Well… it is possible to view food as a means of healing your body and mind rather than just a ritual that should satiate hunger and offer taste. I discovered this through ‘Sukham Ayu’.
More than the book this post is about the concept of food in Ayurveda, and using it as a means to achieve a happy long life – Sukham Ayu as the book says!
Visiting KARE situated near Mulshi Lake in Pune was a great experience as I had the dual joy of spending a day in the lap of Mother Nature and also getting acquainted with the wonderful team at KARE.
Read on to know more about the gentleman and his muse – KARE!
The reception area of KARE by night – Image courtesy: Pritya.com
It turned out I had entered through the wrong entrance! After the initial introductions, we learnt that Dr. Rohit and his wife Dr. Roli both had been students at Bhartiya Vidyapeeth Deemed University and joined KARE as newbies. They have grown so attached that they are still continuing after five years. I had read about the KARE team already at their site and one thing that had me intrigued was ‘pulse diagnosis’, and the site had mentioned that Dr. Rohit was a specialist at this. I had to know what it was, and he promised us that he would demonstrate it later. Oh BOY!! It was impressive! Ah…ha…more about that later;). Lets get introduced first!
The KARE team
Here is what Dr. Rohit had to say on the subject:
He performed these for us using the props – take a look:
Sirsasana on ropes
Back Arch with ropes and Viparita Dandasana on Bridge
After that he moved on the Zen Meditation hall. The hall has mellow lighting and low seated cushions for guests who wish to meditate. Meditation is recommended on a daily basis as it has a calming effect on the senses but one may concentrate on any form of their choice.
From here Dr. Rohit went on to show us the ‘age reversal hut’. I found this quite fascinating as I am sure any woman would. Imagine being away from the humdrum of daily routine and pampered with oil massages, ayurvedic packs, regular nourishment and cleansing of the body and mind – isn’t it heaven?
The hut is completely built with treated mud and has a central room with filtered natural lighting from the roof. It has no modern amenities save a mirror and an extra bed outside. The age reversal treatment is a long one stretching upto 40 days (that was the catch!) where the guest is treated to complete skin and body treatments (internal and external) to help them detoxify and rejuvenate. Forty days is the recommended duration of this treatment. If the idea seems daunting think of the Kerala massages you will receive at the hands of excellent masseurs and, I am sure it will seem quite an indulgence.
The tour was followed by a light and healthy breakfast of fresh fruit….
…..followed by moong dosa and chutney (You will find the recipe in the next post) accompanied with herb tea.
We were already taken in by the surroundings when Dr. Kalmadi arrived sporting a crisp white shirt and black trousers. The distinguished look made me a little nervous as it struck me that I was just a blogger doing an interview for the first time and that too without a recorder!! How was I to record the interview? My fears were put to rest after a while as the interview did not happen like a ‘Q&A’ session.
Dr. Kalmadi turned out to be a friendly and calm person and put us at ease with his informal approach. It was more of a discussion and we were soon talking about so many things other than just KARE or Sukham Ayu. While in conversation I realized that KARE was not a spa or a resort but the result of Dr. Kalmadi’s drive to bring Kerala’s ayurvedic tradition to the rest of the world, and hence I call it his muse! Dr. Prakash Kalmadi was an allopathic doctor who turned towards Ayurveda and saw it as the road to complete health. KARE is his attempt to introduce Yoga and Ayurveda into the daily routine of every individual, and ‘Sukham Ayu’, he says is a collection of what is cooked in the KARE kitchen.
Out in the open dining area facing the lake, he shared his ideas, knowledge, a few easy asanas and the aspirations he has for KARE. Here are the excerpts that I hope will kindle your interest in Ayurveda and Yoga, and also clear any doubts you may have regarding the benefits of Ayurveda.
How did the switch from Allopathy to Ayurveda happen?
