Articles in the Press
MY AYURVEDIC TRIP TO NIVARNA
BY NORMANDIE KEITH
Sunday Mail (YOU Magazine)
Normandie Keith ditched her mobile phone and Pepsi Max to embark on a detox programme that transformed more than just her body.
Having just turned 29, I've been looking back and realised I've spent a lot of time taking care of my outside and not much looking after my insides. So, as a birthday treat, I decided to purify my body and explore a new way of life.
Ayurveda - which literally means the science of life - is a form of holistic health and beauty care that originated in India 5,000 years ago. My favourite things - increased energy, reduced stress, proper digestion, weight loss, improved skin and better sleep - are just some of the benefits. Need I say more?
Having just turned 29, I've been looking back and realised I've spent a lot of time taking care of my outside and not much looking after my insides. So, as a birthday treat, I decided to purify my body and explore a new way of life. Ayurveda - which literally means the science of life - is a form of holistic health and beauty care that originated in India 5,000 years ago. My favourite things - increased energy, reduced stress, proper digestion, weight loss, improved skin and better sleep - are just some of the benefits. Need I say more? I signed up for the detoxification programme called panchakarma.
DAY ONE Woke up at 7am to take 15ml of warm ghee. The reason I am awake at this ungodly hour is so that the ghee is passed through my system, collecting toxins from fat cells on its way and centralising them in the gut. If taken after 8 am the ghee itself is digested, and uses up the digestive energy that I am trying to conserve. By limiting my number of calories and having no fats, dairy products, sugar, alcohol, coffee, tea, tinned or micro-waved food (my staple diet!) I will supposedly give my system a break.
By midday I have a hideous headache and have had to remove my belly chain for fear of breakage - it's amazing how fast those toxins rush down to the tummy. My diet today consists of plain pasta, dried fruits and cooked vegetables. I have traded in my beloved Pepsi Max for herbal tea and taken two naps, during which I dreamed of McDonald's, french fries and swimming in a pool of chocolate pudding.
DAY TWO Another 7am start and 25ml of ghee butter. This isn't good - my tummy has swollen so that I look like a pregnant Teletubby and there are still jackhammers going off in my head. But I am staying positive and out of sight, reading and meditating - my stomach has now begun to chant with me and twice sent Suge, my Chihuahua, scurrying out of the room in fear. He's seen the movie Alien.
DAY THREE Today was a shock. Having never taken castor oil before, I didn't know what to expect. Now that I do, all I can say is, how can this stuff be legal? Three hours after my prescribed dose of 30 mls found myself promise to give up any beauty/gossip column secrets in exchange for the ordeal to end. Looking like a power walker, I charged between bed and loo all day. After which I had a startling realisation - this was only the pre-treatment.
DAY FOUR Bucking up my courage, I set off for the Peak District with Suge. On the drive up it seemed everywhere I looked sweets and fizzy drinks were calling out: 'This is your last chance, stop the car, no one will know.' But with every last ounce of willpower, I forged on. It was foggy when we got up to Ashbourne, a little bit Blair Witch Project, so I turned on my mobile for some urban security. What, no signal? No food, no Pepsi Max and now no signal; I'm going to die up here. I grabbed hold of my unravelling nerve long enough to turn into the drive to Rose Cottage, my residence for the next five days.
Upon arrival my anxiety dissipated as my three lovely Ayurvedic technicians, Carol, Danny and Mary, greeted me warmly at the door. They were also pleased to see Suge. I was starving after the sensory overload of passing so many Little Chefs, so I sat down to a lunch of rice, dhal, asparagus and mixed vegetables; apple slices in apricot sauce for desert and a delicious fennel tea. Surprisingly, I loved it all and felt very satisfied afterwards. Danny explained that each meal should contain six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. This satisfies the palate and leaves the body feeling balanced. Let the treatments begin.
My first, Abhyanga, was sheer ecstasy. Carol and Mary massaged me in tandem. Four hands, synchronised to perfection, kneaded my skin with specially blended oils for my body type (vata/pitta). I have never had such a complete relaxation experience. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I was given Shirodhara, which, trust me, will get you as near to nirvana as you will ever manage while still breathing.
