We’ve been at Swan Yoga Retreat in Goa for the past 5 days. Out of interest, I had a consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor here. It reminded me of when George saw a chiropractor on Seinfeld: “Well hello, doctor”.

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that originated in the Vedic culture of India. I don’t believe in it, or in any system based purely on a long history of doing things a certain way. I’m especially dubious of one of its guiding principles, that “nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind”. Hmmm. But I thought I’d check out this ancient practice nevertheless.

The doctor took my pulse, looked into my mouth and eyes and pronounced me to be Pitta Vata. That’s my dosha (body type). Fire is dominant in me and Air is secondary. I lack Water (Kapha). He did pronounce that I’m irritable with a quick temper, which is completely accurate, but maybe it’s a reasonable assumption about any western person.

My constitution can be managed with a combination of yoga (mainly balancing postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), certain mantras (chanting) and diet. Therein lies the bad news.

The following foods are a no go for me:

  • Raw food after 6pm (no!)
  • Cheese (no!)
  • White flour (considered to be bad for everyone these days, so ok)
  • Green apples (bit random, but ok)
  • Coffee and black tea (no!)
  • Red meat and salted fish (fair enough)

And worst of all:

  • Cold drinks

Drinks are to be warm or room temperature, including water. I do enjoy an icy beverage so this is disappointing. I suppose it was good while it lasted.

The foods that are especially good for me are:

  • Carrot (probably my least favourite vegetable)
  • Pumpkin (ok)
  • Olive oil and sesame oil
  • Juicy fruits that are not too sweet (grapefruit, I guess?)
  • Turmeric, cinnamon and black pepper
  • Herbal and green teas

That’s a pretty unexciting list right there. In addition, I should drink a tea made with cumin, cardamom and coriander daily. 

To combat my dryness I should coat my body in sesame oil, wait for 20 minutes and then have a bath. With that and the pungent tea, Bernd is going to have a pretty fragrant bedfellow when we return from this trip.

I don’t actually intend to follow any of this, in fact I’m going to have an ice cold beer as soon as I can get my hands on one. Other guests at the retreat do seem to take it seriously though; I see them having Ayurvedic treatments and taking copious notes when the doctor speaks. I wonder if they really do believe in it? 

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