Part 2: Ayurveda on the Body, Mind and Identity
Some people consider Ayurveda to be a novelty medical concept, because all they have ever known is modern medicine. But what they aren't aware of is that Ayurveda is the mother of all medicine dating back thousands of years with understanding and methods that far exceed the advancement of modern medicine.
The Ayurvedic texts were the first to dictate and inform about surgery on the human body, the causes of disease, and the workings of the human anatomy. All methods of medicine since developed in both Western and Eastern history have stemmed from Ayurveda.
Digitalisation, the ease of travel, and the exchange of knowledge that is now possible has brought much more awareness to Ayurveda around the world - allowing people to rediscover the healthcare systems of their ancestors. What many do not know is that Ayurveda was not only practiced in India, it is said to have been the governing health system of the world thousands of years ago.
Ashgar’s motivation stems from the results his Ayurvedic practice is able to achieve. He has been able to heal many patients of long standing diseases with Ayurvedic methods. He recounted a patient from Saudi Arabia, a 20 year-old man who was emitted into his care after he had suffered a car accident. His brother who was a passenger had died instantly. Meanwhile, the young man was in the ICU for 3 weeks paralysed with no control over any of his bodily functions. The doctors in Saudi Arabia had told him he would never walk again.
During this time there were many Kerala natives living in Saudi who had insisted that the young man’s family look for answers in Ayurveda, which is how he ended up at Greens under the care of Dr Ashgar. Ashagr explained to me that after 28 days of Panchakarma therapy (an ayurvedic treatment plan individualised for each person done over a course of 21, 28 or more days to cleanse the body of disease, and provide restoration) the man was able to walk again, and was even showering by himself. Of course there was much more work to be done on rebuilding the man’s health, however because the man had begun Ayurvedic treatment so soon after the accident, he was able to reverse the paralysis through consistent daily treatments.
An example of one of the many treatments he received is ‘Pizhichil’ - a treatment consisting of pouring warm herbal medicated oil consistently on the naked body for an hour while simultaneously massaging the patient. When this treatment is done over a course of 7, 14, 21 or 28 days it has monumental effects on healing fractured bones and promoting functions of the sensory organs. The combination of oil, heat and pressure creates malleability and flexibility within the body. This was just one memorable testimonial of the thousands of patients he's been able to help...
From time to time an English speaking local would strike up conversation with me and give me an insight into life in Kerala, as well as ask me questions about my life back home. One man told me how he just had a baby girl and was on his way back to his wife’s mother's house to see her as he had been working all week in another town. He was very happy and content with life and felt lucky to have been blessed with a healthy baby. He had few complaints, which mainly consisted of the national elections. Something I noticed during my bus journeys was how happy and present everyone seemed despite the apparent hardships that they faced. A man would sit outside his food shack all day in the blazing sun doing nothing, but he was happy. He was living and so he was happy. This made me realise that happiness isn't that complex, like I had once believed.
In the west happiness can seem conditional, it can be about attainment and chasing an impossible standard or dream. Something I learned quickly in Kerala was everything I need for true happiness and fulfilment I already hold inside. Words that I heard many times, but only now could I truly fathom.
My strong and familiar connection to Indian culture and Ayurveda surprised me. I didn't expect to bond so much to a way of life so far from what I grew up around - I am originally Egyptian and moved to London when I was 7. In truth it shouldn't have surprised me as we are all from the same seed and have the same source of energy powering through us. I later came to learn that the ancient Egyptians practiced Ayurveda in their day to day lives.
One of the commonly used Ayurvedic treatments for the ancient Egyptian was “Basti” - cleansing the intestinal tract by administering clean water or medication through the use of an enema into the rectum. The ancient Egyptians were aware that a weak, irritated and congested large intestines is a breeding ground for all diseases. Most physical problems are caused and worsened by the buildup of toxins in the intestines. Accumulated and trapped waste eventually ends up spreading to the tissues of our organs, then entering the lymphatic system causing congestion. When there is congestion, oxygen can no longer move freely to feed the cells - this is when diseases are formed. The cells in the congested area need oxygen to survive, when they don’t find it they start feeding on each other causing mutated cells.
Ancient writings show that cleaning the inside of the body with water was considered the fastest and most effective way to lower fever, alleviate abdominal pain and help ease any discomfort and ailment. The ancient Egyptians knew that most diseases were merely manifestations of auto intoxication - being poisoned by your own waste. I realised once I got back home that my travels to India became an indirect way of reconnecting to my Egyptian roots.
Ayurveda woke me up, it gave me a new lease of life. Looking back I feel like I was asleep for all those years before. Whenever I talk about Ayurveda to others, I speak it about it from my heart, in all my truth, because I believe in it wholeheartedly. I found answers and understanding in Ayurveda that I had been searching for years, if not my whole life. My aim now is to share the knowledge I have accumulated in India with others in hopes that it can reach and help people the way it reached me. I will continue practicing and studying the methods I learnt on myself, my friends and family. Advising on daily practices, diet and herbs as a means to prevent disease and keeping the body and mind constitution balanced, so we can be the best versions of ourselves.
I graduated from Greens as a certified Ayurvedic consultant having studied and been assessed on the theory and practical of: how to examine a patient and tell their prakriti and vikruti (constitutional type and current imbalance), Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking for each body/mind type, diseases - how they form and how they are treated, all PanchaKarma therapies, Marma massage (a healing massage of the vital energy points), philosophy and practice of yoga, preparations and theory of herbs for medicinal purposes in all forms (eg. powders, decocotions, jams, tablets etc) and Ayurvedic beauty care.
Despite this, I’m set to go back to India to continue my studies. Ayurveda is a life long study that I have chosen to dedicate my life to. In the not so distant future I hope to be able to promote preventative care more widely through the aid of social media and travel as a mode of spreading the message. As I further educate myself in the years to come, I aspire to be able to cure and heal people of disease through the practices of Ayurvedic treatment and medicine. I feel so eternally blessed and grateful to be on this path, after many years of feeling lost and empty. I have found my way to where I belong. On a path of undeniable truth, unconditional love and deep fulfilment.
If I had been born just 25 years earlier when travel and access to the internet were not comparable with today, I don’t believe the message of Ayurveda would have reached me and resonated with me in the same way. We forget how fortunate we really are to live in a time where we’re connected, reachable and have full access to the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. Thanks to Google, Trippin and the Facebooks of this world; we can now navigate the places that call to us and where we can learn and grow for ourselves. It’s our duty to harness these platforms for positivity by sharing knowledge of our own, as well as of our brothers and sisters cultures and history. We need to ensure that we are educating ourselves and finding a way to connect back to our roots; by feeling the ground of where we came from, so we can think about where we might go next.