By Bina Khiani
The author visits a health farm with some scepticism and comes back refreshed and rejuvenated in mind and body
It began as a joke while making our New Year resolutions. Little did we know that within a few weeks, we would be spending a fortnight at a health farm, in this case the famous Institute of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, Bangalore (INYS).
Being victims of recurring backache, weight fluctuations and other minor ailments, we often envied friends who regularly visited exotic health spas all over the world, returning detoxified, relaxed and a few kilos lighter. We impulsively decided to give it a shot, blissfully ignorant of what it involved, but nevertheless eager to try it out. As we drove towards our destination, my mind was filled with a hundred queries. What had I landed myself into? Twelve days away from home, how would my family manage without me? Guilt pangs came over me and my eyes brimmed over. Reality only sunk in as we approached the imposing iron gates of the Jindal farm, located 16 kilometres from Bangalore airport. Although we had been forewarned, we were unprepared for the security man’s barrage of questions. “Any medicines, cigarettes, tobacco, any mobile phones…?” Behind the high formidable gates, it was a totally different fantasy world. The greenery, the fresh unpolluted air, the stillness, and the tranquility, caught us by utter surprise. In the heart of urban Bangalore, the sprawling one hundred-acre farm seemed like an oasis in the desert. At the reception desk in the foyer, we were warmly welcomed and within minutes of registering, two escorts were assigned to lead us to our accommodation. Our Nest was located in the midst of a row of single-level, red-roof, cozy cottages at the edge of the lake. Each Nest consisted of two bedrooms with attached baths and a compact living room. After a hurried tour aimed at enabling us to get our bearings, we were led into the main dining hall where a sumptuous, immensely appetising buffet was spread out. Famished to the core we dashed towards the food, but two burly ladies standing behind the tables were monitoring the entire proceedings. Food is given based on the doctor’s advice. “You don’t have your diet cards, you can have soup and salad and then see the doctor,” we were told dispassionately.
The Jindal farm as it is popularly known, was started in 1978 by the Indian industrialist Sitaram Jindal, a keen follower of naturopathy. On the outskirts of Bangalore city, situated at a height of 3200 feet above sea level, the climate is extremely conducive to such an activity, because temperatures remain between 12°C and 35°C all year round. The lush greenery, lake, orchards, farms, flowers, and trimmed manicured grass make the place look like an exotic holiday resort, but in reality, INYS is also a charitable institution.
The main administration building which houses the doctor’s clinics, weighing machines, gymnasium, and the recreation centre is located close to the entrance gate. After the sparse soup-salad lunch, we enthusiastically trotted behind Shanta our guide, to be weighed and measured. Then carrying the tiny paper containing our weight, BMI, and body measurements we waited for the medical check-up.
Fortunately, the rest of the afternoon was free time. Tired and weary after the long journey, we opted for a complete body massage to help us relax and unwind. The herbal oil massage immediately relieved our aches and pains but made us extremely drowsy. After a short nap, at teatime we headed back to the dining hall, this time equipped with diet charts and well prepared for what was in store for us. The doctors had put us on a detoxification diet. Liquids and fresh fruit juices was to be our only diet for the next three days. It seemed impossibly difficult; how we were going to survive only on juices, and water, for three days remained a mystery.
Adjacent to the main dining hall was a tiny room with a huge dining table, exclusively reserved for patients on the detoxification programme. No food, no tempting aromas to tantalise the taste buds here, only a variety of fresh juices were being served, depending on your illness or prescription. Downing the glass of fresh watermelon juice in a gulp, we looked around to see others leisurely sipping the juice while a few others were drinking the juice with a spoon! Our eyes almost popped out at the comical sight. With great difficulty, we managed to hold back our laughter and with poker-straight faces, we silently slid out. Once out of sight, we exploded into loud laughter.
As we headed back towards the Nest, we noticed a row of tiny quaint shops, which housed the laundry, salon, tailoring shop, and library. Exotic colourful flowerbeds lined the path, the chirping of birds and insect noises echoed in the silence of the evening. The setting sun had cast a golden glow onto the lake, the water shimmering in the fading sunlight. No ringing of mobiles, no blasting horns, only calmness and freshness prevailed in the air. The serenity engulfed us completely, and we could immediately feel the pressures of city life melt away as we deeply inhaled the fresh unpolluted air.
Dinner comprised of just a glass of fresh orange juice in the secluded room. Surprisingly, we had not felt any hunger pangs although we had eaten very little for lunch and only fresh fruit juices thereafter. Later at dusk, we assembled in the yoga room where the Chief Medical Officer Dr Moorthy explained in detail what naturopathy was all about. “Yoga, disciplined eating and treatments are used as a blend at the INYS to cure various ailments. According to naturopathy, healing comes from within the body,” explained Dr Moorthy. “Diseases are caused due to accumulation of toxic wastes in the body. Eliminating these wastes by using enemas and fasting will cure the body of the disease, and no medications are required.”
