A 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Wellness Practice Healed Me When Modern Medicine Couldn’t
“What kind of relationship did you have with your parents?”
This isn’t the kind of question you’d expect from a health care practitioner deciding on a treatment for your fatty liver and high cholesterol.
But that – and a host of other questions about my relationships, career and personal convictions – is what was asked of me as I sat in a curious medical office decked out in a variety of ancient Eastern symbols and scriptures.
How was this supposed to help my liver again?
Rewind to how I got here in the first place…
A few years ago, in my late twenties, I was in a bad state.
Years of stress, unhealthy eating, partying and careless living had taken their toll on my body and mind.
I had fatty liver… near adrenal failure… sky-high cholesterol… a broken digestive system… eczema… depression… sleeping problems… unhealthy addictions… and probably a ton of other problems that went undiagnosed!
After a nerve-wracking trip to the doctor, I was told to swallow a fistful of daily pills.
I exercised three times a week, ate salads and juiced.
After a few weeks of this, I felt a little better.
I even lost about 10 pounds…
But the fatigue and lethargy never fully went away. The stress was still eating at me. I was still hopelessly addicted to alcohol and cigarettes.
And on a more personal level… I somehow felt disconnected from the idea of a holistically healthy me; a me who was living, creating, performing and loving at my peak.
This feeling that something was still missing led me to seek healing in a place most people would never look…
Was the timeless answer to holistic health discovered thousands of years ago?
I grew up in a New Jersey suburb, and spent my childhood eating pizza and playing basketball.
Yet my upbringing at home was traditionally Indian.
My mom cooked Indian food, my walls were decorated with rich Indian tapestries, and at night I was read bedtime stories about Gods, superheroes and villains from ancient Vedic scriptures.
But by far the greatest gift from the motherland was the ancient healing science known as Ayurveda.
The principles of Ayurveda (which translates to “life knowledge”) are laid out in the Vedas – a series of ancient Indian scriptures recognized as mankind’s oldest body of literature.
Its main principle is harmony with both mother nature, and one’s unique body composition.
And unlike the chemicals, surgeries and one-size-fits-all approach of modern medicine, Ayurveda favors a holistic approach that unifies nutrition, exercise, emotional and spiritual reflection, and a series of healing protocols; all tailor-made to an individual’s personal characteristics.
(Ayurveda even measures the primary energetic patterns in a person’s body: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each person’s proportions of these patterns is unique; but more on that shortly.)
In practice, a person following an Ayurvedic lifestyle or healing regimen would eat specially prepared food made with natural ingredients and flavors that complement their personal objectives (for instance turmeric, one of my mom’s favorites which helps with digestion).
They would then supplement this diet with a variety of potent herbs, spices and teas that strengthen their skin, bones, teeth, mind and internal organs – I wish I had a picture of my mom’s spice rack to show you!
Ayurveda also instructs you to detoxify and remove your ‘ama’ (a sticky toxic substance in your body that leads to illness) through a variety of ancient healing practices, the most comprehensive being the ‘Panchakarma’ detox:
A personalized rejuvenation and cleansing process, lasting anywhere from 5 days to a month, that combines massage, oils, herbs and food to eliminate all toxins from the body, melt away stress and boost the immune system.
It was this Panchakarma that I decided to try as a solution to my health problems. So off I went to Vedic City – the exact same place visited by the likes of The Beatles, Oprah and Jim Carrey – to reconnect with the healing wisdom my ancestors had used for thousands of years…
Healing with a personal touch
Arriving at Vedic City’s main consultation center, the first thing I noticed was how inviting it looked.
Instead of medicine cabinets, there was a glowing fireplace.
Instead of operating tables, they had massage rooms.
It felt more like a home than a sterile medical facility.
The first step to my Panchakarma was a preliminary reading with a renowned Ayurvedic physician. Like I said earlier, he began by asking me a variety of questions about my personal life that at first didn’t seem relevant to my condition.
Later, I learned that these questions are part of Ayurveda’s way of measuring your ‘Doshas’, the energetic patterns that determines your personal physical, emotional and mental characteristics.
The belief in Ayurveda is that everyone possesses a unique proportion of Doshas, and a dominant Dosha that may change over the course of your lifetime. These Doshas are:
1. Vata: elemental qualities of air and space; quick thinking; thin; fast moving; creative; likes hot weather.
2. Pitta: elemental qualities of fire and water; fiery & passionate personality; intelligent; self-confident; likes cold weather.
3. Kapha: elemental qualities of water and earth; loving & forgiving; strong & energetic; loves spicy food.
My pulse was then taken; but in Ayurveda this procedure doesn’t just determine your heart rate – it also reveals vital information about your internal organs.
