ZUZANA ASKS MINI CHANDRAN, GENERAL MANAGER OF THE CGH EARTH SWASWARA, WHAT DOES IT MEAN AYURVEDA FOR HER AND ALSO WHY THE REVIVAL OF AYURVEDA WAS IN TOURISM...
It is a battle to promote classical, traditional, curative ayurveda, which requires a time, a space, a patience and a discipline for the sufficient, successful and sustained healing process. What we all need to understand is you've used your body in so many ways. Abused it, I'm saying, not used it. You never used it in the right way or looked after it, so to take out all those years of abuse and get back on the rails takes time. Then of course we are in a society, we are in the and time, where everything is quick-fix, so it becomes difficult for people to accept a highly disciplined routine and diet.
General Manager of CGH Earth SwaSwara
It is difficult to express my thoughts and feelings about ayurveda. I respect the wisdom hidden in this word. It is a very old and venerable science, but I have to be honest, I cannot say I follow it completely. I am not disciplined enough. We all grew up with ayurveda, it was part of our childhood, part of every family’s life, even after the delivery of my children I went through what used to be considered as mandatory ayurveda treatments and cuisine too to ensure a quick and deep healing. Ayurveda was an integral part of every household in Kerala. It's always been there in the background but I don't think my generation and I am equally guilty of giving it as much importance or valued it to the extent that I value it now.
I can say, that I didn't quite understand it and I'd never taken the effort until I joined CGH Earth company. As part of my training I went through the panchakarma treatment, something which I thought only old people needed or did. Only when I saw how ayurveda helped me, I understood and appreciated it better. In ancient ayurveda philosophy is hidden a big contribution to the modern science, but because unfortunately the revival of ayurveda was in tourism it's very difficult to get the kind of respect and value it really deserves.
For most guests and tour operators ayurveda still remains synonymous with a herbal oil massage for a feel good factor and therefore when curative procedures such as the Snehapana (medicated ghee detox) and Virechanan (herbal laxative cleanse) are not seen or taken as seriously as they should be. Further since there are many unscrupulous practitioners operating in tourism who are open to cutting corners the true and timeless traditional ayurvedic practices are too often diluted to suit the whims and fancies of the western tourists.
At the beginning of 80s, ayurveda as a medical system, started to be considered as old fashion science and with the wave of so-called modernity, many Indians started to prefer allopathy medicine. But at the same time there was a demand from abroad for alternative medicine and first ayurveda resorts for foreign tourists were opened. Ayurveda became marketed as a product rather than a medical science and the picture sent out to the world was tailor made for tourism packages. The perception of ayurveda has changed, it's often not considered as a holistic system, but for the average layman, when they think ayurveda, they think only massage.
Another problem is, that the old system of Gurukulas and Vaidiyas was replaced with government certifications. It's become another job for a lot of people and many therapists do not put themselves fully into what is actually a healing process. It's just another job, it's just a stopgap till they get married or till something better comes along. This is sad. We need again that passion to come in, because when you touch someone else body, you enter a very intimate space, where all the healing is happening.
The only regret is that because the revival of ayurveda was in tourism it's also gone out of reach of a many Indians who could actually need it, though the government ayurveda hospitals are there.
There is nothing wrong about a 'tourist ayurveda' but that's not what ayurveda is about. In SwaSwara, we are very clear, that there is the tourist ayurveda where you can go to and there is the 'classical, traditional, curative ayurveda' which is what we offer and focus on.
I believe, that in SwaSwara, we are able to toe that line and keep tourist and curative ayurveda separate, but it is very difficult, because sometimes the expectations of the guests are too commercial. Our society is appreciating the fast solutions, I call it a two-minute Maggi effect. The market pressures on the ayurveda industry are such that you are promised results after few days of treatments. Let’s be honest, 7 days panchakarma is just a marketing tool.
It is a battle to promote classical, traditional, curative ayurveda, which requires a time, a space, a patience and a discipline for a sustained and successful healing process. What we all need to understand is you've used your body in so many ways. Abused it, I'm saying, not used it. You never used it in the right way or looked after it, so to take out all those years of abuse and get back on the rails takes time. Then of course we are in a society and times, where everything is quick-fix, so it becomes difficult.
When you touch someone else body, you enter very intimate space, where all the healing is happening.
Yes, it's always difficult to manage the guest expectations, because to find a time for long curing processes are difficult, and to travel to India requires an effort plus the treatments are also quite expensive. So, we can understand, they do expect immediate results.
But ayurveda teach us patience. It's just like yoga. You need to be disciplined. You need to be patient. Very important, you need to come with an open mind, because it is a very different approach to healing to what the West is used to, to what most Indians in fact are used to, because recent generations, we all grew up with allopathy. Ayurveda was already a medical system which was dying out by then but now we're all coming back to it with a vengeance.
We always appreciate support, which we are getting from tourism industry, but there are still some tour operators, who don't treat ayurveda as a serious medical science. They are selling only treatment packages and when we ask them for the health history of the guests, they're very reluctant to put us in touch with the guest. It is long process to educate them and explain them, that not all treatments can be offered to everyone. For example, we cannot treat post chemotherapy patients immediately! It requires time for recovery and also there has to be individual approach for each case.
I think that it is only now, that the right time has come for SwaSwara, because people understand the concept better. Maybe SwaSwara itself needed this long journey to become self-confident about its own mission…
We have chosen the long route (laugh). Honestly, I haven't seen a place like SwaSwara and I am not saying it, because I am part of the team here. I was working in tourism industry almost 16 years before I came here. I've seen so many places, but yes why aren't we right up there, right on top?
I think only now, the time has come for SwaSwara, because people understand the concept better. I know there was a time when sales themselves had a lot of difficulty making the tourism industry understand what's that the SwaSwara concept was not only about ayurveda and yoga but all round healing for the mind, body and soul. And the path to do this remains in many ways undefinable. Maybe SwaSwara herself needed this long journey or should I call it a ‘pilgrimage’ to become self-confident about its own mission...
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In SwaSwara you evolve along with the place. There's so much openness, that you yourself, start opening up. You see things in a new light and a better perspective. That's what happens in SwaSwara.
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