Warm aromatic oil flowed rhythmically back and forth across my forehead, calming and soothing me. When I drifted back to my room, I slipped under the sheets to find a toasty hot-water bottle waiting for me. Aah! The simplest of pleasures after the greatest indulgence.
DAY FIVE Began at 9 am with red grape and ginger juice, then it was off to the bathroom to clean my teeth and scrape my tongue (my favourite new beauty tip). Ama, or toxins, can be seen on the tongue in the morning. If you have eaten late at night or your digestion is generally poor - it that four-ply cashmere feeling your tongue sometimes gets. So you literally slosh off the gunge with a stainless steel scraper, revealing a fresh pink tongue and fresh breath.
I then went downstairs and did an hour of yoga and an hour of meditation with Danny. My body felt very free and was itching to stretch like a cat - I actually felt like purring! - as each yoga pose hit the spot. The meditation was deep and I kept nodding off, which Danny said was normal, since meditation gives the body what it needs. So in my case? Rest.
After the meditation, my Ayurveda lessons began. Danny explained that body types fit into three categories; vata, pitta and kapha. Vatas tend to be vibrant, emotional, adaptable and enthusiastic; pittas are perfectionists, impatient, strong-minded and courageous; kaphas are calm, deep sleepers, complacent, compassionate. Most of us are a mix of two types, but Ayurvedics believe that knowing our body types means we can live harmoniously with the cycles of day and nature, as the days and the seasons are also linked to these categories. It is important to follow a diet that is tailored to your type. I am a vata/pitta type so need food that is warming, such as stew and hot drinks, not dry things, as my skin, nails and hair are quite dry.
That afternoon I had Netra Tarpana - my eyes were bathed in ghee. This is done in order to improve any eye disorders (you look as though you have trendy yellow-tinted glasses on, except they are wet). Then it was time for another glorious Abhyanga massage, followed by Swedana for which my body was enclosed in a cedar cabinet filled with herbalised steam. My head was the only thing exposed and Mary kept it cooled with compresses. The vapours softened and dilated the channels of my body, allowing the impurities to be moved out.
I wrapped up warm in my fluffy robe and cushy slippers and moseyed back to my room, where I was given a Matra Basti, which is warm sesame oil inserted enema-style, to nourish the system and gather toxins for further elimination the next day.
DAY SIX The big one. Toxins and impurities were supposed to race out of my body, Carl Lewis style, and I would be pure (hallelujah). To start the day I had Pizichilli, where gallons of warm oil flowed from hoses that were guided along my body as I was simultaneously massaged. The heat of the oil was gradually increased and the toxins flowed freely from my pores. After this treatment I was given a Shodhana Basti enema to complete the cleansing process. Today's diet was light, only peya - a soup of white basmati rice and mung beans. But by the day's end I felt brighter, lighter, flatter (belly chain on and dangling!) and had a profound sense of happiness and wellbeing.
DAY SEVEN Each treatment began with a delicious foot-bath, and face and head massage, which proved to be a fantastic treatment for the hair. Coconut oil was used and my head wrapped in a chic turban towel (which is easy to do at home). I wanted to whack on some false eyelashes and swan around like Joan Crawford, but this was not the place. Instead we started the day off with Marma. This gentle massage balances the body's subtle energy points and left me in a Zen-like state. My afternoon delight was Garshan, which saw me massaged with raw silk gloves for a brisk exfoliation, refreshing the skin and reducing cellulite (there is a God!).
DAY EIGHT One final exquisite massage and then back to the real world. I couldn't believe how great I felt. Being without TV, my phone, even a newspaper left me with my own thoughts, and the vast space and new education of Ayurveda deeply affected me. I loved the quiet, peace and steadiness I felt - that is, until I went to gather up Suge for our journey home and couldn't find him anywhere. I located him with Carol, who was lovingly massaging him with lavender oil to settle him. The total goodness of my new friends reminded me how generous people can be. So what I would say to you all is this: if there is ever a time when you can get away, go. Educate your mind, revive your body and renew your spirit. Ayurveda UK isn't a fancy, plush spa - it's the real deal, a life-changing experience. And I didn't even stop at McDonald's on the way home.
