Return to Vaidyagrama, Ayurveda Healing Village

The Ayurveda Health & Healing Retreat in India hosted by Ayurvedic Consultant Jaisri M. Lambert has just wrapped up. In this guest blog article Jaisri shares a diary of her time at Vaidyagrama, gifting us with an insightful glimpse into an authentic panchakarma cleansing program.

It was a thankfully uneventful journey from Delhi where I awoke on Dec. 14, the day long planned for me to arrive at Vaidyagrama for the second time of my life. Touching down at Coimbatore airport just before sunset felt indeed like a type of coming home, though I’ve only been here once before – last year when I accompanied a small group of patients from the US & Canada for an experimental experience of ‘authentic panchakarma’.

For years, I had searched for a suitable place to give westerners confidence in traveling all the way to India, effectiveness of treatments and a learning experience for all levels of commitment to Ayurveda. The investment is perhaps a third that in north America, so the 41-day classical program was out of reach for me and others who wanted/needed a longer rejuvenation program. Here, however, it’s feasible and moreover compelling, I feel.

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Jaisri (second from right) with our 2016 group at Vaidyagrama, Coimbatore, India

Right away on stepping off the aircraft, the air was warm and tropically humid, certainly compared to the cold of Delhi and more so to the cold of Surrey, presently under snow! My taxi driver remembered me and my family details, the doctor was present to greet me at the splendid entrance to the hospital campus and the walk to my same room was like returning to my childhood bedroom. This time, though, pink hibiscus flowers were laid out for my welcome – oh, the sweetness!

Last year it was all new to me – how does the shower function? (then I’d learned the water heating system is entirely solar powered here, as a model of green, sustainable development). What are the toileting practices? (last year I learned about the superior sanitation of spray hoses). Do I have the right converter/adapter? (three different ones and none seemed to work consistently). So many new and wonderful discoveries, and this year I feel more habituated, seasoned even!

India has its own traffic patterns – please don’t expect drivers to remain in their lane or to stop at red lights or to go one-way on a one-way street. Just close your eyes and you’ll very probably arrive safely, if a little later than hoped. Line-ups are a way of life with such large urban populations. Please don’t expect people to respect a queue or to throw their trash into a designated container.

Do, however, (except in line-ups) expect respect and honesty from pretty much everyone. Refreshing change from Broadway in Vancouver, where you can be dissed or worse just for walking down the street.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to seeing the tree I planted last year and its interim growth, meeting my doctor from last year – the amazing Dr. HariKrishnan – and to greet the first two of my group arrivals. The others arrive on Friday and our program begins on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing the huge botanical garden again – it covers almost the entire campus of 4 1/2 acres, except the buildings and walkways.

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Part of Vaidyagrama’s huge outdoor healing garden

From last year, I discovered the importance of allowing time-zone adjustments to unfold on their own schedule. Having been in Delhi for two weeks prior meant I had already adjusted, which took perhaps 5 days or so for bodily routines to adapt. Ayurveda always considers the basic bio-rhythms of sleep, appetite and elimination, whether travelling or at home. These are the cardinal indicators of the balance of Vata (elimination), Pitta (appetite) and Kapha (sleep).

While in Delhi, I had the golden opportunity to meet with the AYUSH ministry officials to make connections between Canada and India with a view to bridge Ayurveda education into B.C. Now we have a clear path to our Ayurveda conference for 2017-18 and opening our college in 2018-19, thanks to the kind receptivity, enthusiasm and support of our officer! Lots of volunteer time will be needed to realize this intention together.

If reading this, you’d like to be a part of creating new pathways in Ayurveda education in Canada, dear reader, please contact me with your skill base and availability, OK?

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Preparing delicious Ayurvedic meals at Vaidyagrama

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Awakening early morning after a fine long sleep following yesterday’s wearying day of travel, I found meditation to come easily and naturally in this atmosphere of timelessness. By sunrise, the familiar morning prayers from the temple resounded, echoing such a long history of Tamil Nadu state customs of worship and devotion. South India is known for some of the oldest temples still existing, some dating back over 3,000 years. Amazing.

Today’s satsang touched in part on how the ideal sustainable model for living is best in a village population of about 500. Overcrowding of cities and even towns has led to stress, conflict, disease and environmental degradation. Dr. Ramkumar Kutty, one of Vaidyagrama’s founders, presented statistics that if each family of 4 has 1/4 acre to live on, there will still be sufficient land on this planet for forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and other natural features. It’s a mathematical image, but gives pause for thought, eh? See the work of John Jeavons.

This day has been a delight of birdsongs, flowers and an atmosphere of Ayurveda living. At home, I’d been increasingly simplifying my life, though from today it’s becoming so much simpler yet, and I love it. This evening two of my group arrive from the west. How marvellous to anticipate watching them become introduced to this place of healing, and all that lies in store for them through their personal healing and learning.

Friday is the day for the weekly ‘gho puja’ or the ceremony for honouring cows, special not only due to the reverence for the integration of all living beings for food and material support for all, but also to acknowledge our human intelligence and capacity to choose sustainable living in harmony together with all living beings, large and small. Each has a God-given life-cycle, unique characteristics and gifts to bring to the whole.

Saturday is now international community night at Vaidyagrama, when people share their talent and culture from all over the world. A violinist has been heard practicing her contribution, evidently an original piece composed to express her love for this place and its transformations.

Last year, our group had created a participatory round to sing together with all the patients, and once I did a duet with a young woman from Quebec – we both felt so comforted to hear French again! Another couple from the England theatre world created a skit spoofing the changes we westerners go through during PK – very funny! It’s a special night.

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Jaisri and the group enjoying some real relaxation time at Vaidyagrama

‘Tapasya’ from Sanskrit means in part, austerity or restraint, to observe inner sacrifice. Panchakarma is already revealing to me how giving up what is not in my long term best spiritual interest can lend positive support to this purification of body, mind and consciousness, and the program has not even officially begun. However, my intention for purification is already presenting ample opportunity for reforming my thinking and habits.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

‘My’ pretty little tree planted last year has grown three-fold! Such an example of faith, simplicity, being true to oneself, surrender to nature’s wisdom and growing upward! Yesterday, we completed three of our five medical intakes and already people feel more seen than ever by a medical practitioner. Now the benchmark has been set in our lives for medical care. Today will be our last two intakes and treatments will begin Sunday.

To hear more of Jaisri’s wonderful experience at Vaidyagrama including the next stages of her cleansing program and how the group bonded over shared cultural experiences, read her full article here.

Want to join Jaisri at Vaidyagrama starting December 1st, 2017 for a life-changing Ayurveda cleansing and healing program? Full program details are now on our website – secure your space now!