I first heard of Ayurveda through my eccentric Polish-German physiotherapist. To date, much research has gone into the Indian approach of alternative medicine to prove its effectiveness in alleviating and managing conditions like diabetes and even cerebral palsy. Having experienced Ayurveda, which can be understood as the science of life, I can only say that it definitely brought me joy… and even pain. No, I’m not fabricating this.
I was sold into Ayurveda back in 2008, when I was starting to get depressed about my congenital condition. My mum and I were interrogated by an Indian doctor, based in Malaysia. I quickly realised that Ayurveda was indeed holistic in its approach. Questions ranged from factors that could have affected the pregnancy, my diagnosis, and the age I started walking. On another note, I was somehow fascinated by the doctor’s writing on the piece of paper he had, but was unable to make sense of any of it as he had written mostly in characters that were foreign to a non-Indian national. At one point, the doctor told me to lower my intake of eggs because it could cause water retention. Okay, interesting, but that means lesser hard-boiled eggs – my favourite!
I’m pretty sure you’re interested to find out what the doctor had in mind as my treatment plan, which would supposedly work for my mild cerebral palsy. Well, it was oil massage for about an hour and a half, thrice a week. When I heard that, I was surprised, but maybe because I’ve never been subjected to such an intense session before. In fact, he told me that the more frequent, the better. However, owing to the demands of a pre-university student at that point, as well as my parents’ ever-perplexing work schedules, we stuck to twice a week.
Like many firsts, the oil massage, a component of Ayurveda, felt completely awkward. Additionally, my parents weren’t used to the smell of coconut oil… on someone’s body. To give you a rough idea, everyone who goes for the oil massage has to take their clothes off, leaving only one’s underwear. Given that I am slim and have a small build, the wooden bed-like structure that clients usually lie on felt genuinely uncomfortable. After a while, I thought of a way to ignore the pain – the hard surface of the structure was hurting parts of my feet and body. I quietly told myself that there’s warm coconut oil. Yes that’s how I fought through the pain. It was only much later that the skilled massage lady put a layer of cloth so that I would feel softer and more comfortable. Soon, I also realised the need for disposable underwear, because the ones I wore to the session would usually be drenched in coconut oil.
Did I tell you about the hanging bowl on top of the structure? The massage lady would usually pour oil carefully onto my forehead and even ensure that every strand of my hair was soaked in the oil.
The impact of doing that on my cerebral palsy? Quite surprising, really.
I noticed that my knees were less bent, my muscles didn’t feel so ‘heavy’ and stiff, and I was somehow able to articulate my thoughts more clearly. Yay!
What about other effects, you say? Well, my hair was really, really, really, really, really oily for a reason: my hair became even blacker than its natural colour.
However, there were certain things about Ayurveda that I didn’t really gel with, or like. For example, the bath with green beans post-oil massage. You know what? I’ll save that and more for Part II.