Calming our ego at AyurYoga Eco-Ashram in India

Selda Goodwin reviews AyurYoga Eco-Ashram, an ayurveda and yoga retreat on the banks of River Kabini in the peaceful district of Mysore in Karnataka and finds an authentic, peaceful, community-led Ayurveda retreat run from the heart.

I arrive in the Mysore district of the Southwestern state of Karnataka just as the sun rises. I am hopeful that seven days of my favourite Ayurveda treatments at the AyurYoga Eco Ashram will banish all signs of jet lag and settle my recent inflammation troubles.

After a thorough consultation, my delightful Ayurvedic practitioner for the week Dr Aswathy advises my treatment plan according to my ailments. I obediently nod as she asks if I am happy to work steadily through the seven tissue layers of the body with the same treatment almost everyday. I feel beads of sweat across my brow as I wave my beloved full body, Abyhanga massage goodbye, and instead agree to receive a concoction of dry and oil herbal pouch therapies that work by pounding out the toxins and stimulating the tissues.

The powerful and relaxing sessions begin immediately, with a gentle prayer to start, followed by a great deal of movement, so there’s little time for post flight snoozing. I am convinced my two gifted female therapists Sruthy and Athira are still of schooling years, but we form a nice bond and after a few days I am less sheepish about undressing fully. The afternoon head massage is calming, and although daytime sleeping is not conducive to my Ayurvedic constitution, I head straight back to my spacious private cottage, switch on the fan and doze off.

The set up for the week is based around two treatments per day, between the 6am meditation, breathing exercises and two hours of gentle hatha yoga for Ayurveda guests only and afternoons of rest and workshops.

By day three I notice I am a little irritable and wonder if the combination of 35 degrees heat and spicy food are now rising from my body. My inflammation is causing discomfort and the twice-daily (delicious) vegetarian fare of rice chapatti and curry are taking their toll.

I sit with the doctor daily before treatment, and on this day I’m honest about my slight frustrations. She smiles, and calmly insists that she is more concerned about my health than the need to fulfill my desires. I nod and recognize that my western, A-type patterns may have taken lead. She sends me off with my medicinal tinctures filled with dry herbs and body balancing brown liquids, which I dutifully wash down with fresh cardamom, cumin or ginger tea each day.

‘The simplicity of this retreat is beautiful, the ashram community authentic and non-secular, and with permaculture at the centre of its vision, it could possibly be one of the most genuine Ayurveda spots I have visited’

I notice how much more I enjoy the same treatment once I’ve had a little talking to, and use my meditation and breath work classes to focus and disperse any residual feelings. The pre treatment prayers are now soothing, the pouches caress my skin, and I fall into a hypnotic state.

My fellow guests at the ashram are a delightful bunch with whom I share mealtimes and sunsets. Ranging from their 30s to their 50s, they are a mix of professionals, yoga teachers, mums and daughters, and men wanting to transition from city life, and are here as teacher trainees, retreaters or Ayurveda clients. We spend our days pottering around quietly and respectfully amongst the natural surrounds of river, organic farmland and layers of green. I spend evenings watching the periodic, short lightning shows from my balcony and am so grateful to witness these mystical happenings.

On my final day Dr Aswathy ushers me into the treatment room for a four-hand massage and steam. I grin like a Cheshire cat as the rhythmic strokes satisfy my stubborn Taurean ego, and feeling foolishly victorious whilst looking like an oily frying pan, I head straight to the dining room for my 1pm fruit lunch of papaya and pineapple. I am discharged with a goat’s meat medicine paste that I am told to consume daily (I haven’t eaten meat for eight years) and topical body oil to strengthen my muscles. Within days of returning home my inflammation has subsided and I am already imagining myself returning to complete the 28 day Ayurveda package.

The simplicity of this retreat is beautiful, the ashram community authentic and non-secular, and with permaculture at the centre of its vision, it could possibly be one of the most genuine Ayurveda spots I have visited.

This peaceful, spiritual eco village and devoted team certainly rested my own head and lightened my spirits. Perhaps there’s something in the herbal tea, or maybe taking a few orders once in a while isn’t such a bad thing for my character after all.