India: Ayurveda

#6 in my India series. I reflect on what I’ve learnt about Ayurveda and get a little oily on my scalp whilst pondering the correct feminist response.


This is #6 in my series on India.  If you are new to my blog and would like to start at the beginning, just follow the link below.

1. India: Impressions


Day five at the retreat and I’ve been back to Dr Ayurveda for a check up and a change of treatment. I went in anxious and ready to speak my mind, but left grateful. He was gentle and listened to me, he observed and took my pulse. His conclusion; anxiety. I  wanted to tell him my anxiety was from anticipating his next fore-drawn conclusion about me! Perhaps he already realised this as after mantra practice, he’d said hello to me gently. My new vedic treatment program now consists of warm oil poured continuously across my forehead, almost to my hairline, repeatedly and slowly. It is a smelly, yellow-coloured oil (probably turmeric) but I drift off into sleep several times in the forty-five minutes or so that it takes. I like this treatment much better than the milking and I get to wash my hair with a lovely powdered shampoo afterward.

Ayurveda is a curious tradition. My mind is drawing links between it and my love of all things to do with witchcraft . Based on the five elements, vedic practitioners employ the use of herbs, roots and mysterious substances, candlelight and incense, shrines and invocations. There is a beauty to it, yet an enormous amount of training is required to harness that beauty through applied knowledge. Approximately eight years of study in traditional medicine and then ayurveda is required to get to where the doctor and his wife are professionally.

After dinner tonight, Dr Ayurveda gave us a lengthy talk on enhancing a person’s inner radiance through Ayurveda. By balancing mind, body and soul we can forget about Botox, lasers and Instagram nail art tutorials. The vedic focus is on wellbeing, contentedness, self-care (including massage), seasonal adjustment and tailoring the correct diet for your dosha’s digestion. So, not quite witchcraft, but hopefully some magic will result.

Ayurveda is quite oil-obsessed. There is an oil for each dosha and each condition. For pitta balancing, I need to stick to cooling virgin coconut oil and yet make seasonal adjustments – perhaps a blend of sesame (warming) and coconut to fire me up during the long winter months. For a face mask, I can use papaya or coconut milk and my preferred oils should be rose or lotus. Dr Ayurveda also explained that by rubbing oil or paste onto the top of our heads after treatments, our therapists are aiming to stimulate our endocrine system via the pituitary gland. Sounds a bit personal to me.

The use of neem seems universal – all doshas can employ its anti-viral and anti-bacterial benefits. Got dandruff? A little more than acne than you’d like? Apply neem oil (or powder) topically and enhance your inner and outer radiance at the same time. If you prefer your neem neat, try the leaf of the tree for flushing heat and inflammatory toxins from the skin. Our garden tour earlier this week included a bunch of us trialling ‘tooth brushes’ made from the thin neem twigs, stripped of leaves and collected for us by Marcus. Bloody bitter, this was not an experience to be repeated.

But everyone loves turmeric! Apparently, there isn’t a system in the body that won’t benefit from the powerful antioxidant nature of turmeric and all doshas can be brought into balance by it. If you’re a yogi, you can expect your ligaments, chakral alignment and blood circulation all to be improved with a little regular tumeric in your cuisine. And then there’s the lovely jaundiced look you can achieve with a home-made face mask of the stuff (do mix it with a little coconut oil first).

“Every traditional Indian bride is layered in turmeric paste before her wedding to create that special glow” 

Hmmm, smelly.


Mantra – hymn like, a word or a single sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation

Vedic – of or pertaining to ayurveda 


Want to keep reading…?

7. India: Ashram

8. India: Saree 

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