Gurukripa Heritage Ayurvedic Treatments – A Holistic Wellness Retreat
Alternate therapies are one thing that keep fascinating me over the years. I have always been a fan of Ayurveda since childhood. When I relocated to Singapore, I was introduced to Acupressure and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is remarkable to see how Ayurveda (Traditional Indian Medicine) and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are the most ancient medical practices that exist and continue to be relevant even today. As one digs further, they can see the similarities in the way both of these function. The focus of both the traditions is on the patient rather than the disease itself. The focus is on eliminating the cause of the disease rather than suppressing the local pain. TCM considers the human body as the center of the universe which acts as an antenna between celestial and earthly elements. Yin and Yang are considered relative where one is raised to balance the deficit of the other. Similar concepts are applied in Ayurveda where they consider the universe to be built of five elements (Panchkarma) – earth, water, air, fire and space. According to Ayurveda, these elements are coded into three forces (Kapha, Pitta and Vata) in the human body. Vata is composed of space and air. Pitta is composed of fire while Kapha is composed of earth and water. The Tridosha (Three Forces) regulate the well being of a human body. Any imbalance in these tridosha manifests in deficiency or symptoms of disease.
In Singapore, I got introduced to the foot massage. I used to visit the Foot Reflexology center, “Feet Haven Foot Reflexology” every week in Katong. They say there are more nerve endings in the foot than any other part of the body. These nerves correspond to different reflex zones throughout the body. Stimulating those reflex points with the right amount of pressure restores the balance of the body. It felt so great and relaxing that it became my regular health obsession. The foot reflexology experience had also made it to my sight seeing check list when my relatives visited Singapore from India. I was happy getting all the positive reviews till one of my relatives remarked that he still preferred the traditional uzhichil (Ayurvedic Massage) in Gurukripa Heritage Ayurvedic Treatments. I had heard about this place in Kerala quite a few times through various sources in the family.
Gurukripa Heritage Ayurvedic Treatments is nestled in a small town – Peringode in Kerala, India. With so many rave reviews from the family circle, I decided to take the plunge, unwind and get myself rejuvenated from the daily bustle of life. I called the place and booked for 14 days treatment. I reached Peringode and headed towards Gurukripa stopping midway at Dr. Unnikrishnan’s home to consult on the medicines for the treatment. The consultation lasted around 30 minutes where the doctor understood the body type and problems of the patient and decided on the list of therapies needed for those 14 days. While I was familiar with the place, for guests from foreign lands, they offer a pick and drop facility from the airports/ railway stations.
After consultation, I headed towards Gurukripa. I got down at the office where I handed over my prescription from the doctor. I was asked to fill up a procedural form after which they guided my auto towards the lodging facility. With a large suitcase by my side, my driver and me wobbled as the auto accelerated uphill.
There are two buildings in Gurukripa. The upper building – as shown in the photo below – has television and internet in each room and food is served to your room. Residents have more privacy in this building. The foundation stone of the upper building was laid by the then chief minister of Kerala, V.S. Achuthanandan in 2006 and the building was inaugurated by the famous film star of Kerala, Padmasree Mohanlal in 2008. The lower building has a common dining area, TV and internet. The foundation stone of the lower building (phase 2) was laid by George J. Mathew in 2008. The room rents are marginally higher for the upper building due to these additional facilities.
The room allocated to me was not luxurious but had all the adequate facilities. The view from the sit out (balcony) was great. I was apprehensive that there was no air conditioning, as I was used to one in Singapore. As the day eased out, I got the general vibe of the place and I understood that the place was strictly meant for treatments and not into fooling the guests by showcasing it as some luxurious plush resort.
The corridor of the building had various medicinal plants. I could identify few of them but as there were no labels on these, I merely stared at them and walked past. During my treatment, I was given few leaves from one such plant. I almost felt like a cow chewing the cud!
The routine and the therapies followed the prescription for the next 14 days. My day routine goes on like this:
At 6:30 a.m in the morning, the staff comes with a laxative medicine for cleansing the bowels. Once you gulp the medicine, they give a small piece of jaggery to wipe out the bitterness from your palate. At 7 a.m, a boy delivers the newspaper (English / Malayalam) based on the preference. Breakfast is served at 8:45 a.m. Breakfast remains pretty much the same throughout the treatment. Rice porridge (Kanji) served with papadam, mango chutney and green lentils / horse gram. At 9:30 a.m, I am called for my uzhichil ( Ayurvedic Massage). I meet my team who would be doing the massage and therapies for me for the entire duration of 14 days.
