"Where are you staying in Pokhara?” asked my seat companion on the Yeti flight from Kathmandu. I told him that I wasn’t staying at any hotel but going for treatment at the newly opened Ayurveda Health Home (AHH) at Lakeside.
It was good to escape the pollution of the Kathmandu Valley to the fresher air of Pokhara. I already had my pre-consultation with Dr. Rishi Koirala, Ayurvedic doctor and director of the AHH, in Dhapasi, Kathmandu.
The Pokhara AHH is situated a few hundred meters from the lake in the Khahare section of the Lakeside. It’s a much quieter, less commercial area, but within walking distance to the ‘action’. The AHH guests are not encouraged to go out at night though as it’s not a hotel but more like a sanatorium.
I enjoyed the quiet and natural setting of the AHH, which has only 5-6 rooms for in-house guests. Despite the backpacker tourism and the unplanned mushrooming of homes and hotels that are beginning to resemble Kathmandu, from my window I can look down upon terraced fields with grazing water buffalo and also see The Peace Pagoda beaming on the hillside horizon.
As is customary with Ayurveda, on my first day, I had a long consultation with Dr. Kopila Adhikari who diagnosed my doshas – a predominance of the three humours, vata, pita and kapha – and determined that my constitution is vata (airy). Aside from health questions there is a pulse diagnosis, look at eyes and tongue and some poking around the abdominal cage. My first treatment was to be a foot massage and foot bath, and a shirodhara oil drip on the head that she said would “improve my polar energy” balancing mind and “grounding, connecting with Mother Earth.”
While some trekkers come in for some treatments, the main programs are for in-house patients. These range from a three- or seven-day package that includes room and board, according to your dietary needs, to 14- or 28-day panchakarma. The latter is a detox/cleansing procedure with five actions (pancha, meaning ‘five’), with emphasis on colon irrigations, which cleanse toxicity and boosts immunity. Guests can also go for individualized therapeutic yoga programs for a fee, and can be instructed to begin the day with neti (nasal/sinus cleansing), herbal eye-washes and oil mouth gargling.
Aside from foreign guests, some locals are starting to come by and are given free consultations. Ayurvedic medicine, if prescribed, can be purchased inexpensively in a pharmacy in downtown Pokhara. The AHH also produces its own herbal medicines, available in Kathmandu.
Dr. Kopila and Badri Koirala, the center director and Dr. Rishi’s brother, are the two main personalities of the Pokhara Ayurveda Health Home. And, as the name implies, it does have a homely feeling. The staff are constantly with the guests, joking and laughing – arguably the best therapy – and there is a very jovial atmosphere, somewhat in contrast to the more serious Kathmandu center. Inner joyfulness, after all, is one of the goals of Ayurveda. Meals for both guests and staff are served in the same dining area – although timings differ; but there is no segregation, which adds to the informal homeliness.
Although menus are tailored to individual needs, the food is rather bland without oil or chilies, although there are some warming mild spices, but not that much variety. I had to request some saag (spinach) from the staff menu for my daily greens and brown rice instead of white.
At dinnertime, a schedule is written out for the guests’ next-day program of treatments. It’s very much early to bed with no activities at night after dinner other than reading or going for a walk. So, some may prefer staying somewhere outside the center.
On my last day, I was given a spinal massage and a chakra-vasti, which is supposed to vitalize the chakras or energy centers of the body, with the vibrations of singing-bowls – quite a singular experience. All in all, I appreciated the personal attention, professionalism and proper equipment (including a warming electric mattress pad). Had I more time, I could have experienced other treatments, or even undergone the panchakarma. But my stay in Pokhara was too short and I had to return to the smoggy world of Kathmandu.
The Ayurveda Health Home head office is at Dhapasi, Kathmandu; phone 435.8761. The Pokhara center is located at Khahare Chowk, Lakeside; phone (061) 465.874. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Internet: ayurveda.com.np
Daniel Haber is a freelance author who occasionally writes for ECS Nepal magazine. He may be contacted at email@example.com. Daniel’s flights to and from Pokhara were courtesy of Yeti Airlines.