I recently met a Swiss girl and she told me she had visited Goa for a Yoga retreat. My friends and I laughed and told her Goa is the party capital of India. She seemed shocked at this and asked us if we knew it was popular for Yoga. So ironic.
Fortunately, I come from a small set of our generation who has had the experience of staying at a Yoga and Naturecure center, Arogyadham in Bangalore. I had been unwell (ironically, I worry I might be a hypochondriac) and a friend of mine suggested I should try Naturopathy before going for strong allopathic treatments. As a “cool” 20 something I was a bit hesitant and apprehensive but I decided to give it a shot. When I started the course I realized my health problem was a non-issue, instead my entire approach to life needed a reboot! It wasn’t that I had to give up materialistic pleasure, it was simply about embracing happiness. I will take you through some important lessons and experience I had there.
I went for a seven day course with my mother. The booking needs to be made online on their website beforehand. There are accommodation options for every budget. We had to report at their Bangalore office where there was a consultation with junior doctors who discussed ailments and objectives for the course. A car ride from there to Prashanti Kutiram in Jigani was arranged by them. Once we reached the campus, we had to finish checking into accommodation and consulting with senior doctors on the first day. We were handed our daily schedules, Naturopathy therapies and sections basis this discussion. Following day we were launched into a rigorous schedule of Yoga sessions and lectures starting 6 AM in the morning. There were around 100 participants divided into about 5 sections.
We had chosen to sign up for Naturopathy at an additional fee. It is a great option if you want to enjoy facilities such as massages, mud baths and water based treatments. I also got great lifestyle and diet recommendations from Naturopathy doctors I met which have helped me a lot.
What does the idea of eating boiled vegetables without spices and almost no salt sound like to you? I was surprised that Sattvic food could be so delectable. Of course, some people were not comfortable with it but I really loved the taste. There was a light breakfast with dishes like Idlis and sprouts salad. Lunch and dinner included rice, chapatti, dal, papad, one curry, khichdi, buttermilk and fruits. They also served chutneys with meals which were tangy and added taste to dishes which were bland. I found myself eating a bowl full of bittergourd- the food was that good! In the evening they would serve milk and malt which was a milk and barley based preparation. At around midnight you would get “Kashayam” which was a concoction to help digestion. I looked forward to every meal every day. For people who sign up for Naturopathy treatment, there is a separate meal plan including juices at regular intervals and fruit based meals. And to those who want to cheat, there is a café in the university which serves delicious south Indian meals. But I ate there only once, I promise!
The center is based on the outskirts of Bengaluru. It is a very green and pollution free campus. It is the perfect place to feel one with nature. I saw the results of the climate and simple food combined as I came back with clear skin.
I was dedicated to taking a 100% out of this experience, I did not want to complain or feel conscious. I wanted to play along exactly with the script to know for sure if it was a great experience for me. Hence, when there was an hour reserved every evening for getting together and singing “Bhajans” (devotional songs)I did exactly that. I never knew I would enjoy singing Bhajans so much. It felt like letting go. I felt happier, confident and more relaxed with myself. We keep ourselves held up but singing helps us relax, be it Bhajans or contemporary pop songs. I felt the difference in myself immediately and continue to do so six months hence.
Of course, at the core of it all, was Yoga. I have been to Yoga classes down the street but Power yoga is too fast for my liking (I don’t even want to consider Beer Yoga) so I enjoyed the practice at Arogyadham. It was very natural paced. There are sections based on ailments where related techniques are taught. I recently met my uncle who is over 70 years old now but is fit as a 20 year old is supposed to be (but none is) and does not even wear spectacles! He credits it all to Yoga. I admit I do not practice Yoga every day but have been trying do it at least twice a week to begin with. After coming back from Arogadham, the real challenge is how much you can continue to practice the learnings at home. It is difficult but I have come to terms with the fact that nobody can give me peace of mind in a tablet which I can have when I am lounging on my couch. Sigh!
What I take away is life lessons from this place. We don’t take time off our busy schedules to think about our approach towards life. Thankfully there are people who have dedicated their lives to this to give us the answers easily. In a lecture, we were told about the Koshas in our body. The innermost layer of our body is, “Anandmaya Kosha”. It is the feeling of absolute indescribable bliss. It could be in a simple experience such as hugging someone you love. Somehow this stuck with me and I have been chasing such happiness and shunning stress and care. I have found the way to be happy is to want to be happy.
You must have noticed above that people who enrolled in the camp for ailments were not referred to as patients instead they were called “participants” in the spirit of the fact that everyone was there to make their life better. Also, a lot of people traveled miles not for specific treatment but for reviving their health condition in general and to give their body and mind a break. Little thoughtful gestures are what matter.
I think it is imperative that I give you a holistic view of my experience. I loved the experience but it was a 99% satisfactory. Kudos to the organization for making this available to all classes of people at such affordable rates. But I felt there could be more hygienic conditions in the eating area. Hot water is available only in early mornings which might not be sufficient and should be available till noon at least. I hope these are resolved to make it a 100% experience.
An acquaintance of mine has resolved to go to a Yoga center ever year on her birthday. I absolutely love the idea!
Just give this one chance. If not a routine, you will surely enjoy it one time.
This is my interpretation and memories of my experience. I recommend you get an experience from a professional. Arogyadham is a part of S-Vyasa deemed university.