Ayurveda: nourish your body and soul for lasting health

Ayurveda, the science of life and the oldest healthcare system, was born about 3,500 years ago in the Himalayas. According to a legend, there in the highest peaks of the Earth, during an enlightening congregation of rishis, the ancient Indian religious leaders and sages, who assisted by an intense meditation discovered how to eradicate human disease. As esoteric it may sound, Ayurveda developed through real experience, not just intelligent imagination.
Oneness, the mutual connection between man, nature and the universe, where every aspect of existence affects each other, became the ultimate guiding principle of the Ayurvedic lifestyle. Millennia of observation, trial and error, oral as well as vedic written transmission of knowledge have refined these time-tested truths about human nature and ultimately our health.
As the first holistic medical approach, Ayurveda never separates the mind’s emotional tensions from our bodily aches and the surrounding environment. Living in polluted air and stress of the urban lifestyle will negatively affect your physical health. This intertwined tendency explains why the wholeness of our existence is the focus of its healing.
Life science

Mother of most health systems

Ayurveda’s journey to China imprinted lasting concepts into the Eastern healing practices, that spread together with the Chinese influence to the ancient Kingdom of Siam in the South and Japan in the Northeast.
If your prana, the life force equivalent to the ‘qi’ in the Traditional Chinese Medicine, is disrupted, your agni, the inner fire responsible for transformations in the body such as the immune response and metabolism, is weakened. Therefore through supporting the prana – digestion, absorption of nutrients and the immune system all improve, leading to a better functioning of the body.
The flow of the life force is disrupted by imbalanced doshas, the three individual constitutions characteristic for each human being also known as bio energies.
Nature’s Five Elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Wind; penetrate the World and ourselves and are manifested in these doshas. Master forms of these three energies that we need to develop are prana (force), tejas (radiance) and ojas (vigour), which are supportive of good health.
The Chinese tradition also draws from the Natural Elements theory, the difference being that Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood govern the world energies. Creation was hypothetically driven by tao’s energy of qi and its offsprings of yin & yang crated the sky and the Earth as did the male and female continuity. Food and breath bring the qi into our bodies as does prana enter ourselves in Ayurveda. The “likes” in these two traditional health systems practiced by most of the human population still today can fit only into a substantial book, since there are hundreds of similarities.
Ayurvedic breakfastAyurvedic juice
The ancient Greek healers and doctors were also inspired mainly by its use of herbs to cure and accent on proper nutrition for health. Hippocrates was not the first sage to realise that food can be a medicine and that its dose can make it a poison. The indispensable role of our mind, sanity and stability in our overall health was also taken seriously even millennia ago. Doctor David Frawley in his book Ayurveda and the Mind covers this theme in an easy to grasp manner. I sincerely recommend reading this scientifically minded holistic compendium. In his broad coverage, the author highlights the essence of sattva, the qualities of which are intelligence, virtue, clarity, goodness that creates peace, happiness and true love. Unattached to the conscious sattvic calmness, but by cultivating its qualities, we achieve contentment. The other two primal forces of human mental nature (known as three gunas) are rajas and tamas, two contradictory yet complementary (like yin & yang) aspects of action and inaction. Rajas’ fierce energy stirs passion that can cause conflict and distress in its pursuit of sensory enjoyment, while tamas’ dullness in its inertia leads to decay, ignorance and loss of awareness in its overemphasis on the material world.
Changing of seasons affecting not only our physical but also our mental wellbeing is consensually recognised by the modern western medicine.
It is important to note that, since it is an Indian approach, widely practiced in the Southern state of Kerala, where still today you find the most experienced doctors and clinics healing through Ayurveda, for foreigners raised in a different environment, climate and food, its guidance should not be taken word by word, but as a tested resource for creating one’s own balance.
Ayurveda Ayurveda balancing high Vata

