My Adventures in Nagpur, India (Part 1)

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Namaskar! I am so happy to be home and to have finally found some time to write down my travel experiences in detail. I hope you enjoy reading my tales as much as I enjoyed reminiscing.

Standing outside the Vinayak Panchakarma Chikitsalaya after a day of shopping

My recent journey to Dr. Joshi’s Ayurveda Chikitsala in Nagpur, India was a relaxing adventure. The clinic is clean and breezy with marble floors on all four levels. Most people visit the clinic to receive Panchakarma, a series of five actions designed to detoxify and rejuvenate the body and protect against disease.  The series of treatments is customized for the individual who needs it and can last anywhere from several days to several months. I was there for three weeks to study and complete my certification along with eleven others from different countries including France, Finland, Australia, Brazil, and Estonia.

The clinic is an outstanding facility and I certainly would not want for many things were I to stay there for any length of time. The ground floor houses the offices of both Dr. Joshi and his wife, Dr. Shalmali Joshi, and the herbal dispensary. Pravin and his skilled team of technicians administer the Ayurvedic therapies: swedana, shirodhara, basti, and snehana. These are steam therapy, oil streaming, hot oil pooling, and massage, respectively. The physical treatments involve lots of oil application using various methods. Why so much oil, you ask? The reason for the oil in snehana, for example, is to provide a vehicle for absorption through the skin, easing liquification of toxins in the body, increasing softness of the skin, and aiding in the removal of wastes, or kledas. And what kind of oil, you ask? We hand made medicated sesame oil as well as medicated ghee.  The therapy rooms in Dr. Joshi’s clinic were spotless and polished with attached showers and custom-made massage tables. The sound system played Hariprasad Chaurasia’s flute or sometimes the joyful Gayatri Mantra if Pravin was feeling frisky.

Cooking medicated oil on the rooftop of the Chikitsalaya

Pravin makes the important medicines in-house and supervised our clinical projects. He is Dr. Joshi’s right-hand man! Up above the Clinic on the roof is a legion of solar panels that give the clinic reliable electricity (India is known for its power outages). The roof became my solace when I needed private time for meditation, sunshine, and a bird’s eye view of the city. I spent much time there contemplating and observing the city awaken below me. There is also a covered terrace on the roof with sofas and a cooking area where the huge caldron sat for hours bubbling with our herbal concoctions for the first week of my stay. We cooked five medicines in the first week: Vatshamak oil (for treating Vata) and Chandanbala oil (indicated for Pitta), Brahmi ghee (for consumption),  Nasya Basti (nasal drops), and Chyawanprash (a nourishing fruit jam made with amla, herbs and jaggary–so delicious!). In the second and third weeks we practiced administering the snehanaoils to each other using different techniques.

Making Chyawanprash… very slowly

My typical day in the clinic was an early morning gentle yoga session that included quite a bit of singing. These chants quickly became something so charming and respectful about India’s culture to me. Spirituality is not reserved for church, special occasions, or holidays; the Hindu religion pervades each persons daily life. It is seamlessly part of the Indian culture and identity which I found novel and comforting.

Fifteen minutes after yoga class, I enjoyed a savory breakfast–my favorite! Nearly all of the meals were fabulous to me, partly because they gave me great energy every day. The consistent daily schedule also benefitted me very well and is something I’m looking forward to implementing into my dinacharya, or daily routine. Around nine a.m., Dr. Joshi would come into the room, take off his shoes, and go directly to the corner altar of Ganesha to pray. He would then lead us in Gayatri Mantra and greet us warmly, always with a smile. When Dr. Joshi lectures, he speaks emphatically and frankly about his professional experiences and with even more enthusiasm when quoting Ayurvedic texts in Sanskrit. He really loves Sanskrit! He is so passionate about it that it became easier for me to assimilate as much as I could.  I’ve been telling everyone that five minutes into Dr. Joshi’s first lecture, I knew I had made the right decision in going. I never got tired of sitting on the floor and my back didn’t ache once (strong core, thank you, Ashtanga yoga!).

Soupy daal with carrots, cilantro, and curry leaves

We adjourned for lunch usually before one p.m. Lunch was the biggest meal of the day and always included mildly spiced, soupy daal (bean and rice soup), basmati rice, steamed vegetables, and chapati (flatbread). I personally never got tired of it. I always had enough to eat and the few symptoms that I had disappeared over the course of my stay. Around two or three in the afternoon, we would regroup and meet up to learn the clinical treatments. Pravin would usually demonstrate on a lucky staff member and then we would perform them on our partner. The treatments ranged anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours or more. For a few long nights, we didn’t get out of the treatment rooms until after 9pm!

Dinner was much the same as lunch, but was always freshly prepared as Ayurveda does not recommend eating leftovers. My group would sit at the long dining table and *attempt* to eat in silence, but we usually ended up having lively dinner conversations. Both lunch and dinner were measured out for each of us and put into separate compartments called tiffin (read: Indian lunchbox) that were kept warm inside a Thermos. Brilliant! I bought two at a small shop.

Clockwise from top: chapati, coconut & pea salad, papadum, curried potatoes, basmati rice

The dorm rooms were spacious and clean, with only two single beds, a locker with closet space, and a bathroom with shower. My roommate was from Bordeaux, France and became a very dear friend on this trip. She showed me around the city and took me outside my comfort zone on many occasions, approaching strangers with a smile (who were always hospitable and friendly as well), frequenting the street vendors, exploring the different temples, and dragging me through the city to make sure I got everything on my shopping list. She was a Hindu convert and this was something like her tenth trip to India. She taught me many important things and sought to live an authentically Ayurvedic lifestyle; in so doing, her mindfulness was apparent in her every action. It was truly impressive to witness. We both feel fortunate to have shared time and space together since we had not met before the trip. Each of us did not specify a roommate during our planning phase, but kept ourselves open to whomever we may be paired with…almost as a lark. Wow, it totally worked! What luck!

The goods trade hands at the street vendors juice bar



Cows taking over the sidewalk!

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