Naturopathy recommends a good night’s sleep for the healing process, and adhering to the principle of ‘early to bed and early to rise’. Slowly the place had started emptying out. Although we could not imagine ourselves turning in so early in the evening, at 10 pm we were packed off to our rooms like little schoolchildren.
Next morning at 5 am, the pleasant sound of chanting and singing of hymns awakened us out of our deep slumber. With great effort, we forced ourselves out of bed, and after lethargically completing our morning ablutions, we trudged towards the kriya (yogic cleansing ) room. Water is taken into one nostril using a tumbler with a spout, the water clears the nasal passage and exits through the other nostril. The simple but extremely effective treatments, which can be performed on a daily basis at home, were patiently taught to each patient on a one-to-one basis. Within minutes, we had mastered the jalneti and then a drop of warm mustard oil was put into each nostril and drops of rosewater were used to cool the eyes.
When was the last time I had been up before sunrise, I simply could not recall. The fresh morning breeze brushing our cheeks invigorated us; we were actually beginning to enjoy ourselves. It was very early in the morning, still a bit dark before sunrise, but the jogging track, which led into the fields was filled with enthusiastic walkers and joggers. Everything works like clockwork at the Institute. The yoga session and the laughter club were next on the agenda. Pranayamas were followed by asanas, which stretch each and every single muscle of the body completely. The laughter club was conducted outdoors in Time Square, next to the giant clock. Thunderous laughter is known to be a great stress buster and this session seemed to be extremely popular. Putting hands high up in the air, the huge crowd burst out into peals of loud laughter with mouths wide open. The hilarious sight was sufficient to make us erupt into genuine laughter. We laughed and laughed, clenching our stomachs, unable to stop laughing, until our cheeks began to hurt with pain. Suddenly there was pin drop silence and in the hush, only our laughter piercingly reverberated in the air.
Breakfast consisted of lukewarm lemonade with a dash of honey as the first drink of the morning, followed by sweet tender coconut water. It was already nine am, the sun was up in the sky, the morning hours had simply flown by. Next on the schedule were treatments such as Jacuzzi, massages, cold and hot water compresses, steam baths, mudbaths, hydro-massages and sauna, based on our ailments. The treatment centre forms the lifeline of the institute, for the treatments are unique and entirely based on the principle of elimination of toxic wastes.
Each day, one treatment is given before lunch and a different one after lunch. Before we realised it, the day was over, we had only consumed six glasses of assorted juices during the entire day at an interval of two hours! It was only on the second day that we discovered the trick, slow sipping, or drinking with a spoon does indeed help to keep hunger pangs at bay. The juice therapy had sounded impossibly difficult but now we realised that it was not so gruelling after all. Most of us eat generally due to force of habit. Aromas and sight of food makes us hungry but since there were no food fragrances, no food in sight, only a juice diet was sufficient to keep us going. We did not feel weak or listless, on the contrary we felt energised and full of life!
After three days of consuming fresh juices, the next two days were the soothing phase or ‘soup days’. Incredibly delicious mushroom, lentil and vegetable soups made from fresh organically grown vegetables from the adjoining inhouse farm formed our diet. The freshness of the vegetables imparted a unique taste and to enhance the flavour, finely chopped ginger, green chillies and fresh herbs could be used. In the construction phase, solid foods are introduced back into the diet slowly. Salads, fresh fruits, sprouts, nuts and seeds coupled with delicious soups, the variety was astounding, the tastes unusual. Each day the menu was varied, non-monotonous and although food preparations were fat-free, they were extremely delicious. Within a week, we had shed on an average eight pounds each. Our clothes began to hang as our bodies toned up and firmed. Delighted to see the fat melting away, our motivation increased and each morning we walked even longer distances. As the suppleness and flexibility of our bodies increased with the passage of each day, the yoga sessions became easier and more enjoyable as well.
In no time, our short stay at INYS Bangalore was ending; it was time to get back to the grind. The results were astounding; our pains and aches had vanished, stubborn fat melted away and we looked and felt ten years younger! INYS had rejuvenated us, our bodies felt thoroughly pampered and relaxed. The beautiful greenery, cool breeze, and peaceful setting had wrought a similar miracle on the soul and mind. We felt zestful and revitalised and the meditation, prayer, and laughter therapy had changed our lives completely. Here, we learnt to respect our bodies, treasure and cherish it like a sacred temple with a daily diet of yoga, fresh juices, meditation, and physical exercise. It has been a wonderfully unique experience, which has enriched our lives and opened up a whole new world. Next year, once again, we would be back for the ten-day rejuvenation package, we mentally vowed as we were checking out.
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