Said to be the world’s first Ayurvedic hospital resort, Somatheeram has an unrivalled number of awards for Ayurvedic excellence. Including winning, for multiple years now, both the prestigious ‘Hall of Fame’ Award from the Government of India and ‘Best Ayurvedic Resort’ by the Government of Kerala. This all said, before arriving, I must confess I still thought describing itself as a hospital might be a bit of a gimmick. You know, one of those wellness resorts that offers yoga and massage, ans promises to change your life. Somatheeram really does feel like a hospital though. The Ayurvedic doctors wear white coats and stethoscopes, and the practitioners wear masks, hair nets and aprons. While ‘patients’ wander around the resort in green robes with what look like dishcloths wrapped around their heads, and all matter of pastes on the faces. The resort even has its own medicine manufacturing facilities. And the strangest thing – had I known that this resort is so serious about treating health concerns, as a reasonably healthy person, I may have been dissuaded from coming. However, as fate may have it, I started to get a flare-up of debilitating sciatica the day before I arrived. And ended up right where I needed to be.
Our first impression of Somatheeram was of it being a wonderfully buzzy, heritage resort. Greeted with floral garlands and chilled coconut water, as palm trees rustle in the sea breeze. Accommodation is mostly charming little round brick thatched huts, set on immaculately turfed lawns. Leading down towards a cliff, with panoramic views over the clean, practically private beach. Pathways are peppered with potted medicinal plants, labeled with their Ayurvedic names. And there are plenty of with hammocks from which to take it all in. Before we had a chance to kick back though, we were called up to the Ayurvedic hospital for our initial assessment.
Left in a consultation room to scratch our heads over some of the bazaar pidgin English questions on our forms, we fudged them to the best of our ability before our doctors reviewed our cases. or rather – doshas. Prescribing that I was mostly pitta, with some vatha, and my partner, Paul – kapha with pitta (although unlike me, his doshas are pretty well balanced!). This prescription was then was to inform our choices at the vegetarian buffet. Where everything from the herb infused waters and teas to the freshly made organic vegetarian curry dishes are clearly labelled for which dosha it’s best suited for. With all the offerings being light and healthy, cooked with just a touch of coconut oil, and infused with medicinal herbs and spices, without being too spicy.
On our first evening at dinner, we were given a canvas tote containing our herbal medicines and diet sheet with recommendations for each meal, which can be made to order if not already available. Interestingly, mine mostly included the kind of things I naturally gravitate towards anyway – such as watermelon juice, dosa, thali, dhall and cashew nut curry. I was also thrilled to see that coffee was allowed at breakfast.
In terms of medicine – Paul had a tub of of a delicious rich sweet paste, a bit like malt, to boost immunity. While I had Lumbaton capsules, tablets containing Indian Frankincense, along with a tasty dark brown liquid medicine of Rasnasaptakam. All to help reduce the inflammation causing the muscle spasm in my lower back. Another important part of my prescription was to take part in the daily meditation and gentle Hatha style yoga classes, along with regular Ayurvedic treatments. The latter being the main reason most people come here. Either as a preventative measure or to treat specific conditions, more than half of the patients at Somatheeram are repeat customers, who come once a year for their health fix.
Before each treatment there is consultation with the doctor who prescribes what is best for you, as part of your program, for that day. As our stay was only a week – we went light on the treatments, which fell under the ‘rejuvenation’ package, and were mostly oily massages. One treatment in particular stood out to me though. Usually the sessions are two hours but with my sciatic pain, I was struggling to lie still, so requested a shorter version. As usual, the session started with the lead therapist praying for my good health before I was slathered with treatment oil, by two women, four hands. They then went to work rubbing down my body with pouches of herbs. Focusing on the epicentre of my pain – my left glute. And at the end of my hour, something pretty miraculous happened – as I stepped off the table, I could move with no pain. I had previously been walking around like an old woman, struggling when I got in and out of a chair. But this treatment had instantly given me back my range of motion, which lasted for the rest of the day. I was stiff again the next day, but it was a bit better. Then, by the time I checked out, I’m not sure if it’s down to the yoga, medicine, herb pouches or a combination of all three, but it’s safe to say the pain had pretty much gone. So I went on my merry way with month long course of the medicine, along with a discharge letter including some obvious advice, others less so. For example – infusing my food and drink with spices such as ginger and cloves and cooling herbs such as mint. Avoiding eating too much or too late at night. And using affirmations and singing or chanting to reduce stress. All easy enough to implement, aside from the last one: avoid situations that might cause a fiery pitta like me to get angry. Hmmm…
Somatheeram Ayurveda Village