By Suma Varughese
Through a skill, if rigorous, application of diet, yoga and physiotherapy, India’s Institute of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences,INYS, in Bangalore, also called Jindal’s farm, coaxes the body to health
The testimonies are fulsome and numerous. P.K. Das, 50, an engineer from Orissa, India, suffering from chronic asthma, is on his fourth visit. ‘I’m allergic to dust, but I cannot ask for a world without dust, so I come here for treatment.’ Fifty-six-year-old Gangadariah suffers from blood pressure and diabetes. ‘My health is under control and so am I. Earlier I never missed a single meal; now I have fasted for five days and been on a liquid diet for another three days.’
Bina Sella, 49 and NRI from London, has come for her inflammatory digestive system. ‘I was treated here two years ago for acute gastritis. This time, my eye allergy was healed by triphala, an ayurvedic herb. My inflammation is down, my body is healing.’
Let’s give the voices a rest and turn to the wonder cure—that nitpicking, difficult and unglamorous therapy called naturopathy or nature cure. And the place is one of its best known practitioners—the Bangalore-based Institute of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences (INYS), otherwise known as Jindal’s farm. Set up in 1978 by industrialist Sitaram R. Jindal, a keen naturopathy. Says Dr. B.T.Chidananda Murthy, chief medical officer of the naturopathy section: ‘Dr Jindal saw how naturopathy healed him and his relatives, and set up this institute.’
‘According to naturopathy, healing comes from within the body,’ continues Dr Murthy. Disease is the offshoot of an accumulation of waste matter. Treatment, therefore, lies in eliminating it by enemas and fasting.
Its austere regimen has given naturopathy the reputation of being an extremist therapy. Despite this, the institute is popular. Admission is by application and there is always a waiting list. The rich and the famous gravitate to it—be they politicians, tycoons, socialites or film stars.
The surly security man of the Institute is conscious of the burden of glitterati. My photographer is refused entry without express permission from the management. When I protest, he snaps: ‘Don’t you know that the highest in the land come here?’
Once inside, it’s easy to understand why. The institute stands on 70 acres of manicured ground. Ample walkways fringe the gardens, which are flanked on one side by a lake. Inviting benches line the paths. It is not difficult to imagine industry captains flopping down on one of them to watch the play of wind upon plants and the water, and forgetting about sensex. If healing is all about sitting in the bosom of nature, Jindal’s farm provides a ringside view.
Charming little houses, set in their own gardens, comprise the upper end of the accommodation. There are three housing categories—Cottages, Huts and Nests. A fourth, executive rooms, has recently been added. There is a recreation center with magazines, TV and a weighing scale, which prints out your weight in fraction of kg. The institute campus also has a library, laundry, tailor, salon and beauty parlor. The service, by all accounts, is excellent. Says Kashmira Irani, 30; ‘The staff is very good and really likes its work.’
The scale of hospitality and the impeccable cleanliness makes the place appear like a rich man’s playground. But actually it isn’t. Sixty of the 160 beds are free—30 for charitable cases, 30 for those under a research project.
‘The INYS is a charitable institution. The money covers only the accommodation,’ emphasizes Dr Murthy. The minimum stay advocated being 10 days, a patient can recuperate in relative luxury. Even though some of the more expensive treatments such as whirlpool bath are charged separately, the price is value for money.
Particularly since the luxury is curative. Naturopathy works best for chronic cases. The INYS claims efficacy in treating migraines, respiratory disorders such as bronchial asthma, abdominal ulcers, spondylitis anxiety, diabetes and high blood pressure among others. However, patients suffering from heart diseases, cancer, tuberculosis, and skin diseases, and pregnant women are not admitted.
Though the institute is a little stiff about admitting healthy people, it has now introduced the Health Rejuvenation Scheme. This allows people anxious to tone up their system to apply for a 10-day stay.
The regimen is unsparing. Patients are not allowed out under any circumstances and are forbidden to bring any medicine unless absolutely necessary. They are not supposed to have outside food or even bring playing cards. Elimination forms the thrust of the cure and majority of the 77 naturopathic treatments are centered around it in the form of enemas, hot and cold packs, baths, compresses and massages. The logic is that most parasites and germs, particularly those causing abdominal diseases such as amoebiasis, cannot survive the cold. Through a variety of cold treatments like cold abdominal packs, compresses and hipbaths, the parasites and their eggs are eliminated from the system.
The treatment centers are the heart of the Jindal experience. ‘You can’t get this treatment elsewhere” says Sheetal Joshi, 41, who’s here to cure her cervical spondylitis and excess weight. Her treatment includes water baths like, whirlpool bath, sauna, steam bath, hot foot-arm bath, leg massage, oil massage, deluxe hydro massage, underwater massage and mud pack.
Men and women have separate treatment centers. A trip to the ladies’ center is a revelation. Shiela, the busy supervisor, is directing attendants into tiny enclosures. According to Dr Murthy, the ratio of caretakers and patients is 1:1. Armloads of leaves are piled into one enclosure while another attendant vigorously mixes a bathtub full of mud. Streams of women, dressed in bathrobes and holding towels in their hands, queue up for kidney packs, spinal baths, hip baths, colon irrigation , chest packs, asthma baths, abdominal massages, and oxygen baths.
Fasting is the other arm of naturopathy. Most patients are put on an initial routine of three to four days of fasting or cleansing. During these days, only liquids such as fruit juices and buttermilk are permitted. In the next three to four days of soothing, salads and fruits are permitted. Normal diet comes only during the final construction phase.
However, at INYS the normal verges on the austere. Naturopathy has a marked preference for raw food, in contrast to ayurveda which believes that food is more digestible when cooked. Salads, raw vegetables, sprouts, fresh fruits, unrefined cereals, some nuts and seeds take precedence over cooked food. The institute also prescribes a low fat high fiber diet, a concept in tune with modern dietary notions.
Little wonder then that many inmates are here to lose weight. Kashmira Irani and Benaifer Rabadi, from Mumbai, have come to repair the ravages of a good life. Irani looks rueful: ‘It’s my fifth day of fasting. All I get is some juice every two hours.’ But as the institute frowns upon such frivolous pastimes as losing weight, each takes on a plausible alibi. In the case of these two, the culprit is thyroid.
Naturopathy believes that among the five elements, earth corresponds to the solid structure of the bones, water to fluids like blood and lymph, air to the breath of life and fire to the body’s vitality. Ether is the constituent of the soul.
Any imbalance of these elements leads to illness. The emphasis, therefore, is on restoring the balance.
All this makes naturopathy a completely drugless and natural therapy. ‘Drugging the body is like whipping an exhausted horse,’ says Dr Murthy. ‘We believe that all diseases are manifestations of the body’s attempt to cleanse itself. The human body can cure its own diseases, as it has also caused them.’
The institute places equal importance on yoga to maintain the balance gained by naturopathy. In fact, it has two chief medical officers, one for naturopathy and the other for yoga.
Says Dr Altafur Rehman, chief yoga teacher, who finds no conflict between following Islam and teaching yoga: ‘We emphasize asanas or yogic exercises because our purpose is therapeutic. Asanas tone up the blood vessels and affect the endocrine gland and the nervous system.’
The institute also provides state-of-the-art gyms for men and women and has an excellent physiotherapy department. For the active, aerobic exercises are also provided.
In the midst of urban excess, Jindal’s stands out like an oasis of quiet, cool sanity. Little wonder then that Radha Bajaj, here to detoxify her system vows: ‘I mean to come here every year.’
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