After travelling for over a month on my own I was ready for some company, and with the indulgence of a house boat all to myself and some time relaxing on the beach in Varkala I was looking forward to the week ahead. I had booked into Amrutham Ayurvedic Village Resort based near Kovalam. It was a short taxi ride from Varkala to the retreat, and being slightly out-of-the-way, we were greeted at a junction by a resort escort to guide us to what was to be my home for the next week.
After experiencing the five-star treatment at Shreya’s Retreat I knew it would be a tough act to follow, but I had searched for hours trying to find the perfect retreat that would suit what I was looking for. It had to have yoga and meditation, I wanted to try ayurvedic treatments and it needed to offer the flexibility of free time by a pool and be close to a beach. All was going well, I had made it safe and sound, I was blessed on arrival and an amazing lunch was served soon after I arrived. But my dreams of some company over the next week quickly faded as I learned the resort was not really a resort but a villa consisting of 8 quest rooms and there was only one couple staying for the next two days. I was to spend most of the week being the only guest there, again another off-season treat!
So I started to hit rock bottom. I had been experiencing quite a lot of back pain from all of the travelling and with not a lot of exercise over the first six weeks of my travels, my back was feeling neglected. And then the grief of my dad passing away caught up with me and I couldn’t shake it. I had booked a seven-day Svastii retreat which is designed to provide inner peace, reduce stress and make you fresh and fit and I really needed it.
Over the span of the week under doctor consultation, I had an Ayurvedic treatment every day. I did 90 mins of yoga every morning at 7am which was a challenge at the start with my back and meditation every evening. Breakfast and lunch were served between yoga and treatments and dinner after free time and meditation. It was the first time I had tried Ayurvedic treatments. Like the massages I had experienced in Thailand, so too in India, you need to leave your inhibitions at the door. I had four different types of treatments during the week.
The first was Sarvanga Kashaya Dhara which was prescribed to me as a massage to help with my aching back. It’s therapy which uses herbal decoctions makes the body perspire by pouring a warm decoction made out of herbs. It removes toxins and promotes fat metabolism, removes tension and is also good for pain and stiffness of the joints and muscles.
The second treatment I tried was Ksheera Dhara. This treatment felt amazing and was my favourite. It’s a treatment where lukewarm medicated milk is poured slowly and rhythmically over your forehead to your scalp. A thin piece of cloth is tied just above your eyebrows to prevent the milk running down your face. Ksheera Dhara helps with stress, headaches, insomnia and anxiety. It also nourishes and illuminates the skin. It was an extremely relaxing treatment which I didn’t want to end and my skin was glowing afterwards. The treatment was then repeated over my body, where two therapists poor milk consistently for half an hour. Bliss!
My last two types of treatment were Patra Potala Swedam and Navara Kizhi. With Patra Potala Swedam, leaves and powders of medicinal herbs are fried in an oil and then applied over the body as a massage in a scrubbing and patting like motion giving the therapist a good workout. It’s benefits can ease sciatic, which I have, and stiffness and pain, which I needed. It also benefits arthritic and inflammatory conditions. Navara Kizhi which was my least favourite of all the treatments uses a rice which is grown in 60 days. With its medicinal properties, the body perspires and what feels like grime residue lies on top of the skin as the therapist massages the body. I had this treatment twice and I was glad when both of them were over and I was clean!
After my treatments lunch was always ready and I found the food throughout the entire week to be of a high standard and in abundance. On my last day I was treated to Sadya (a Keralean feast normally prepared by men and often served at weddings), where vegetarian dishes are served on a banana leaf and you eat the meal with your hands! It was a feast indeed that left me rolling out of the resort.
After lunch, the afternoons were always my free time and I spent them mainly lounging by the pool. At around 5pm each day I was taken to a local site in the area such as a temple, the beach, or a lake. This was then followed by meditation and dinner around 8.30pm.
They say to feel the full benefits of Ayurvedic treatments you should do one a day for 28 days. I would have loved to have experienced the full 28 days, but unfortunately money wouldn’t allow. I could only image how amazing you would feel at the completion of it. After my seven-day experience, I felt rejuvenated, my back pain was gone, my grief was fading and I was feeling lighter and looking forward to venturing into my second month in India.
I thought Amrutham was a great place to experience a retreat. The staff were excellent and nothing was ever a problem which was a welcome change and the food was excellent. For the price of the retreat there were a few things that I found disappointing. It lacked comfort in areas which at times was excruciating for me with my back. The wi-fi in the guest rooms was non-existent and you could only get it in one area of the villa which meant sitting on wooden furniture and all I wanted to be able to do was flop onto some comfy sofss. The swimming pool also lacked comfort with their sun lounges and it would lose the afternoon sun early on in the day.
I also felt the yoga was way overpriced compared to what other resorts were charging. My instructor Sree was a great teacher and added special touches to my experience such as the Keralean feast on my last day and a lighting of the chakras on my last night which was very moving, however he was the only staff member teaching me yoga, taking me on excursions and for meditation. And with no other guests staying I began to tire of the same person. There was supposed to be a separate meditation teacher to yoga but it never happened and I gave up asking in the end. I did however find Sree’s approach to meditation informative and he helped me understand more about the sensations I had been experiencing during meditation. If they could make improvements in those areas it would definitely be a place I would happily return to. If you’re looking for a quiet retreat then Amrutham could just be the place for you.
Images shot on a Fujifilm XT100 and iPhone 4s ©Not The Jealous Kind 2015
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