The Fit Life, LLC

Saturday, February 15, 2014

India: The Finale

We’re headed into our last day in India. We’ll have the entire day tomorrow, and then leave in the wee hours of the morning for the airport—travelling back in time to the U.S. (at some time during flight, it will become a day earlier)!

I must admit as we end our retreat, I’m feeling calm and relaxed. I’m sleeping well. Other than one brief start of a migraine a few days ago—no headaches. And my complexion looks very nice.  I had my final consult with my Ayurvedic doctor this afternoon. She agreed I was pretty darn healthy (I saw a bit of her humor for the first time today—she’s not as stern as I originally thought). I leave with just one medicinal herb that is supposed to help with hormone balance (a non-ending struggle over the last four years or so). I actually lost a kilo (I think that’s about two pounds). I wasn’t attempting to diet or anything. In fact, I only had her re-check my weight because I’ve been enjoying the food so much here. 

I have gone ten days without alcohol or television—and both were hardly missed (doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy both in moderation when I return, but it’s nice to know they weren’t needed).  I’ve learned a lot about  Ayurvedic philosophies on body types and how to balance your own body type (Dosha). In doing that, I’ve learned that I could probably stand to slow down a bit—add a little yoga into my life—focus a bit more on what my body tells me it wants and needs. 

I’ve spent 11 days straight with my mother—first on an airplane and then in a small cabin—and we’ve gotten along really well. We typically do get along fairly well, but I’ll admit there was some apprehension about sharing a small cabin for that amount of time. I am simply a person who likes a fair amount of space and alone time. 

I’ve spotted two resort cats. I find cats everywhere I go—ask my husband. Sadly, they were not tame kitties, so I did not get my kitty fix while I was here. I did enjoy watching these tiny squirrels that are all around here scamper around the restaurant (open air restaurant) trying to find treasures to eat.
The people in our group (I believe 22 people in all) have been wonderful to meet—each adding a unique prospective to this experience. 

We’ve been immersed in a culture totally unlike our own, and it’s been an amazing awakening. I love to see and learn about other cultures. It makes me on one hand, appreciate my own a bit more, but on the other hand, yearn for something a bit different (which is one reason Mark and I are exploring retiring to another country at some point).  It can also be a little unnerving. You are a foreigner who does not know the language, who is unfamiliar with the religion, dress and culture. So if you’re a control freak (I do have some control freak tendencies) it puts you a bit out of your comfort zone. In fact, I deduced that that’s what made me so uncomfortable with the treatments here—the lack of control I felt. 

The part of the country we are staying in is primarily Hindu and Christian. We actually took a class on Hinduism and visited a Hindu temple during a holy ceremony. I am someone who has struggled with religious beliefs pretty much my entire life—and typically shy away from anything to do with religion. But here, religion seemed a much more beautiful thing. In the U.S. I associate religion with people telling you what the bible says is wrong (i.e. homosexuality, abortion etc.). Here religion seems to more about being loving, nurturing, accepting and thankful for everything the Earth has given you. It’s just a part of people here. It’s peaceful (well, until they get in a car—then it’s just insanity). 

So would I come back and do this again? (My Mom asked me this the other day). I’m so glad I did it, but probably not.  There are just too many other countries I want to explore and experience. And parts are sad—it’s over-crowded and so much poverty.  I do not enjoy bartering and pressure. And every shop you walk into here there is bartering and pressure. We visited one department store—no bartering there—but staff everywhere. When you started browsing through the clothing, they would stand right next to you picking things out and handing them to you. You literally could not just be by yourself and browse. That’s just too much for me. 

If I were having some chronic health problems I would definitely consider it. I do have strong belief in the way they heal here—using what nature gives us to create medicines/cures as opposed to the chemicals pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. try to put in us. I truly believe I am much less toxic than I was when I arrived (although compared to many, I lead a fairly toxin-free life in the U.S. I will continue to keep as many harmful things out of my body as possible).

And while I think yoga is a valuable practice—and can certainly be incorporated into my lifestyle—I still crave adventure and adrenaline. Yogis believe too much stimulation and excitement is harmful to our Doshas—that it causes imbalance. I believe it is part of what makes life worth living. That’s one I’m not willing to budge on.  How can something that makes me feel so alive be harmful? 

(I guess the fitness instructor in me has trouble believing that high intensity intervals can be bad for you, when they’ve done such good things for me!)

I miss my husband (this is the longest we’ve been apart since we met), and my furry kids, but I am not looking forward to the 20+ hour journey home. I dread it. But it will be nice to land in Columbus and see Mark. 

I will work on posting all my photos on The Fit Life, LLC facebook page. It may take me awhile to caption everything.  For now, I am signing off and preparing for departure.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kerala, India Con't

Day four of our retreat. I've now gone through four days of treatments--I think I'm getting use to be naked and fondled...kind of. Actually, as I listen to others in our group discuss their various treatments, I feel pretty lucky that I'm very healthy. I've been assigned six days of "Rejuvenation Therapy". Those who have health issues are assigned "Purification Therapies"...and yes, they are probably the types of things you are imagining in your head right now--things that require close proximity to a bathroom.