Individual search for equilibrium with Ayurveda

An experienced Ayurvedic practitioner easily, without any written questionnaire, assesses your overall health from behaviour, pulse, coating of the tongue (like TCM), your manner of discourse as well as momentous emotional state. In his assessment the doctor is able to distinguish our state NOW from how we were born. Ayurveda treats these current problems in order to return to a more true you (prakriti).
Each of us was born with a certain constitution, and ideally for our wellbeing we should attempt to support it. We posses to some degree all doshas, but one usually prevails. To return the balancing scales to our birth dosha/s, we must ground the Vata energy, tame the Pita fire and elevate the earthy Kapha. True holistic health is the trophy for such dedicated effort.
Human characteristics of the three doshas:
Vata – is energised, nervous, artistic and constantly active in the mind and the body (thin people).
Vata is the moving reflection of the air element in nature.
Pita – is aggressive, decisive, driven and hot tempered (muscular and well-built).
Pita represents the transformative fire element in nature.
Kapha – has motherly qualities such as love, care, charity, but also easy gains weight because of insufficient activity.
Kapha nourishes and protects like the earth element in nature.
Balance of the doshas yields the ultimate health. Most of us need to decrease or increase the characteristics specifically related to each one of these bio energies. This requires long-term lifestyle adjustments. Health comes as a natural result from the cocktail of proper lifestyle habits and the mindset, suitable diet and exercise. The well of wisdom is dizzyingly deep in Ayurveda and it requires a strong will.
Ayurvedic balanced mealAyurvedic food

Food as medicine

In Ayurveda, the amount, kind, taste, the combinations as well as the scheduling of food that should be regularly eaten in a calm setting, all play crucial role in maintaining good health. Prevailingly a vegetarian wholesome diet tailored to the individual – what will differ is the use of spices, dairy with the exception of ghee (clarified butter used for therapeutical cleansing), raw versus cooked food, steamed is generally preferred to fried food. The concrete effects of each ingredient are very specific and not many people are able to remember them. For an easier navigation taste defines what is best for you. Bitter, sweet, sour or salty, to support the needed dosha be directed by your tongue.
Some herbs such as Indian Gooseberry (Emblica Officinalis) and spices like cardamom are universally beneficial.
Meat is occasionally allowed to some individuals, but since it taxes heavily digestion and accumulates toxic waste in our bodies, only wild, hormone- and pollution-free animals should be included.
The life energy of prana enters the body through food and breathing, so living in non-polluted environment and regularly practising pranayama breathing exercises, is a recommended part of the cleansing routine balancing our system.
Ayurvedic herbsAyurvedic herbs

Ayurvedic remedies and therapies

Over the millennia, various rituals were crated in India to assist with healing and supporting the detoxification process necessary for returning closer to the individual equilibrium.
An Ayurvedic warm oil massage aids with the elimination of toxins and tensions as does sweating in the steam room. There are many more spa rituals designed to reset your wellbeing. My recent stay at an Ayurvedic retreat in the Indian Ocean details the some of the rituals like shirodara. I went through just a 7-day Alleviating Therapy (Samana Chikitsa) to kickstart the balancing of my aggravated doshas. The resort like most serious Ayurvedic clinics further includes the intense 21 days lasting cleansing program known as panchakarma that is reputed to have the most profound effect on your health.
Various mental therapies and surgical methods are employed by the doctors when needed.
Taking care of your body benefits your mind and in the reverse. Therefore it is important to find an activity that suits your personal constitution (dosha). The practice of yoga in its authentic spiritual union-seeking manner, not as the heavy power workout and muscle building intended exercise professed in many urban fitness rooms today, leads to a more centred lifestyle. The practice of the asanas (postures) was originally designed to rejuvenate the body and mind.
“Om” was the first sound whose vibrations allegedly created the five elements and their combinations gave birth to the three doshas. Listen to an interview with Dr. David Frawley in this video where he explains Ayurveda’s connection with yoga.
Antigravity yoga & taichi pavillon

Tuning your body with the help of nature

Herbs (samana) and with them combined mineral and spice infusions and tonics are the foundation of the Ayurvedic balancing. Most retreats have their own garden from which the doctor as well as the therapists pluck the freshest, and the most potent, herbs. Tulsi, the Indian Holy Basil is used for its antimicrobial effects in foot baths, in a steam room as well as infusions. Ashwagandha (indian ginseng), cinnamon, ginger, neem, Indian Gooseberry also known as “amla“, and dozens of other herbs as well as controversial remedies such as microscopic doses of arsenic or mercury. Their efficiency has been tested zealously over time so one does not need to worry about being poisoned.
Gems and semi-precious stones are also used in the formulas, but the most common are herbal tinctures, tonics and sirups that are administered before or after the meals to support the agni.
Ginger teacup of tea
As celebrities in Hollywood and beyond seek Deepak Chopra’s guru lead advice on his luxurious retreat in California, Ayurveda is now also more popular abroad. During the 1960s, when the Beatles went to India and the naturalist hippies movement took off, Ayurvedic lifestyle was already on the rise. In India it is now being once again promoted after some dark period when the British colonial rule dismissed it, and before it the muslim rule centred in Rajastan eliminated the established schools and retreats. As a more affordable health care system than western drugs and treatments, Ayurveda is more suitable for the poor in India.
With our increasing concerns of the side effects and resistance decreasing western chemical drugs, perhaps returning to the millennial wisdom derived from natural healing might be a more advantageous alternative in its holistic approach to health.

