Mary Atkinson in Goa
Receiving my Certificate
I know I’ve been promising this for a while, but here, finally, is a snapshot view of my experiences studying Ayurveda in India earlier this year. Hopefully this will give you some idea of a colourful and varied two weeks.
When I began researching Ayurvedic training courses, I was surprised to find that it is cheaper to study in India than the UK. Then I discovered a course in Goa with The Goan Experience that is accredited by the Federation of Holistic Therapists. My husband was also keen to travel to India so we decided to book for two weeks at the end of February 2011. The first week we took as a holiday together. During the second week, whilst I was on the training course, my husband was happy to relax on the beach and frequent a few of the local shacks.
This was our first trip to India and we were very grateful to John and Mae from The Goan Experience for their local knowledge and hospitality. After several discussions on the telephone, they arranged our first week to ensure we packed in as much as possible without getting too exhausted. We arrived early in the morning and spend the day exploring Candolim Beach.
We strolled along the beach packed with vendors selling trinkets, clothes and food, and took refuge in Bobby’s Shack where we enjoyed a welcome beer and tasty vegetable curry. The first of many meals and drinks at our favourite beach shack – with its very own masseur!
TRAIN TRIP TO HAMPI
We are aware that Goa is a safe ‘introduction’ to India and is relatively safe and comfortable. So we decided to venture further to Hampi in the Karnataka state. This involved a seven hour train journey there and back – which was an adventure in itself. One Indian man told me he had been travelling for four days without a wash or change of clothes and sleeping in the overhead luggage rack when he got the chance. And he was certainly not alone.
As the train rumbled through the changing countryside, we were entertained by the amazing views plus a constant stream of dancers, musicians and food vendors. We resisted the delicious looking samosas and other Indian treats for fear of tummy upset but savoured the spicy aroma. (Thankfully, we managed the whole trip without any health problems.)
Hampi, an important religious centre, once the capital of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire, offers a wealth of history within its many ruins, temples and dieites. Our guide regaled us with stories of religion, customs and culture interspersed. Well worth a visit.
And so back to Goa and our next ‘home from home’, a friendly guest house called Pretty Petals and the start of our seven day Ayurveda training. There were five students on the course, four from the UK and one from Canada. Our ages ranged from 24 to 60 but our shared interest in holistic therapies gave us plenty to talk about. Our hosts John and Mae were always on hand to answer any questions and worked hard to ensure the trip was enjoyable as well as informative.
We were collected from our hotels every morning to arrive in time for an optional yoga session led by a very friendly and flexible yoga teacher.
- Traditional yoga session to start the day
INTRODUCTION TO AYURVEDA
Our course began with an introduction to the history and philosophy of Ayurveda and a visit to an Ayurvedic pharmacy/supermarket. I bought a selection of oils for Indian Head Massage. Students on my FHT Accredited Diploma in Indian Head Massage and my clients have all benefitted from using the authentic thing!
We also studied the herbs and spices used in Ayurvedic medicine and spent a fascinating afternoon at a local spice farm where food is served in a traditional manner on a banana leaf. Our guide took us to see black pepper, cardoman, nutmeg, cinnamon, cashew nut, bananas, pineapple and neem growing in their natural habitat and shared tips and recipes.
Ayu means life and Veda is knowledge. So Ayurveda is the knowledge, or science, of life which has been part of Indian culture for over five thousand years. Ayurveda teaches us how to gain spiritual, mental and physical health and well-being.
We soon realized that Ayurveda is such a complex subject that we could really only touch the basics. However, our tutor was highly knowledgeable and willing to answer our many questions and suggest sources for further information and study. The accompanying course manual has been very helpful in refreshing knowledge back in the UK.
AYURVEDIC MASSAGE TRAINING
During the day we took part in demonstrations and practical ‘hands-on’ work on each other including
- Ayuvedic Foot Massage
- Ayurvedic Head, Neck and Face Massage, and
- Abhynanga Herbalised Body Massage
Whilst I am now qualified to practice these massage routines, my main interest is in Ayurvedic Head Massage and I have certainly added some new moves to my usual routine. For those students wishing to set themselves up doing Ayurvedic Massage, John offers marketing tips and advice.
EXPERIENCING AN AYURVEDIC MASSAGE
One of the joys of training in India is that you can experience many different types of massage at a very reasonable rate. We were surprised by the number of massage salons and shacks and whilst the massage may vary in quality, each one is an experience. You will get the idea of the variety of strokes used and how each massage is so different.
If your finances allow then it is worth having a full consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor followed by treatment at an Ayurvedic Health Centre.
The profile and lifestyle assessment supports our studies on the course by seeing it all ‘in action’ first-hand and gives a new insight into Ayurvedic medicine. My treatment included:
- Synchronised Ayurvedic Oil Massage (with two therapists)
- Ayurvedic Head Massage
- Shirodara (flow of oil on the forehead)
- Khizi Massage (bolus bag massage with herbal plant oils)
- Steam Bath
OUR TOP TIPS
So do we have any advice? Well, firstly, do explore this option. And if we do decide to train in India, then we suggest that you:
- Allow plenty of time to organise your visa – one of the most frustrating parts of the whole trip.
- Wear cool cotton clothing. Dress for comfort during the massage course.
- Pack plenty of sunscreen, the sun is very hot and relentless especially at midday. Insect repellant is a must too.
- Eat in the traditional Goan beach shacks in the evening to enjoy the beautiful sunsets and cool evening breezes away from the crowds.
- Respect the hawkers and sellers. Whilst they can be persistent, we found that they were always really friendly. Our new ‘friends’ told us about their families and their lives and made our visit so memorable. If you are not interested then simply say ‘No thank you’ and then ignore them.
- Keep plenty of small change in your pockets for tips.
- Pack a torch – there are lots of powercuts.
- Take an extra memory card for your camera – so many sights to record.