Lentil soup for the soul
by Samantha Conti
Their clients range from bus ticket collectors to British royals, and their philosophy falls somewhere between Deepak Chopra and an Indian grandma. Carol and Danny, who run Ayurveda UK, are in the business of balancing body and mind - with regular doses of castor oil and lentil soup. "We believe that if you quiet and tidy up the mind, then the body can do what it needs to do," says Carol. They adopt a yin and yang approach to work "I'm the emotional counsellor, he's the Ayurvedic scientist," Carol explains.
The couple are relaxing on a leather sofa in the lobby of London's Excel conference centre, where they have spent the past few days walking over hot coals - part of a mind-over-matter exercise - at a lecture given by self help guru Anthony Robbins. Carol, a former photographer, and Danny, a former nature reserve warden, discovered Ayurveda - the ancient Indian life science that encompasses diet, healing and spirituality, via transcendental meditation and yoga - 20 years ago. After studying the practice at Maharishi University of Valkenburg in Holland, the two worked regularly with Ayurvedic doctors, simultaneously becoming experts in everything from therapeutic massage techniques to Eastern philosophy. They established Ayurveda UK in 2000.
While past clients have included the late George Harrison and socialite Jemma Kidd (the couple won't reveal current clients' names, although two members of England's royal family are devotees, as are a sprinkling of European aristos), there is nothing glamorous about their methods, which are – literally - rather homely.
The two either move directly into the client's house to deliver a 10-day detox treatment, or practice out of a small red-brick cottage in the Staffordshire countryside. Ideally, a client will stay for a 10-day period, twice a year. The couple currently have 22 clients and a rather long waiting list.
"People come to us for weight loss - but that’s often just a side effect of the treatment. I try to help them figure out what's attached to that weight," says Carol, whose methods range from basic one-on-one counselling, life coaching and stress management to Thought Field Therapy, intended to clear emotional baggage like phobias or addictions by gently tapping pressure points on the body. Danny meanwhile develops a specific program of massage, warm oil treatments, yoga, meditation and a daily eating and sleeping routine aimed at helping the body discharge toxins. One of the couple's main aims is to improve digestion - so, yes, enemas are sometimes involved.
Carol and Danny's clients - ranging in age from 18 to 80 – experience a variety of problems, from chronic illnesses to chronic irritations like headaches, bloating and indigestion. "Many simply come to us because they want to lead a healthier life," says Danny.
Before the uninitiated even start the program, their Ayurvedic advisors suggest they lay off meat, dairy, coffee and tea. Carol greets clients with a cup of hot water infused with ginger or fennel - to get those digestive enzymes flowing - followed by a lunch of steamed vegetables with lentil sauce or carrot and red lentil soup. For those on the full Ayurveda detox the first drink of the morning is ghee - clarified butter, meant to gather all the body's oil-based toxins, which are later flushed out by a dose of castor oil - followed by carrot and spinach juice and more hot water with ginger.
Reassuringly, life isn't all home-grown and healthy chez Carol and Danny, and the last thing they want to project is a holier-than-thou image "You have to live a little - if you can't resist the pizza, have it, but at lunch time rather than in the evening so it’s digested more easily," advises Carol. Danny adds, "We're human, and I think that's why our clients like us. We travel often, and when we eat out, we'll have a meal that may not always be vegetarian. And we might even have a beer!"
Author: Helen Bradshaw
Author’s rating: 5 star
Atmosphere: Very warm and pleasant
Staff service: Excellent
This is quite a lengthy review, as there was a lot of detail to cover. I hope you enjoy reading it nevertheless.
I have been looking forward to the short break I have just taken for months and months now. I first found out about Ayurveda UK last April, when a Daily Mail reporter wrote an article about her own stay. I initially enquired back then but decided I could not really afford to go at that time. However, as we entered the New Year 2002, I had been thinking about enquiring again, when they mailed me out some marketing information. I grabbed the bull by the horns, and took the first week available, which was last week.
Ayurveda UK is in Tutbury, Staffordshire. I checked in for five days of treatments. Ayurveda UK only takes one guest at a time, typically for five days, although some do stay ten. This means on average only 25 guests a year can be seen. The proprietors will also go to your home to carry out the treatments, if your cheque book is big enough. They do this every year for Prince Andrew, apparently, so I was in good company.
My five day stay in Tutbury cost £2400. Full payment is required on booking. However, they are almost fully booked now until the end of 2003, and therefore I was glad that I was able to get in when I did.
