As I sip on freshly squeezed orange juice and diced fruits straight from the farm at my residential cottage at Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort, Tamil renditions of Hindi songs linger in my mind. The hour-long drive from Coimbatore airport (Tamil Nadu) to the idyllic village of Palakkad, Kerala, which is flanked by palm tree-lined avenues, gives me a glimpse of why Indians crave travel to South India. I know I am Indian and this should have come earlier, but Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation were three words strictly out of my dictionary, let alone my lifestyle. However, a tough and exhausting past year had taken a toll my physical and mental being. My impromptu trip to this healing center couldn’t have come at a better time.
I couldn’t have been more wrong when I imagined Kairali as another spa getaway, where all I would do for four days was binge on junk food disguised as gourmet meals, get spa massages, and sleep to my heart’s content. On the contrary, I find myself waking up at 6 a.m. for yoga sessions, enjoying every bite of the breakfast I often skip, and following it up with traditional Ayurvedic massages. I actually enjoy the simple, spice-free Ayurvedic diet. Peacocks flock by our sides as we sit by the stream of water that runs through the property, nestling on some erstwhile English chairs and sipping herbal tea.
An ideal day starts with yoga at 6:30 a.m., after which you can relax by the pool or head to breakfast. Completely Ayurvedic, the meals are from a prix fixe menu, and for regular guests as well as for those undergoing treatment, they are strictly customized according to your diet chart. I am a food writer who survives on masala-based Indian fare, but if four days of eating here could make me fall in Ayurvedic food, then trust me when I say the cuisine is brilliant. Plus, I lost almost five pounds! There is no rocket science — the food simply uses sunflower oil instead of refined oil, less salt, and absolutely no spice. A simple cookbook and a bunch of recipes are all you need to make it a part of your diet.
Meditation and massages
There is state of tranquility where you are relaxed but not sleeping, and it’s called meditation. Contrary to what you may think, meditation does not mean sitting with our eyes shut for 10 minutes and replaying the same thoughts over and over again. As the guru told us, “You don’t meditate; it happens to you.” Even though my mother spent 10 years trying to get me to meditate, it is only now that I set aside 15 minutes of my day to do so.
All Ayurvedic treatments focus on holistic healing and use a lot of therapeutic oils. The most relaxing, abhyangam, eases muscle stress and focuses on complete relaxation, while shirodhara puts you in deep slumber with a focused stream of oil on the forehead. The massages at Kairali are customized according to your treatment.
Cottages are decided by Malayali star signs, so you’ll be assigned a room based on your birth date and horoscope. Every cottage is unique and houses a conch shell kept at a specific location to garner positive energy.
I sit by the poolside, my thoughts one with nature, listening to the rustle of leaves. Even though my young age doesn’t qualify me to be very wise, this is the closest I have come to nirvana. I laud myself for not carrying my laptop. My regular life can’t slow down to the serene pace which I found myself getting accustomed to at Kairali. It has no place here.
It’s been a month and I can’t say that I have completely adopted the Ayurvedic way of eating, which leaves me feeling much more energetic and relaxed, but I was forced to reconsider my dietary choices. I find myself meditating every day, avoiding junk food as much as I can, and restricting alcohol intake.
Who Should Visit
Not your typical leisure getaway, Kairali is a healing health resort, where people come for treatment of diseases ranging from obesity to arthritis to sclerosis. There are regular detoxification packages, which last from seven to 21 days, and everything —from diet to massages — is customized depending on the treatment you are undergoing. I was there for barely for four days, and as a result of being treated for stress — the ailment which binds us all — I was given a combination of abhyangam and shirodhara. But there are regulars who visit yearly, from all over the world, just to detox or relax.
Why You Should Visit
Upon arrival, you will have a consultation with your doctor to identify your ailments, after which you will be assigned a series of bespoke massages, exercises, diets, and Ayurvedic medicines — traditional and natural methods of healing. The combined effect of these treaments, coupled with the acclaimed Indian hospitality, is all you will need for a resounding wellness getaway. Let nature serenade you with its warm embrace as you head to this soul-searching experience in India.
A version of this review was originally published on Lettuce Review.