Many years back I used a lead a totally different lifestyle. At that time this place (indicating the reception area) served as my weekend home and the rest of the area was a golfing green. My lifestyle was quite hectic and took its toll. I suffered from severe spondilysis, backpain and such things. After trying out various allopathic treatments and still ailing, I met Dr. Srinivasan Nair who suggested Ayurvedic treatment. I underwent a Podhi session (treatment done with Herb Boluses) in Pune and after just the fourth session out of the seven sessions, I experienced so much relief and derived so much energy that overnight I changed my lifestyle. I stopped non-vegetarian food, drinks etc., and decided on bringing a complete Ayurvedic centre from Kerala closer home to Pune so that others could also benefit from Ayurveda. This switch happened on 31st January 1999.
How can Ayurvedic approach help in achieving holistic well-being?
Ayurveda does not recommend the same treatment for all individuals like Western medicine does. The body type is first identified and accordingly the guests are educated about what is right and wrong for them in terms of food and lifestyle. Ayurveda is not a cure but it is a guide to lead the correct lifestyle.
There is suddenly a lot of interest in Ayurveda and Kerala Ayurvedic Centres. How is KARE different from these other centres?
KARE combines the benefits of Ayurveda with that of Iyengar Yoga. It is not only a physical treatment with care given to nutrition, diet and treatments but also that of the mind by way of performing yogasanas. Most centres in the name of yoga teach some basic breathing exercises which is totally incorrect. Breathing exercises such as pranayama should be done only under the supervision of a good yoga teacher, and not by following books. In fact our Guruji, Shri B.K.S. Iyengar takes it up as the last step of yoga. Initially it is best to learn yogasanas under a teacher and then practice it regularly. At KARE we have the best teachers (Shri Ratanlal Shah) to guide our guests through yoga, we have genuine trained masseurs from Kerala for our oil massages, our diet is custom made for each guest and we have a team of dedicated doctors and dieticians who look after every aspect of the treatment and maintain a log of treatment given to each patient.
Is it possible to cure medical illnesses through yoga? What is the mode of treatment adopted?
Many people come to Ayurvedic doctors only as a last resort in which case we cannot really do much about the damage that has already been done. However even in such cases we have succeeded sometimes by only helping to rejuvenate what has not been damaged. When people come to us at initial stages of illnesses we can help them in getting rid of it completely.
Mode of treatment: We first examine and identify the body constitution of the individual – whether vata, pitta or kapha. After that the doctors diagnose their ailments while maintaining a log of this. Accordingly the doctors alongwith the nutritionist and yoga teachers decide on a complete health package. These involve ayurvedic treatments, oil baths, yoga exercises under the guidance of Shri Ratanlal Shah and under the supervision of Dr. Shetty and diet as designed in consultation with our dietician, Snehal.
At KARE we have guests who come just for relaxation and detoxification, people who are interested in doing a one month course on yoga, and also those who have serious illness like Cardiac disease, Arthiritis-Osteo/Rheumatic, Colitis, Motor neuron disorders, Chronic Renal failure, Paralysis, Parkinson’s and many more.
(For the various therapies given at KARE, please refer here)
What is your daily routine, Dr. Kalmadi? (This I asked as I felt it would serve as a guide)
I recommend that one should get up early and do yoga for at least half an hour. You can start with active standing poses (tadasana and its derivatives), forward bends (virasana, paschimottasana), backbends (viparita dandasana), inverted poses (sarvangasana, sirsasana) and end with the supine pose (savasana) .
Bharadvajasana – This is great for the back and benefits diabetics also. It stimulates the liver and pancreas.
Virasana or vajrasana – This is to be done after consuming food as it aids digestion and improves circulation of blood and helps in keeping the bones cancer free.
How would you compare allopathy with ayurveda?
Allopathy may have instant cures but it does not help the body rejuvenate while healing, which is what Ayurveda does. This is because Western medicine does not teach diet and nutrition as part of medical schools. While in allopathy treatments are the same for a disease, in Ayurveda treatment is for the entire body and not only for one condition. The concept of treating all individuals in a similar manner does not exist in Ayurveda as we believe that the composition of the five elements is different in different people and treatment is devised according to each individual’s composition. Ayurveda treats the condition as well as the whole body and mind. I am not saying that allopathy is wrong, but I do feel that Ayurveda needs to be accepted as an equal in medicine. I am looking forward to the day when Allopathy and Ayurveda will be used together to treat patients!