Ayurveda is an Indian approach to general health and wellbeing. It is holistic in nature, and involves treating the mind as much as the body. This type of treatment dates back thousands of years, and is a simple approach to health, and what we eat.
Ayurveda basically states that there are three main body types. These are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. I completed a short questionnaire prior to my arrival at Ayurveda UK, and this was interpreted to state that I was a Pitta/Kapha type. They also said that my Kapha was out of balance, and this was causing some of the effects I had suffered from for years, such as prone to weight gain, lethargic, lacking in energy and prone to sinusitis and congestion.
We all have some elements of each type in us; however some elements will usually be stronger than others.
The treatment I undertook is called Panchakarma. The emphasis for me for the five days would be enabling the Kapha elements in my body to get back in balance again.
Panchakarma essentially involves releasing, loosening, melting, mobilising and eliminating toxins from the body. Toxic residue from food creates water retention, excess weight, painful joints and cellulite. Treatment would consist of a healthy diet, massage, Yoga and exercise, meditation and Bastis (more on these later!).
Panchakarma is focused on cleansing the digestive tract, and requires preparation. There are numerous books on the topic of a healthy gut, and why doing so reduces the likelihood of serious disease somewhat, which unfortunately there isn't the room to go into here.
Preparation for my Trip:
I was advised that I needed to eat a light diet for five days before I went away. This consisted mainly of vegetables, rice and lentils. No bread, potatoes, meat or fish, alcohol, coffee, tea, or dairy! As I thought I was a particularly sad case, and I really wanted to kick start my weight-loss, I followed this diet for seven days. During the day, I mainly had soup, and in the evenings, I ate mainly tasty Ayurveda curries, which were in the recipe section of my pre- treatment reading material. All the recipes I tried were extremely tasty.
The tongue contains taste buds which register six types of taste, these being sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter and astringent. It is recommended that all six tastes are included in a meal, to reduce cravings, and increase the feeling of satisfaction. It was working for me so far.
I was also advised to take Ginger Pickle, about half an hour before the main meal. This can be made by combining a teaspoon of lemon juice, tsp grated ginger, tsp honey, and a pinch of salt into a small bowl. This has the effect of satisfying the taste buds, and also firing up the digestive enzymes in preparation for the meal.
I was also advised not to bring many clothes, as I could predominantly stay in my dressing gown all day. No wild nights on the town for me then..!
My Stay: Sunday
I was greeted by the two proprietors, who live next door. I was shown around the property that was to be my home for the next five days. The property is a terraced cottage about five minutes from the village centre in Tutbury. The property contained a kitchen area, lounge, stacked to the ceiling with inspirational books, and health books, and inspirational CD's or relaxing music, bedroom, conservatory, treatment room, and bathroom. No television or loud music here! The property is homely and comfortable.
I was given a flask full of fennel tea (delicious), and several bowls of vegetable soup. One of the weaknesses in my own diet is (was!) that I do not take enough fluids, of the right type anyway, and I was soon to realise that I was going to be drinking a lot of teas of different varieties over the coming days.
Prior to my meal, the first stage of the detox began. I was given a small amount of Ghee, to digest. This process is called Shehana, and involves taking increasing amounts of ghee over a period of a few days. This is a very pure food, and aids the process of detoxification. It isn't a particularly nice taste, however, and this can be overcome by sucking on an orange segment after taking it!
All my meals were prepared by Carol, one of the proprietors, in my kitchen. Meals were served in the conservatory, and I dined alone. I was also advised not to clear away after myself, which is a test for us Pitta types, as one of our traits is that we are extremely organised and tidy (apparently).
The first health tip I received was about the practice of tongue scraping. Apparently the white coating you get on your tongue sometimes is Ama or undigested food. It is toxic to the body. I was given a tongue scraper and advised to use this during my normal tooth brushing routine. Scraping the tongue each morning avoids this toxic residue being absorbed back into the body. It also helps to give you fresher breath!
I was also advised to use all the toiletries as provided, and not the ones I had carried down with me, and lay out in the bathroom. All the products and food at Ayurveda UK are Organic or "Green", and the proprietors often visit their suppliers to find out how products are made before they will use or recommend them.
I was left to my own devices for the evening, and I relaxed, with the music and library of books at my disposal, before retiring to bed early, as instructed.