You'll like this. I had a reaction to some of the oils they used on my face, so here it the medicine they put on to help it.

It's like I'm back home doing a mud race!

Today we finally took a little excursion to a beach town about twenty minutes away--Kovalum. It catered to tourists, but it was nice to see something besides the resort. The water was nice, and I picked up a few souvenirs. I'm guessing every article of clothing I've bought in Yellow Springs, OH was made here. I actually saw a top I own in one of the stores. Pretty stuff though--and so much cheaper than we pay for it in the U.S.

Tomorrow, it's morning yoga/meditation (unless I skip out for a run on the beach), a trip to the herb farm where they make all the natural medicines used here, treatment #5, and a trip to a Hindu temple.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kerala Yoga Retreat Day One: It Gets Real

Today (Saturday. I'm posting a day late) was the first real day of our retreat. They took it a little easy on us in the morning, because we’re still battling jet-lag. In fact, I woke up at 2:30am and could not get back to sleep. So I tossed and turned and read a bit.

When the restaurant opened at 7am, Mom and I were there! As always the food was amazing.

At 9am we met our group for the formal welcoming (opening ceremonies if you will). We received our schedules for the week, and met the Ayurveda doctors that worked at the resort—the doctors we would be seeing that day to diagnose our Doshas, and work on any other problems.  They gave us detailed questionnaires to fill out that would help the doctors determine what our dominant Doshas were. Once the Dosha was determined, they would prescribe treatments that complimented them. 

We had a little free time on our hands before meeting with the doctors, so I took a dip in the pool. It is REALLY hot here. I needed to cool down.

Soon it was time for our appointments. Here’s where it gets really interesting. 

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas Anymore
The doctor I was assigned to was a very large, stern Indian woman. Although she was perfectly kind, I found her a little intimidating. The consultation didn’t take long. She looked through my questionnaire, took my blood pressure, checked my heart rate, and pushed on a few places to see if it hurt. Satisfied with the exam, they told me to come back at 2pm for my first treatment. 

I assumed it would just be a massage—perhaps focusing on my head and neck—where I tend to get migraines. 

What’s that saying about making assumptions? When you assume, you make an ass…

I’m going to be as detailed here as I possibly can to give you the full experience of my experience. If you start to get some unpleasant visuals, I apologize, but now you are feeling a bit of what I was feeling during treatment.

I arrived at the clinic and was introduced to my therapist. I will see the  same therapist for all six of my treatments. She smiled. Her English was very limited so our communication was pretty much one-word sentences and pointing. She said, “Come” and motioned for me to follow. “Shoes.” She wanted me to put my shoes on because we were leaving the clinic (you take your shoes off before you enter buildings here). I followed her down several walkways, between some buildings to another area of the resort where they had several treatment rooms. “Toilet?” Yes, that would probably be a good idea. She pointed to which door to go through for the toilet. 

We had been warned during our welcoming that treatments here are done naked. (There will be no pictures in this portion of the blog).

Say what???

So I was already a little nervous. I’m the woman in the locker room who changes in the little booth. I’m not the woman who struts around buck naked chatting with people. I don’t like to be naked in front of people. We were told you could ask for panties if you really felt uncomfortable, and they would bring you these little throw-away white panties.

So the therapist takes me to the little room. It’s an open air room, but the windows are high enough that people can’t see in if they walk by. There’s a large wooden table with a mat on it. There’s a little stool, another large thick mat on the floor, and a ring hanging from a rope on the ceiling.

“Clothes off!” she says.

“Ummmm….do you think I could have some uhh…panties?”

She leaves the room for a second and comes back in with a bag full of the generic white panties. She hands them to me and waits for me to get undressed and put the panties on.

Now most of you have probably had a massage in the U.S.  You can leave on whatever clothing you need to leave on to feel comfortable.  The therapist waits outside the room while you prepare. And you get to slide yourself under a sheet or blanket before the therapist comes back in.

That’s not how it works here.

Reluctantly, I strip down and quickly put the panties on. 

“Sit.” She says and points to the little stool covered with a cloth. There are a few towels on the ground to put my feet on.

She turns around to a table in the corner and lights some incense and candles. She pours some pungent oil into a warmer, and comes back over to me. She places her hands on my forehead and does a chant of some sort, then places some powdered herbs on my head. Then she takes the heated oil and starts oiling me up—EVERYWHERE. This goes on for a while. It’s a good massage; I’m just so self-conscious about my nakedness, that I have trouble relaxing. Soon a second lady comes in, and together they continue to rub the oil in in tandem. At the end, they wrap my oily hair in a towel and tie it into a little turban—and tell me to remain on the stool. The initial therapist leaves the room, and the other gets to work on the next thing that’s in store for me. 

