At India’s extreme spa, the solution to heartbreak is to down two gallons of liquid in one go
Five years ago, my husband left me for a younger model.
In that time, I tried to keep my family together, hoping that he would come back to us. But eventually I had to face the fact that he had chosen otherwise, and that it was time to move on.
Those five years had taken their toll. I was unfit and unhealthy; none of my clothes would fit me. Looking in the mirror, I saw the spectre of a lonely, ugly old age beckoning. It was time to take drastic action.
I had seen panchakarma at work long before I knew what it was about. I bumped into an old friend who three years previously had lost his wife to a brain tumour. After a trip to India, where he had undergone the treatment, my bereaved and shattered friend was transformed: he was nearly two stone lighter, his eyes were clear, his skin glowed; he exuded energy, good humour and zest for life. Whatever panchakarma was, I knew I wanted it, too.
Three months later, I found myself at Ayurveda Yoga Village, a four-hour drive south of Goa. While technically a hospital, the “village” turned out to be more like a slightly run-down holiday resort: 18 simple rooms clustered beneath a grove of shady fir trees, which led onto a six-mile white beach.
On my first morning, I met Dr Anu, a softly spoken young woman in an immaculate sari who would be in charge of my treatment throughout. I gave my condition as “emotional exhaustion”, but other patients were there for everything from cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis to constipation, insomnia and general burnout.
Panchakarma means “detoxification”. It forms part of the ancient ayurveda tradition, a body of medical and philosophical treatises (yoga is one) native to South India, which adherents believe originated 10,000 years ago and that aim to treat the body, mind and soul together.
My first three days were so enjoyable, I could almost imagine I was on holiday. We rose at 5am to attend puja, or prayers, followed by yoga and meditation for an hour and a half, which started in the dark and ended in morning sunshine.