(By the way, using this procedure they were able to correctly diagnose my liver and cholesterol problems; this was the first of many times I’d be impressed by the sheer accuracy of their ancient methods.)
Through this process I gained a variety of insights into my Doshas and how they were affecting my health.
An imbalance in my dominant ‘Pitta’ Dosha, for instance, was flaring up both my gut and my temper, while an overactive ‘Vata’ Dosha was wreaking havoc on my brain and internal organ functions.
From here I was assigned a personalized week-long Panchakarma protocol, my own private room, and hopefully a path to my physical redemption…
The Panchakarma begins
My daily sessions began with my primary consultant, whose job was to brief me on the day’s proceedings, instruct my massage therapists and make sure I was getting the right meals and herbs.
Regardless of one’s personal health issues, the main objective of the Panchakarma is to flush out the root cause of those issues – the toxic ‘ama’ trapped in your body.
And so the first two or three days of the Panchakarma focus on breaking up the ama in your digestive track, muscles and joints – while the remaining days are spent expelling it from your body.
These are the Panchakarma treatments that were chosen for me in that week:
Shirodhara: a soothing therapy that involves gently pouring warm oil over the forehead, where a large concentration of nerves are located. This process induces relaxation, balances the Vata and Pitta Doshas, and regulates both the nervous system and one’s blood pressure.
Abhyanga: an incredibly relaxing two-person oil massage that serves to balance your Doshas and bring your body into sync. Relieves the muscles, nerves and joints as it vaporizes stress and leaves you both energized and rested.
Pizzichilli: this interestingly named treatment involves pouring a continuous stream of oil onto your body, which gets absorbed into your tissues to ease your joints and muscles, and flush out deep-set toxins.
Nasya: a sinus massage that uses herbal oils and steam to clear out your entire sinus cavity, which in turn alleviates blockages, allergies, sinus problems, colds and even headaches. A common ‘side effect’ of this treatment is a sense of deep clarity that lingers long after.
I was surprised to discover that in these few days, these treatments had left me four pounds lighter – with no rigorous exercise or changes to my caloric intake.
According to my consultant, this was the collective weight of all the toxins now expelled from my body.
Weight aside, my breathing also improved; feeling deeper and completely unobstructed perhaps for the first time in my life.
I even felt physically stronger, and more in tune with my body (when this happens your body actually tells you what to do – like what to eat, what habits to avoid, and even how to sit to improve your posture).
But the most unexpected noticeable result was my mind… I had never felt this clear and free before! It was like a veil had been lifted from my senses, allowing me to be more focused, energetic and present in any given moment.
If these were just the instant results, I couldn’t wait to experience the long-term benefits…
The post Panchakarma protocol
After I left the center, I was given a 90-day post-treatment protocol that involved:
1. A variety of herbs and supplements: Triphala and Aloe for digestion, Bacopa for stress, and Turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties.
2. The avoidance of certain foods in accordance to my dominant Dosha, which in my case included alcohol, coffee, spicy food, dairy and high-carb food.
It was over these 90 days that I noticed the most stunning results.
Firstly there was my body, which lost another 12 pounds, and felt healthier and stronger than before (I could almost see my six pack again!).
My muscles and joints began to no longer hurt when I worked out (the ama removal helped with that, I’m sure).
And my organ and bodily functions began to normalize – from my liver and cholesterol to my blood pressure and digestion.
And then there was the aforementioned sense of inner clarity, which amplified as time went by.
The cloud of depression lifted, leaving me a far happier person. I forgave others and myself more easily. Stress no longer controlled my life. And I finally gained the strength to release my unhealthy addictions, including cigarettes and alcohol.
I was even able to focus more deeply on my work and my mission to help others – which culminated in my decision to spread Ayurveda to the world…
Modern lives need healing
In late 2015, I made a decision to pack my bags, fly to India, and film a documentary on Ayurveda.
I visited Ayurvedic farms, ashrams, and tracked down some of the planet’s top experts, and let me just tell you – the deeper I got into this body of wisdom, the more I realized how much people need it!
You see, the challenge with Ayurveda is that the people who need it most are the ones who either don’t know about it… or have the wrong idea about it.
More specifically, I’m talking about people who are:
1) Overwhelmed by the crushing stress of modern life…
2) Poisoned by ‘convenience’ food pumped with addictive chemicals and preservatives…
3) Reliant on side effect-laden medication and pharmaceuticals…
4) And vulnerable to the toxic environment surrounding us, from the air to the water.
That’s what I aim to play my part in changing – through a campaign that will spread the documentary, and other educational content like this blog post, to help share the knowledge of Ayurveda with at least 20 million people in 2016… and spark a global healing and wellness revolution called:
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