Do you grow your own herbs required for the treatments here?
We do have a small herb garden but we procure our herbs fresh from Kerala. (I interrupt – Why Kerala?) Basically though Ayurveda was prevalent all over India most of these places were invaded at different times and the texts were burnt or lost. Kerala was never invaded to that extent hence you still find that ayurveda is still a way of life. (He described the natural beauty of Kerala assuming that I would relate well and he was quite surprised that though a Palakkad Iyer, I had never been there before – I should now!)
What about the vegetables and fruits?
We dabbled for sometime in growing our own vegetables organically here but it is such a distraction that now we procure all our vegetables and fruits from organic farms at Gultekdi.
What is your view on genetically modified vegetables?
This whole concept itself is wrong as modification of natural genetic composition is equivalent to insertion of cancer cells which will no doubt lead to neurological problems. I am completely against it which is why we insist on organic products.
What kind of cooking do you stick to in KARE?
At KARE we do not use tomatoes, potatoes, brinjals and cucumber. Both tomatoes and potatoes are neurotoxic in nature – you can see the direct impact in America. They use a lot of both these vegetables and also have maximum cases of neurological disorders. Brinjals are heavy for digestion so we just do not recommend it. Cucumbers are vata enhancing in nature and is not recommended in Ayurveda as it leads to colon related disorders.
We were surprised and I guess it showed – after all we use tomatoes in most gravies to enhance the taste, don’t we? Are not cucumbers said to make a good salad?
Dr. Kalmadi immediately said – “We do not ask you to give up anything completely.” “One can practice moderation and consume these items in very small portions, and avoid using it on regular basis.” Moderation is the key to good health. In fact we do not even recommend raw salads. All the salads served at KARE are steamed to make them easily digestible.
While treating them we also try to educate people about the good and bad choices in food, lifestyle and exercises. We make sure they follow it while they are here but we can’t go beyond that. After that we have to leave it to their choice.
What was your role in ‘Sukham ayu’?
The concept is KARE’s and the cooking follows the pattern of cooking in the KARE kitchen and the recipes tried at KARE since last 10 years. Pratibha & Jigyasa have done a lot of research on this book for nearly three years and delved into Ayurveda before coming up with this book. I wanted only that credit should be given to KARE. Many of the recipes you will find in the book are the ones we cook.
It just happens that Jigyasa is known to me well, and I was invited for the launch of their earlier book “Cooking with Pedatha”, in Bombay. While there I met them (Jigyasa and Pratibha) and suggested cooking therapeutically with Ayurveda and they immediately took to the idea. This was followed by a visit to KARE. They were so impressed by the place that they came for a ten day stay and decided that they had to bring out this book. I must add that they have researched a lot before the book was finally brought out.
(Dr. Rohit Rangappa had earlier informed) – They were really excited about this. I remember they used to look up the ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita and ask us all kinds of questions about the properties of the ingredients used. We looked up many of our books just so that we could answer them correctly!
Why a book on ayurvedic cooking?
I want this book to reach everyone, and I want it sold at every ayurvedic centre so that everyone benefits from the knowledge cooking healthy. When I see that treatments are not followed up with proper diet I had decided upon my mission in life. I want to educate not only people but also doctors about the right kind of food. I cannot stand it when prominent public figures go around endorsing wrong food stuff. Sugar substitutes are carcinogenic in nature and yet we have celebrities endorsing it as ‘healthy’. Look at the misconception created by Saffola! Refined oils are bad for heart and yet wrong advertisements have created a wrong impression that it is the best! The worst of all is the way canned juices are marketed as ‘fresh’ and without preservatives! I do not recommend this to anyone. I was surprised that a doctor whom I knew was consuming canned juices as there was no time for preparation of fresh ones especially when ill. I want to break these myths. Fresh cooked food or fresh fruits can never be replaced by any method.
As per Ayurveda it is cow’s ghee. (I told him about vegan diet followers and ask for another substitute) If you have to use oil go for double filtered oil rather than refined oil. Sesame oil is also a very good cooking medium.
