Ayurveda Treats The Body, Mind, And Soul
“In Ayurveda, one does not count calories instead we commit to a philosophy and a way of life,” says Gita Ramesh, Managing Director of Kairali Ayurvedic Group- a pioneer in Ayurveda treatments in India. “Eating is considered a mindful meditative experience.”
Rooted in India, Ayurveda is the oldest scientific medicinal system and takes a holistic view of health. According to Ayurveda, every individual is a combination of the fundamental elements of Nature- water, earth, fire, air, and ether. The three elements theory or tridoshas -vata, pitta, and kapha- is the basis of Ayurveda. Vata denotes ether and air, and is the energy of movements; Pitta stands for fire and is the energy of digestion or metabolism and Kapha denotes water and earth and is the energy of lubrication and structure.
A post-graduate in bio-chemistry, Gita stepped into the family business following marriage to K.V. Ramesh. Ramesh’s father, Dr. K.S Vasudevan, and grandfather Dr. Sunkunny Vaidir were noted Ayurveda practitioners. Equipping herself with a doctorate in Ayurveda, Gita supported Ramesh’s vision of setting up Kairali Ayurvedic wellness centers.
“For optimal health, a balance of the three doshas is required. When the doshas are unbalanced, the body develops a disease,” explains the mother of two.
At a time when Ayurveda was little known outside Kerala (a southern state of India), the couple set up the first center in New Delhi in 1989. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. Today Kairali Ayurvedic Group has forty centers globally.
Significant in its expansion is the opening of ‘Ayurvedic Healing Village,’ at Palakkad, Kerala in 1999. Far from the madding crowd, this ‘Village’ located in the lap of the Western Ghats offers a panacea to the mind and body with its verdant ambiance, gliding streams, swaying coconut fronds, and bird calls punctuating the air.
Several treatments are offered here including rejuvenation and detoxification; weight loss; nervous disability, facial paralysis, and skin diseases. The ‘Village’ also houses ‘Kairali Institute of Ayurveda and Panchkarma Therapy’ offering short and long-term courses.
“The pandemic has made people understand the importance of good health. We have many patients undergoing treatment for COVID long-term effects,” says Gita, author of three books.
Her first book, ‘Ayurvedic Herbal Massage’ was written in 1998 to meet the requirements of marketing literature for a global audience. This well-illustrated book details various types of massages (full body) and therapeutic ones like ‘pizhichil’ for rejuvenation; navarakizhi (for treating paralysis) and ‘khadikizhi’ (for skin problems). One section guides readers on self-massage techniques.
Once the ‘Village’ got rolling, Gita found her next challenge in planning diet for her guests. During treatment, patients are served only vegetarian fare. With patients from the world over, the food had to suit everyone’s palate while being healthy and tasty.
Subsequently, her second book, ‘The Ayurvedic Cook Book,’ is a compilation of salads, soups, and main courses. Among this delectable spread are interesting recipes like ‘beetroot and gherkin salad,’ ‘okra (lady’s finger) soup,’ ‘green gram soup’ and ‘raw banana stem curry,’ (a traditional Kerala delicacy).
“Raw banana stem with its high fiber content and potassium works well for weight loss,” says Gita. “Its diuretic properties aid the removal of kidney stones and fiber beats constipation.”
Green gram counted as one of the healthiest pulses is used in many recipes. The highlight of this book is a two-week diet chart for losing weight.
Gita’s third book is ‘The Ayurvedic Wellness Cookbook,’ made up of vegetarian recipes meant for balance and rejuvenation. The ingredients used include coconut and its products, ghee (clarified butter), ginger, mustard seeds, pepper, tamarind, and turmeric owing to their health benefits.
“Contrary to general belief, saturated fats in coconut oil increase HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol) and also convert LDL (bad cholesterol) into good cholesterol,” Gita clarifies. “Coconut aids weight loss improves digestion and builds immunity due to its anti-microbial properties. Food has the power to heal.”
On the breakfast menu are recipes with a sprinkling of greens to improve digestion, strengthen the nervous system and boost energy. Interesting options are found in the accompanying chutneys prepared with nutrition-rich ingredients such as dates, carrots, beetroot, and lentils. Loaded with the healing properties of turmeric is ‘turmeric milk’ while ‘banana stem buttermilk’ is another healthy alternative. Spurning white sugar the dessert section uses jaggery and palm sugar. Those with a sweet tooth could check ‘tender coconut pudding’ and ‘beetroot halwa.’
“Eat when hungry, so that the food is completely digested," advises Gita. "When you eat before your last meal is digested well, it leads to indigestion, altering the metabolism and resulting in the development of toxins. And, three meals a day is ideal with no snacking in between.”
Mythily Ramachandran is an independent journalist from Chennai whose work has been published in leading international publications including Gulf News, South China Morning Post and Nikkei Asia.