3 keys to wellbeing I learnt from my week as a patient at Prakriti Shakti Clinic of Naturopathy
CGH Earth is a southern Indian based retreat group, known for its luxurious and sustainable properties. And its most recent opening, Prakriti Shakti Clinic of Naturopathy, is a hidden jewel within the portfolio. As the only luxury naturopathic resort in Kerala, if cleanliness is next to godliness, then Prakriti Shakti is heaven. With a raw vegan menu and ‘patients’ encouraged to wear the uniform of organic cotton Asian style pyjamas, the resort has a pristine and Zen-like feel. With the uniform helping to detach from your usual persona, allowing for an openness to a new way of being.
Set high above the verdant hills of Panchalimedu, at the hub of Prakriti Shakti is an infinity pool and sun-bleached deck from which to take in the soul soothingly peaceful vista. Where, as dragonflies dance on the water, you can’t help but become spellbound by the ever-changing light on the mountainous surroundings. Transitioning from cool milky morning mist to clear indigo blue skies, then a cataclysmic colour explosion just before you’re plunged into the kind of darkness you only get when there’s no light pollution.
A stay at Prakriti Shakti begins with an assessment with one of the resident doctors, who prescribes a bespoke treatment plan. The only ‘medicine’ used, being the five elements, and some clean-eating nutrition. With all patients benefiting from at least a little intermittent fasting overnight, which means dinner is at 6pm, and breakfast at 10am, juices and smoothies are served in between. And while some might be prescribed a fasting program, I was on a ‘constructive plan’ which meant I got to enjoy organic gourmet raw vegan meals, twice a day.
As part of my daily schedule, alongside daily yoga and meditation, I was prescribed a few laps of the ‘Reflexology Track’. A walkway pathed with varying sizes of smooth stones jutting up, some sections immersed in cool water, others sun-baked. Said to activate pressure points to balance the whole body, after initially finding it quite uncomfortable, I began to look forward to feeling energised by the contrast of pleasure and pain. Other treatments included bodywork from deep tissue to stretchy yoga massage, saltwater bathing of localised parts of the body – such hips and back to mineral mud baths.
In yogic parlance, the energy of nature is called ‘prakriti shakti’ and your physician’s role is to help you understand the self-healing capacity of the body when given the right environment. Making this not just a holiday, but a wellness school – where you can pick up practices to incorporate in your normal life.
So based on all I learnt and experienced in my week in this very special resort, here are my top 3 take-homes:
1. You can harness the power of the five elements, to nurture the healer within
At Prakriti Shakti, you are encouraged to wake early to watch the sunrise, while walking barefoot on the grass. The gradual increase of light kick-starting the body’s circadian rhythm, while the ground literally “earths” the body – like a battery, with the negative ions also helping to produce happy hormones. After this grounding ritual, there is a morning sunbathing session, before the sun gets too strong, with a cooling mud pack on the abdomen to stimulate blood to the internal organs and get things moving down there. Then, towards the end of the day, the evening meal is based around the dramatic sunset light show, with patients encouraged to eat mindfully and slowly, looking out at the gradual descent into darkness.
Human beings are genetically designed to live in sync with the light. When we burn the midnight oil, or sleep half the morning away, we are not making the most of the sun’s power to keep us alert, or the darkness to increase the production of melatonin and support us in getting a good night’s sleep. Not to mention our need for Vitamin D. In the Northern hemisphere we have come to depend on supplements, but at Prakriti Shakti we are taught the most healthy way to absorb this vital nutrient is with at least a few minutes of sun on our bare skin every day.
So how to incorporate nature into life in a city? Well earth, water, sun/fire, air and space are accessible, and free, for us all. So it’s just a matter of starting good habits or getting creative. For example, I have been trying to live by the motto ‘early to bed, early to rise…’. To get a better quality of sleep from those few hours before midnight. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, in fact the paler you are, the less sunlight you need to get your dose of Vit D.
Then there’s the practice of earthing. Which I actually feel is more beneficial when squelching through cold British mud, than the hard-baked earth in India. So, as bonkers as I may look, I have taken to walking in my local park with bare feet. Even if just for a few minutes. Just remember to bring an old towel to wipe away the mud before putting your socks and boots back on. And your feet will feel invigorated after.
2. Support, don’t suppress, your symptoms
At Prakriti Shakti patients are educated on the difference between a healing crisis and disease crisis. The latter often being caused by ignoring the important messages from the healing crisis – in the form of symptoms. We must lookout for the signs that our body is in healing mode, and try to support its work. For example – rest when tired and fast when you’ve lost your appetite. So simple, but how often do we all try to ‘power through’ with a painkiller? And be aware that a temperature is usually the body heating up to expel a virus, and allow it to do its thing. Support the body’s healing with a cold compress to send fresh healing blood to the internal organs. Or perhaps a hot water bottle is needed, to draw out inflammation. These are such easy but effective treatments that support healing, and often avoid the need to reach for drugs further down the line.
3. We are more microbe than human
One of the evening activities at Prakriti Shakti was a showing of an incredible Ted Talk, where we learnt that our bodies host more than 10,000 different species of microbe, which outnumber our own human cells by 10 to 1. And it’s essential to our health that we keep this ecosystem friendly by eating plenty of prebiotic food, while starving the bad bacteria by cutting down on certain ‘empty’ carbs.
At Prakriti Shakti, the raw vegan diet is created to support the health of the good bacteria. And due to the high fibre and slow release of nutrients, it’s surprisingly satisfying. Although I don’t wish to go full raw vegan at home, upon doctors orders I will be incorporating more lively high-prana fruits and vegetables into my diet. As you literally are what you eat.
Photography by Paul Selvey