Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I never really know why I am doing anything

Its strange isn't it, you think you are doing one thing when you are actually doing another. It has happened many times to me - I am drawn to something because of a reason I can identify with pinpoint precision - I go and do it, and come away with something totally different to what I had expected.
If I can explain further, I came to Kerala to learn more about how Naturopathy is applied in India, evaluate the results, see what it is good for, and integrate this knowledge into my practice - it seemed like purely business reasons. Good practical 'head related' stuff.
In addition to all of the above, I have grasped the real usefulness of Yoga therapy (subject of another blog), that is, the use of yoga in correcting imbalances, as well as a wide range of skills in the application of oils to joint problems, skin problems, sinus and allergy problems.
However, I don't think that is the REAL reason why I was here. Of all the places I have visited, I have special connection to India - and it is this connection that first drew me to come and study the herbal and naturopathic traditions here.
Even putting that to one side, a few days ago I visited the residences of the cooks and cleaners at the centre - they live in government provided housing, a very basic accommodation consisting of two rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom, both very sparsely furnished - they were all clearly delighted to see me - and laid out cake, tea, lemon water and many things, introducing me to their husbands, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, no king or queen has received such a warm reception - I really felt like royalty.
On leaving today, it struck me that the real reason I came here was to meet these lovely people and have them touch my soul. Connections of the heart know no boundaries, and I feel that the real friends I have made have been in the kitchens at Soukhyam. Here, the busy-ness did not mean that there was no time for a warm smile and a friendly greeting.
To Prasida, Shantim Bundu and Raj - I have learned more from you than could ever be taught in a classroom - bless you and thankyou for looking after me for four weeks - I wanted for nothing - and seeing where you live has made your services seem even more remarkable.
I have learned from you all that the only real lessons is that of the heart and that there is no need for a common language when you speak from the heart.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A healthcare system encompassing a number of modalities

India has 3 traditional systems of medicine - Ayurveda, Unani and Saddha. Here there are 291,000 regular practitioners of traditional medicine working alongside the 700,000 practitioners of modern medicine.

The uniquness of the medical system in Kerala is that it recognises Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and Modern medicine, not just in name, but the people here are provided with virtually free access to Allopathic, Homeopathic and Ayurvedic doctors by the state. There are state owned hospitals in all three modalities, and they are all recognised equally. The people choose which system of medicine they want.

This is indeed unique and refreshing to see, and is heralded as an example for the rest of the world, that it is possible to have allopathic, homeopathic and herbal doctors working within a healthcare system that puts at its heart the welfare of the population without any ego or commercial interests. I daresay that the commercial interests are here, but the ethos of natural medicine is ingrained in the population, and supported by the government, it was something that was completely new to me when I came here.

Kerala is one of the few states in India that offers free schooling to all children, there are government subsidised housing projects that mean that there are no slums in Kerala and it boasts one of the highest literacy rates in India.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Living in harmony with your environment creates health and strength

Jackfruit straight from the tree is a common treat here
Kerala is indeed a unique place, not only because of its coconut trees, banana trees and diversity of plants and herbs - but because I have seen here a people who are tuned into their environment.
The adaptation that takes place over many generations is clearly seen in virtually anyone you see, they are natural, graceful and exude a confidence that can only come from being perfectly at home in your environment - they belong here, and their bodies know it.
Our body has a code that is brought down from generations of genetic programming that dictates the particular climate, sun intensity, rainfall, temperature that it is most at home in. Its internal sensors determine whether your environment and your body is in tune, any mismatch in the internal and external codes creates stress.
The diet here is high in coconuts and rice, both grow here easily, virtually all the food has coconuts and rice included, the hot weather mean that the skin colour is dark, virtually everyone, young or old, is slim, stands tall and walks straight.
It is only those people who have desk jobs who have started to exhibit the classic signs of aging that we now see in the west so often.
3 generations of one family
Away from the pollution, mass food production, chemical fertilisers and high stress city living, the beautiful people of Kerala have shown me that it is not just possible - but essential to live in tune with my environment.
This does present me with a problem in England, as my body has Indian roots and craves for sunshine in the winter, for heat and vegan foods, so I now need to find ways to adapt my environment and foods to suit my body, it is the least I can do to to put into practice what I have learned here in Kerala.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Meet the team at Soukhyam

Let me introduce you to  some of the doctors at the Naturopathic Centre where I am working for a month in India.

Firstly, Dr Somnya, a very softly spoken and gentle person, but she does not mince her words, however, because of her gentle manner, it does not seem so bad. 'You are quite fleshy' she told me, which means that I am fat, from anyone else, it would have been offensive. She says it as it is. Dr Somnya knows her stuff, she studied Naturopathy for 4 years. In India, Naturopathy is a full time course, covering a full range of skills including Acupuncture,, physiotherapy, massage, diet, Yoga and much more. 
This is Dr Shimji, who set up Soukhyam, Dr Shimji's passion is unmistakable, he is a wonderful advocate for the Naturopathic way, born and brought up in Kerala, his father believed in drugless health, it has been a pleasure to be working alongside him, and to see his obvious talent and his winning bedside manner with the patients, I hope that Soukhyam will continue to grow and flourish, after only being open for 3 months, it is already running close to capacity. There is not even a signboard outside, yet the local people have come to find out about the work that is done here.

Here is the rest of the team of doctors:
Left to right, Dr Indira, Dr Soumnya, Dr Shafeena, (Shaiji and Babika in the background) and Dr Shimji

Next meed Dr Indira, I have not got to know Dr Indira very well, but she is an Ayurvedic doctor and has been preoccupied with other things, but I appreciate the level of her skill, and her obvious knowledge of the Ayurvedic herbs, and very much appreciated being shown around the herbal gardens with a knowledge of Ayurveda.

Dr Shafeena, I do not have an individual photo of, is also a Naturopathic Doctor, and highly skilled, I had a Swedish massage from her when I had backache, and she combined Swedish massage with Accupressure to releive the backache. Shafeena knows her stuff inside out, knowing the therapeutic value of each yoga posture, of the reason behind each therapy and is extremely professional in her commitment to the patients here, I respect her a great deal.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Yoga as a therapy

Today I want to talk about Yoga and how it is used at the Centre. When someone comes to Soukhyam hospital, whatever the complaint, there are many facets to their treatment. Hydrotherapy, nutrition, fasting, massage, physio - but everyone is given a specific programme of yoga. Here, yoga is used as a therapy, it is not just a random set of exercises, picked out of a hat to improve general flexibility. The exercises for each person are chosen specifically based around their abilities and their problems, and symptoms they are presenting.
Diabetes patients are given exercises to energise the pancreas and the digestion, hypertensive patients are given breathing to calm and relax, people with back problems are given specific exercises that will stretch the area of the back that is causing pain. Yoga supports and underpins all other treatments.
Yoga is a therapy for which each patient is given a prescription of exercise to do every day and it is treated as a central part of the treatment.
Pranayama - breathing techniques - are also prescribed for each person, depending on whether they are showing signs of over stimulation (eg hypertension) or depression (eg low thyroid, or low anything) - the opposite pranayama exercises are given - calming breathing exercises for the overstimulated, and stimulating exercises for the depressed organs.
The beauty about yoga is that firstly, it gives the person some power to take positive action to improve their health, and secondly, it is something that people can carry on doing after they leave here.
It is something that I am learning about and seeing in action and looking forward to applying when I get home.