DAY 2 – 19th September 2009

Our treatments prescribed the previous day, we were all set for the next morning to get them underway. Much of the previous evening went in figuring out how one would go about drinking the various juices and brews advised and manage to squeeze in the number of different treatments. We were laden with terminology alien to us but excited all the same. We were finally here and we were going to go ahead with the predefined 7 days, salt free food notwithstanding.
So what is Naturopathy?
A leaflet provided to us while we checked in describes it as thus: Nature cure is a drugless approach for the management of diseases. It does not advocate use of medicine.
This particular ashram in Uruli Kanchan, Nisargopchar Ashram, was actually set up by Mahatma Gandhi. His belief was that if you are in tune with the elements of nature then there is no cause for illness or disorder to set into your body. Nature cure takes its cures from the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. Each of these is used in therapies to bring back the balance in the body.
Our day at the Ashram began at 5 am. 5:15 we started the first yoga class. Over 2 days, NF figured out that we could do the 6:15 am class as well. So within 2 days we had started doing 90 minutes of yoga, the first class more of stretching and breathing exercises, the second one more energetic and challenging.
We got out of the class, all ready for our morning refresher. No no, no tea or coffee. It was kaadha – a herbal tea brewed from lemon grass, tulsi (basil) leaves and ginger with a bit of jaggery added to it. Post that, we went to a terrace to get our dose of the sun and the earth. A mud pack (mittilep) was applied to the stomach and we had to lie in the sun with it. The mud is supposed to be therapeutic and helps relieves many ailments like constipation, digestive disorders and urinary tract ailments. For people with skin disorders a complete mud bath is recommended. Sun bathing in the early hours gives you your dose of Vitamin D and also brings in the elements of air and fire into your therapy.
After the mud pack, we returned to a series of hydrotherapy treatments. Of the common ones prescribed were tub bath, hip bath, steam bath and spinal bath – each depending on your problems and indications.
This was followed by an (optional) massage. But you kind of waited for this. The maalishwali bais (masseuses) were each very good and characters unto themselves. The code of conduct here was that you got a masseuse assigned to you on the very first day, who then was your ‘bai’ till you left the country, figuratively speaking. So strong is this unwritten code of conduct that if you wish to change your assigned maalishwali to another one, no other woman will agree to do her job. However, if your assignee is busy and she is free to send you a substitute and you are to accept that unquestioningly, almost gratefully. Well, with their kneading and pummelling skills, you better go by what they say.
The massage no doubt is the best part of the deal. If only it could have been less noisy. But get these women together and they are bound to talk, nay, argue. Though whether they talk or argue, with their high-pitched voices, it all sounds like one big fight.
The massage having done, you proceeded to have a bath and then, feeling cleansed and rejuvenated, wended your way to the dining hall. It’s well into 10:30 am by now and the lunch gong has rung. Lunch consists of the virtually the same things we ate for dinner the night before except that the vegetable is different this time. But yes, the food is still devoid of oil, spices and even salt!
Post lunch you hurried your room for ‘quiet time’ a.k.a. afternoon nap. At 1 pm, a mitti patti was kept outside your room. This was mud, wrapped in a piece of cloth and folded into a flat band. You were to keep this on your eyes and forehead for its cooling and soothing effect.
3 pm brought us back the dining hall for our second round of kaadha. Then back to some more treatments. Local steam was one of them. A jet of steam was aimed at ailing parts – like knees, back and so on. For some patients, this warmed part was then bandaged in a linen cloth soaked in warm water then wrung out. This was then further bandaged with a woollen cloth to retain the heat inside. This was kept on for an hour.
The early evening was reserved for a brisk walk around the Ashram premises. Which then worked up your appetite for dinner. The dinner gong went at 5:30 pm. Yes, 5:30! Dinner had most of the stuff in the morning but with the addition of khichdi. It’s funny how the simplest of food suddenly take a place of importance when there is nothing else on offer.
Time and again, as we ate our sattvik food we wondered how we did not miss all those things back home. But in the Ashram it was easy to stick to the regimen because your pat h was not strewn with temptations. A bhel puri counter round the corner. A dosawala two signals away. Pav bhaji smells wafting tantalisingly into your nostrils. The Ashram had none of these. No wonder you had people not straying from the chosen path and knocking off quite a few kilos. 5 kilos, 7 kilos lost, was considered to be the norm.
As the day ended and we went back to our rooms, we wondered how we would fare on our return to nature.

Link to website: http://www.nisargopcharashram.org

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