulated toxins.These large enemas had a similar effect to the purgation, but the cleansing process was faster and complete after about 2 hours. The ayurveda therapist would visit to check the process was working. Immediately after the cleanse, I had to go to the food veranda to eat a large bowl of rice soup.
With that continuous cleansing, my hunger and appetite had increased quite a bit! Mealtimes, served by one of the ayurveda staff, were a highlight of the day. At 10am and 5.30pm a pure, nutritious, easy to digest and varied meal was served. Different types of doshas, idlis, steamed vegetables, chutneys, salad and raw food could be enjoyed, or large bowls of plain rice soup or soupy kitcheri if you that is what your treatment called for.
Even though the regular Ashram food was a delight every day, during the Ayurveda treatment period it felt appropriate to have simple food and to be surrounded by people with whom you could share your purification experiences of the day.
Each patient had the opportunity to meet with their doctor once or twice a day, morning and evening after food. The reception area was always busy, but the SIH staff were con – sistently friendly and helpful. After a few days, I realised that there was no need to ask what to do, that it was best to silently arrive, sit down and wait: the ayurveda staff would come to you. They were all well instructed and would know exactly why you were there and what you would need. In a calm and focussed atmosphere, the SIH staff would care for you, always giving clear instructions.
My final treatments consisted of pouring hot medicated oil on my throat, after which I had my final talk with Dr. Vishnu. We reviewed the treatments I had received and compared my present state to my starting point, and some ayurvedic medicine was prescribed for the after-treatment time.
During the therapy, my mind and thoughts became very clear. My senses opened and I could see and perceive more. For the entire three weeks of treatment, I felt very protected and extremely well cared for. Lord Dhanwantari is the God of ayurveda, and I felt strongly that the doctors and their staff were His instruments. Being treated in the SIH was more than a strong detoxing, purifying and balancing experience: it was also a divine and spiritual experience and I hope that I can return soon to continue with some treatments. Health is wealth!
Thanks to the Ashram, and thanks to the Sivananda Institute of Health.
If anyone has questions about treatments, please contact Dr.Vishnu, Director of the Sivananda Institute of Health email: [email protected]
Swami Karunananda is a longtime disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. She has studied physiotherapy and is currently serving on staff at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Berlin. email: [email protected]