What is panchakarma? What are the benefits one can derive from this?
Panchakarma is the term we use for detoxification. One has to undergo treatment for this at KARE for at least a fortnight for complete results and maintain the diet plan recommended by us at least for 4 or 5 days a week. The type of lifestyle you lead plays a very important part. We agree it is not possible to stick to a strict diet or routine these days but at least one should make time for at least an hour of yoga everyday. Maybe half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening, get enough exercise by way of walks. We do not recommend going to the gym at all.
At this point I remembered the gym equipments – walkers and cycles – we had seen on our way up to the dining area, and asked: Why do you have those machines in that case?
Have you seen the empty meditation/yoga halls in some hospitals? They do not believe or offer yoga as a part of their medication but still have a meditation hall. We almost never use or recommend gym training but a few machines have been kept as a convenience for guests if they are on a daily regimen.
We have about seven Ayurvedic Medicine Schools in Pune and many good colleges in Mumbai too. All of them are quite good. What I do not like is that the youth go for a BAMS (Bachelor in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) degree only when they do not get entry in MBBS or they prefer using it as a backdoor entry for regular allopathic practice.
(A list of Ayurvedic schools is given at the end of the post alongwith a useful link)
We provided massages for the athletes/boxers to help them with their injuries and also to strengthen their muscles. Shirodhara is very good for increasing concentration. Netrabasti gives brilliant results for archery. Other treatments like podhi kizhi, ela kizhi etc., are also beneficial to athletes.
As P and I had satisfied ourselves completely we decided to go on to the subject that interested us most! Pulse diagnosis:), and spoke to Dr. Rohit Rangappa about this.
What is pulse diagnosis?
(Dr. Rohit Rangappa is a specialist in this field and he has been involved with care for over five years now alongwith his wife – Dr. Roli Rangappa.)
After this Dr. Roli put forth a questionnaire to identify our body constitutions as per Ayurveda, whether vata, pitta or kapha. We both turned out ‘pitta-vata’, to which Dr. Roli exclaimed – “Great, at least you can follow a similar diet!” Snehal, the dietician provided us with a food hierarchy chart that showed the type of food best suited to our body type, that which should be had in moderation and that which were not suitable for us. Meanwhile it was time for the sumptuous spread called lunch! Dr. Roli educated us as to the ‘sequence of having food’. Surprised? She also explained the meanings of the terms – vata, pitta and kapha and the concept of food in Ayurveda – something that not only nourishes and vitalizes the body but also heals. Read further for healing your body and rejuvenating yourself through food:
Please explain the terms vata, pitta and kapha in a layman’s language. What types of yogic exercise would you advise for each body type?
Ayurveda is a basic science as it relates one with the Universe. According to Ayurveda Universe is ‘macrocosm’ and every human is a part of it by being a ‘microcosm’. The three basic elements that govern the universe are undoubtedly Air, Sun & Water. In the same way, the basic elements which govern the human body are Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Though each of us have all the three elements only two of these will decide our body constitution. Our body constitution is decided at the time of conception of the foetus in the womb, and never changes after birth or later.
Have you ever wondered that you and your neighbour (for instance) may shop for similar food items from the same super market, buy almost the same kind of groceries, you may even have the same food item and YET while he gets gassy from consuming it you get acidity. Closer still in your own home you may notice that similar food consumed by all of you may affect each one differently. Why is this? This is answered in Ayurveda as an individual’s body constitution, i.e. ‘Prakruti’.
Ayurveda believes that each one of us is unique and has his own body constitution which is defined and designed at the time of conception. This explains the subtle differences between individuals and explains why everyone is unique and that two persons can react very differently when exposed to the same environment or stimuli. It is important for each one of us to know our ‘prakruti’ so that we can avoid diseases, which may affect us. It helps in understanding some important physical and mental characteristics. So the apt knowledge of ones own prakruti helps immensely both in prevention and treatment of diseases.
For Vata predominance – Restorative postures like supta veerasana, supta badhakonasana, setu bandha sarvangasana.