She starts to tie a cloth to the ring that’s hanging from the ceiling. My mind immediately goes into panic mode, “For the love of God, what are they going to have me to next??? Some bizarre visions were coming to mind.

She then unfolds the large mat on the floor and sprinkles it with water. She then stands in the bowl of water herself, and does kind of a ritualistic cleaning of the mat. She puts another large cloth on it and gestures for me to lie on the mat. “Stomach”.  Hanging onto the cloth she tied to the ring for balance, she begins to massage me with her feet. Eventually she tells me to turnover, and massages my entire front side with her feet—breasts and all. 

By now I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this is how it’s done here. And, these ladies have seen hundreds of naked bodies by now. I’m just one of them. 

The final segment of this two-hour treatment is called Sirodhara. “Sira” = head. “Dhara” = continuous flow of liquid. A mixture of herbal oils and medicated milk are poured on the forehead in a special way for about 40 minutes. 

It was actually a pretty cool process. And, it was so relaxing that I actually fell asleep. (And they prescribe this treatment for me because of migraines and insomnia). 

They ended the treatment with a face massage. They then very thoroughly dried me off with towels. “Panties off.” Again, I reluctantly slid them off, and handed them to her. She held out a maroon cloth robe that I had seen many people around the resort wearing. My clothes were in a bag. My oily hair was once again tied into a towel turban.

The therapist escorted me back to the main clinic. I felt a little out of it/disoriented so it was good to have an escort. 

Back at the clinic she gave me some hot herbal water (that’s big here—even though it’s 90 degrees) and said, “You come back tomorrow at 2pm.” 

I guess I better get over this naked thing because I have five more “treatments” to go. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kerala, India: Arrival and Day One

After a few very long days of travel, we arrived in Kerala, India this morning. I don’t really have any entertaining or remarkable stories to tell about the trip here. It was fairly uneventful—just very long. We left Columbus, Ohio the morning after a snowstorm (with only a two-hour delay—which was a relief), flew into Chicago’s O’Hare.  We splurged on a nice dinner at the Hilton across the street because we had about five hours to kill and really didn’t want McDonald’s. From O’Hare we had a 13-hour flight to Abu Dhabi. That was rough…many screaming babies and I thought the plane felt like it was about 80 degrees. It was like a 13-hour hot flash. At Abu Dhabi I bought a t-shirt at the souvenir shop because I just needed a change of clothes!

Unfortunately, it was dark when we landed in Abu Dhabi. I wanted to see what the city looked like. The airport was very large and very crowded. After a few hours in Abu Dhabi, we boarded our final flight—four hours to Trivindam, India. We arrived in India around 3:30am Kerala time. Of course, at this point, our bodies had no idea what time or day it was.  Other than a few cat naps on the plane, Mom and I had not slept since we awoke Wednesday morning in Ohio.

Getting through customs was a piece of cake. We exited the airport and found our group waiting for us outside. 

Again, it was dark as we traveled the half hour or so to our resort, so I didn’t get a chance to see the area. But it was nice getting to know the people we would be spending the next ten days with. It’s very warm and humid here (my hair is extra curly). But you also have to dress somewhat conservatively (no shorts, but it appears my sleeveless yoga tops will be fine), so the heat will take some getting used to!

Since we arrived at the resort very early in the morning, the rooms were not ready. So as much as we really wanted to shower and sleep, that would have to wait a little while longer. But we had a delicious breakfast and walked around the resort a bit. It also gave me time to Skype Mark and let him know I had arrived safely.

Around 9am we were able to check into our little bungalow. It’s very small and simple, but nice.  After a long shower, I settled in for a 4-hour nap (I meant to just sleep two hours—enough to keep me going until bedtime—but my body just wanted more).  I have to say, I still don’t think I’ll have any problem having a good night’s sleep tonight.

It was a pretty mellow day. We walked down to the beach and stuck our feet in the Arabian Sea (a first for my feet!).  I was going to take a dip in the pool to cool off, but it closes early in the evening.  We just returned from dinner with our entire group—19 people. 

Tomorrow morning we will have breakfast around 8am (they are taking it easy on us since many of us are still very jet-lagged). At 9am we will officially get the retreat rolling by meeting with the Ayurvedic doctors and receiving our first treatments.

Since I’m a novice here when it comes to yoga and Doshas, people have been guessing what mine is. The general consensus is Pitta with some Vata.  More on doshas tomorrow, but basically the belief is that everyone has a certain make-up, and you should eat foods that compliment your body type. The food here is labeled for different body types, or there is “Common Food” which is okay for all body types. (since I have not officially been diagnosed with a Dosha yet, I ate EVERYTHING)!
I met a few others in the group who are interested in running on the beach, so hopefully I will have a few running buddies so I can get my fix while we’re here.  (If I keep eating like I did today, I certainly won’t come back any leaner). I am really interested in seeing how my body likes eating for my body type.

More tomorrow—I need a full night of sleep.

About Me

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I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.