The uzhichil (massage) room smells of medicated oils. I could see ropes hanging from the top of the ceiling. Before starting the treatment, they direct me to the lamp and ask me to seek blessings from God to prevent any obstacles during the 14 day course. On the first day, the ritual is to put dakshina ( small donation as per your choice) in front of the lamp. My treatment starts and it lasts for 2 hours. Initially, the first few minutes are embarrassing as they ask you to strip down all the clothes and the only covering you have is when they tie the cloth to cover the loin area. I lay down on the black slab feeling uncomfortable as they vigorously rub hot medicated oils all over my body. Soon my awkwardness subsides and I feel relaxed. My body feels lighter and I begin to enjoy the pressure applied on each cell of my body. As my team of four move their hands in a controlled rhythmic movement, they talk about their work, family and daily affairs – all matters dull and lively. I close my eyes and get involved as the fifth silent member of the team – recipient of their professional massages and witty adages !
After the treatment, as I get down from the slab with my body dripping with the oils, two team members grab my shoulders so as to prevent me from slipping. I am directed towards the bathroom inside. One of the members (Ramani) pours warm water on my head and rubs my body. It brought back my childhood days when my mom poured water over my head and used to bathe me. At one nostalgic moment, I had this urge to grab hold of Ramani’s sari pleats when she started rubbing my wet hair to prevent me from catching cold 😀 !
After the bath, I walk back to my room feeling fresh and energized. Raghavan comes in to give me medicines for the day. One gets to see Raghavan multiple times throughout the day – while serving breakfast, lunch , giving medicines, serving tea. He doesn’t talk much but does his chores impeccably. At 1:15 p.m, lunch is served followed by tea at 3:30 p.m. The next set of medicines are given around 4:30 – 5.00 p.m.
During the course of the day, a doctor visits to check your blood pressure and ask if there are any discomforts during the treatment. The housekeeping staff cleans the room and washes your clothes you dumped during the massage. Then I realized that there was no need to bring in the heavy suitcase full of clothes 🙄 . Only 3-4 pairs of clothes would have sufficed for 14 days.
At 6.30 pm, Krishnan comes in with Sambrani (benzoin, balsamic resin – incense) to ward off the mosquitoes. I would suggest the guests to bring in the electric bat to kill additional few that survived the smoke!
At 7:30 pm, Vishwambaran arrives to serve the dinner. I enjoyed the simple food served at Gurukripa. One day, I ask him if I could meet the chef who prepares these meals. At first, he was taken aback and with much reluctance asked me the reason. I told him how I enjoyed the meals at Gurukripa and wanted few recipes from the chef himself. At once, his face lit up with a flash of smile. He blushed and humbly admitted that the he was the chef !! On knowing that I came from Singapore, he shed all his inhibitions and started narrating his journey experiences and observations when he traveled to Singapore. Even though for a few minutes, talking to Vishwambaran is such a delight!
Dr. Unnikrishnan visits each of his patients at night post dinner. He patiently sits there listening to my experiences of each day and suggests changes in the treatment in case of any minor issues. My interactions with him went beyond words. An encyclopedia of knowledge himself, he smiles at my curious questions on the process of uzhichil and Ayurveda. The first few days, he appeared a little reserved with conversations limited to diagnoses. As the days passed, our conversations extended to many other topics and he began sharing his experiences in the field of Ayurveda. It was a treat to listen to the immense knowledge he shared in those few minutes – be it his philosophy on Ayurveda, his views on medicines and brands, kalari and breathing exercises, mental illness and so on . The list does not end here! At one point, I tell him that I saw an old documentary on YouTube where he speaks about his guru, Sri. Poomulli Neelakandan Namboothiripadu (Aram Thampuran). He smiles for a moment and relives the few pages of those era by talking about his guru. My best memories of the place are definitely the interactions with this humble man who is a firm believer and practitioner of healing powers of the traditional medicine.
After my treatment duration, I was given medicines to take back home for 14 days. It is said that the duration of rest should match the duration of the treatment. I purposefully delayed my experience on the blog as I wanted to see the full impact of the treatment after the 14 days of rest.
Please visit the website : http://www.gurukripaheritage.com/contact.php to know more about the place.
Before the treatment, I was a little skeptical on how to spend 14 days in an unknown place. But I never knew how time passed so quickly during my stay at Gurukripa. Feeling much energized and healthy than before, I resolve to revisit the retreat yearly for recurring relaxation and happiness!
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