3/21/2007 re: news from Conoor, India
In Spring 2007, I went to South India to study Ayurveda at the Ayurvedic Retreat Hospital in Conoor, India. While there, I sent 4 emails to a small group of my family and closest friends. I thought some of you might enjoy reading my unedited thoughts and experiences. This was my second trip to India, and my first real introduction to Ayurveda beyond library books. I went with my boyfriend-at-the-time, Michael, and we had an amazing experience. I was just beginning to learn about white privilege and cultural appropriation, so please excuse any ignorance on my part back then - this was 14 years ago!
3/21/2007 re: news from Conoor, India
I hope this email finds all of you well!
Though Michael and I are eager to go into town to go SHOPPING (!!!!!) we don't want to miss one of the afternoon meditations as we are learning a lot and leave feeling peaceful. We are attempting to patiently wait till Sunday, our "holiday", as we are in classes Monday - Saturday. The food here is amazing! Everything is organic from local gardens - even all the spices, the turmeric, cumin, curry leaves, chili powder. The ghee comes from their own cows that live a sweet little life in the tea hills here. We are eating a lot of deliciously steamed veggies and raw salads - a rare treat in India. Yesterday Raikha taught a cooking class in their charming little kitchen and her feminine red sari and gold bangles. I learned a lot about the different healing properties of each spice and how to make oopama and idlies, two of my all-time favorite South Indian breakfast dishes. We'll be taking cooking classes every Tuesday and I am hoping to become a truly delicious Indian cook by the time we leave! Yesterday we walked through the tea hills here, passing through little "neighborhoods" of villagers mostly living in very humble homes of hand-made bricks or plain cement. Cooking fires smoked, punjabis and sarees dried on bushes, little children giggled at us and one woman smiled with sillyness as she was carrying a white rabbit by the ears that was half her size! As this is a very Hindu area - and thus vegetarian - Michael assured me she was most likely simply moving the rabbit to another location. There are people from all over the world here at the Ayurvedic retreat hospital - Kuwait, New York, Los Angeles, Sweden, Brazil, Japan - so we are having fun making new friends. Our other classmate is Martin, who is from Northern Ireland and fresh out of the military for over 20 years. He is already going through quite a transformation as he is somewhat new to yoga, meditating, and this philosophy. I get such a kick out of hearing him chant the ancient sanskrit with his Irish accent. We'll all be getting to know each other very well by the end of the Ayurvedic training! Yesterday I watched a demonstration of Abhyanga massage. It's basically light effleurage (smooth, flowing strokes) applying sesame oil rhythmically. I'll be receiving one in a few days as I'm very curious how it feels. I'm not sure if a western audience will like this style and I may change it even though I love authenticity.
Here, only men work on men and women work on women. I can see why as the client gets totally naked or they can leave their underwear on, then they start out by sitting on the edge of the massage table. The therapist faces the client and massages them. Then they lay down on their back, then each of their sides, and back to a sitting - receiving different massage strokes in each position. The client gets drenched in oil. The therapist then follows them into the shower to bathe them and scrubs them down with a body scrub of powdered lentils. It's very intimate, as the client is not draped with a sheet and practically naked the whole time. Though draping the client would make most people more comfortable and make it possible for me to work on men, I would have to change the strokes a lot as they flow up and down the whole body.
I guess this is why each culture makes things their own when they learn something from another tradition!
Yesterday monkeys were chased out of the garden and they all ran onto the roof of the little Log House Michael and I are staying in and I told him, "Now that's a good reason to keep the back door to the balcony closed when we aren't there!" Those were mischievous monkeys and I can't imagine what they would do inside our cabin!
Love to all,