For Pitta predominance – Calming & stabilizing like supta veerasana, badhakonasana, uttanasana, halasana, cooling prayanama [sheetkari & sheetali] and meditation.
For Kapha predominance – Dynamic poses as in sun salutations, standing poses, back bends and inversions.
Ayurveda recommends food that is “Saatvic” in nature. “Saatvic” food is vegetarian based, has a light sweet taste, with mild flavours of spice, and is easy to digest. It consists of fruits and vegetables, and mainly emphasizes on freshly prepared and properly cooked food, consumed at the right time and in right quantity.
Considering the body’s constitution, with a proper combination of all the six tastes we follow the standard Ayurvedic eating ritual. According to modern dieticians we should consume a ‘healthy balanced diet’ to maintain our health for prevention of diseases. A balanced diet includes all the six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent which supplies all the nutrients in adequate amounts in accordance with an individual’s age, sex and physical activity.
The food prepared at KARE imbibes the principle aspects of Ayurveda viz., viruddha aahar (contradictory food combinations), order of tastes in the meal and ingredients recommended by Ayurveda – rock sugar/ jaggery, rock salt and cow’s ghee.
Order of Taste in meals:
According to Ayurveda there is a specific order of tastes in the meal which is – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent & astringent.
We can have the dals & vegetables together as they are a combination of salt, sour, bitter, and pungent. One should preferably end the meal with some astringent. Astringent taste constricts the taste follicles on the tongue and satiates us. There is no further craving for food and one has a balanced meal, whereas if we eat sweet at the end, the mouth waters and we eat more and land up overeating.
What is it about KARE that you like?
The whole environment here is so friendly and the staff has always been like a family to me. It is not only me but you will find that no one here seems to be working. We serve with sincerity.
What does Dr. Kalmadi emphasize most?
Work sincerely with a smile or you are out!!
(I did notice that the staff seemed happy at work!!)
Lastly I asked her about the different terms such as pizhichil, shirodhara etc. as we have all heard of it but it is not clear as to what each one is about. Dr.Roli elucidates:
Pizhichil is a type of hot fomentation or swedana as lukewarm oil is poured over the body in a specific rhythmic manner. Pizhichil is an oil bath involving both swedana and snehana (oleation). Lukewarm herbal oil is poured, all over the body in a specific rhythmic manner continuously for 45 minutes and simultaneously the body is gently massaged. It is an excellent treatment for rejuvenation of tissues and needs to be done by at least 2 to 5 therapists. It is used in cases of arthritis, paralysis, hemiplegia, general debility, nervous disorders etc.
In this process warm herbal oil is poured on the forehead continuously in a specific manner for about 25 minutes a day and slowly the duration is increased. In shirodhara the temperature of the oil poured on the forehead is maintained throughout the treatment and the stream of oil should also be same in order to achieve best results. It is very relaxing treatment for brain and nervous system so it is carried out in a very peaceful environment under the guidance of doctors and trained therapists. Shirodhara is beneficial in cases of insomnia, stress, depression, hypertension, epilepsy, insanity, migraine and sinusitis. It is also a beauty treatment.
Below is a list of good Ayurvedic Colleges in Maharashtra and more here
R.A. Podar Medical Ayurved College
Dr. A. Besant Road,Worli, Mumbai-400 018 Tel : 022-4934214
Sadashiv Peth, Pune- 411030
Bharti Vidhyapeeth College of Ayurveda,Katraj,Pune.
Smt. K.C. Mittal Punaravasu Ayurved Mahavidyalaya
Charni Road, Mumbai 400002 Tel: 2056468
Dayabhaii Mawji Majithia Ayurved Mahavidyalaya
Shivaji Nagar, Arni Rd, Yavatmal-1 . Tel : 44234
Ganeshwadi, Panchavati, Nasik- 422003 Tel : 73112
Tilak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya
Rasta Peth, Pune- 411001 tel – 624755
Sion, Mumbai -400 022 Tel : 4072176
Boradi, Shirpur, Dhulo District -42542 Tel : 84234
Next on TONGUE TICKLERS…… – Recipes from Sukham Ayu.