I rose at 6am, and Carol arrived at 8am. She prepared my breakfast - a carrot and ginger drink, fresh from the juicer. I was also given a flask of Ginger tea, which is simply hot water, and about three or four one inch pieces of root ginger, in a flask.
The other proprietor, Danny, came about nine AM, and started the first of several educational sessions and Life Coaching sessions over the next five days. This morning we started with Exercises and Yoga, which I was new to. I learned several different Yoga positions, and the Sun Salute routine. Danny also taught me Belly Breathing, which is an excellent way of relaxing after exercise, and calms the mind as well as the body. We then practiced Pranayama, which is a Nasal breathing exercise, again designed to relax, but also aids congestion. He then talked to me about Vedic Meditation, and we practiced that. It is remarkably easy, and extremely stimulating to the mind. It is recommended to have two 20 minute meditation sessions per day, and this became my routine for the rest of the week (and continuing now I am home).
Carol came and cooked me a delicious lunch of Buckwheat and vegetables. Delicious - and presented so beautifully.
In the afternoon, my massage treatments began. Ayurveda massage involves two technicians working in total harmony on each side of the body. Every massage treatment I received during the week began with a Head Massage and Foot Massage. I was then massaged all over with gallons of sesame oil, and advised to use the movement of the technicians as my Mantra, to help me relax. This had to be one of the most enjoyable and heavenly massages I have ever experienced in my entire life. It was followed up with a treatment where gallons of sesame oil ran past my forehead, again, totally heavenly. The entire treatment took about two hours, and then I was retired to bed for half an hour, where I found a cosy hot water bottle.
The next stage of the process is Virechana, which is a process with castor oil to flush the toxins from the colon. My diet was extremely light today, just Peya Soup, which is a soup made from Yellow Mung Beans and basmati rice. In the afternoon, I had a different type of massage and one designed for weight loss. It was a deep massage using a herbal paste which was followed up with a steam treatment, where my entire body was encased, apart from my head.
Finally, in the evening, the Basti treatments began. These are Herbal enemas, given by an Ayurveda technician, and quick if not that dignified! However, if they are good enough for a Prince, they are good enough for me, I suppose. These continued for the next two days. One was designed to eliminate and two were simply to nourish.
I had another of the Weight Loss Massage. My skin was noticeably softer by this time, and was beginning to clear up somewhat. I had the afternoon free, and so I went into the village for a little walk. However it was half day closing, and not many places were open. I think this is a ploy to ensure you don't buy any food you are not supposed to be eating. In the evening, Carol also carried out a lymphatic drain massage on my legs. She (and I) had noticed that I had some blockages in my lymphatic system, and this would help clear them.
This happened to be my Wedding Anniversary, and I received flowers from the other half. A very unusual way to spend the day, with two enemas and the last of my invigorating Weight Loss Massages.
My last day, and I had another of the heavenly massages I had had on the first day, together with my fourth and final steam treatment. Once I dressed and packed I discussed the next stages of the treatment with Danny and Carol. Carol prepared me some soup for the journey home, and also gave me Sesame Oil and Skin Brushes for use at home.
I must say by the end of the trip, I felt lighter, and a lot more energised than when I had arrived, and I feel this was a worthwhile investment. The educational sessions, together with the library of books (I read heaps), has considerably increased my knowledge on alternative health and has given me a great deal of motivation to maintain a healthy diet.
It is important to continue a light diet after the five day Panchakarma treatment, and I will therefore be continuing in this manner for another few days yet, despite my birthday tomorrow.
The ideal daily routine should run something like this:
Arise at Dawn, Skin Brush, Massage with Sesame Oil, Sun Salute, Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation, Clean Teeth, Scrape Tongue, Shower. Porridge and Vegetables Juices for Breakfast. Drink Hot Water.
Lunch at Midday, should be the largest meal of the day, followed by a short walk and brief rest.
Afternoon: Creative work and Vata types might need a light snack and in the early evening some Yoga.
It is recommended that to keep the body and digestive system in top working order, we should undertake Panchakarma treatment twice a year. It is also recommended to do a mini detox every three months. I am not sure if I can afford to go again next year but if there is a way, I will - I want to go back. It was a life changing experience and the best treatment that the body and mind could have - and deserves to have!