India: There is more to Goa than parties, hippies and drugs

Goa, one of the wealthiest and smallest states in India, was a Portuguese colony for 450 years until 1961. The centuries-long colonial rule left a strong European cultural influence in the region. Life is more easygoing than in other states, and apart from Hinduism, there is still a large Catholic community amounting to about one third of the population.
Goa India

Portuguese architecture side by side with Hindu temples

An outstanding legacy the Portuguese colonial rulers left behind clearly concerns Goa’s architecture. Neat, little white and blue chapels glow in the sunlight, giving stray dogs a place to rest. Grand churches stand side by side with Hindu temples. Colorful but occasionally dilapidated Portuguese-style houses with their typical verandas surrounded by lush gardens are reminiscent of Cuba. Little altars or wayside crosses are ubiquitous. Particularly in the former capital of Old Goa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, churches, monasteries and chapels dot the landscape like pearls on a chain. The 46m-high ruin of the St Augustine tower of the former Augustinian Monastery, was once one of the largest buildings in Goa, but now remains a silent remembrance of the past.
Portuguese architecture in India Portuguese architecture in India
The red brick box-shaped Basílica do Bom Jesus is situated in a huge fenced area with a stone monument, where believers place yellow or orange marigolds and burn them with narrow candles as an offering. The Basílica is still extremely meaningful for Goan Christians, because it contains the mortal remains of Goa’s patron, Saint Francis Xavier, pioneer of the Christian mission in Asia.
Religious hindu offeringHindu ornamental offering

Rich wetlands, marshes and mangrove forests

Those seeking solitude should consider taking a cruise on the Mandovi River that winds its way inland over 80 km, surrounded by rich wetlands, marshes and mangrove forests. The Sea Eagle tour cruise teaches tourists about the fauna and flora in this unique ecological system. Besides local birds such as the osprey or the golden plover, crocodiles, living in their saline water habitats, can be sighted. The Mandovi River is also used to obtain sand illegally for construction work. A few boats, with men digging out sand in buckets tied to long wooden sticks floating on the river, add a bizarre image to the otherwise pristine nature.
ruin of the St Augustine tower in Goa Cathedral of Santa Catarina in Goa
Where the river narrows into a small stream, a mountain road winds up the hill to a sanctuary called Wildernest, 62 km from the capital of Panjim. Situated in an untouched environment at 800 meters above sea level overlooking the Swapnagandha valley, Wildernest is one of the first eco resorts in the region. It also involves local communities in activities related to natural and cultural heritage. Those who want to experience serenity and learn more about nature in an eco-environment can rent a plain but comfortable hut and relax by the infinity swimming pool with its cool water that envisages an extension of the horizon. These refuge seekers can learn more intricacies of nature on one of the daily treks.
Architecture of Goa

Feni the local schnapps from Goa

Another point of interest worth visiting is the Tropical Spice Plantation near Ponda, where black pepper, betel nuts, pineapples, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cashew nuts and a broad array of spices grow. The kidney-shaped cashew nut grows on the skin of a fruit resembling a yellow bell pepper. In Goa, a triple distilled alcohol beverage called Feni containing nearly 40 percent alcohol is made from the cashew fruit. Although redolent of an antiseptic, its taste is similar to a nut-flavored schnapps and is the typical Goan drink, comparable to what vodka is to Russians.
Cashew fruit

Saturday night market in Goa

Those in search of more adventure should take in the Saturday night market in Arpora. White star lamps on trees light up the entrance, which is guarded by security staff. A multitude of colorful booths shoulder one another and sell wares ranging from inexpensive pieces to fine textile works with Indian prints. Also on offer are soapstone elephants, lamps and clothing articles. There’s a band playing western music on a nearby stage. A mix of locals and tourists enjoy having a drink while strolling through the bazaar or queuing up at the photo stand to have their pictures captured in a humorous manner. The warm night temperature, the smells, sounds and people all make for an unforgettable visit.
Sandy beach in Goa
Hundreds of beaches line Goa. Some are crowded; others, buzzing party spots, while the rest remain peacefully quiet. Baga Beach near Arpora is clearly one of the most visited. Here, numerous locals enjoy dipping their toes into the wet sand or having a drink in one of the shoreline bars. The atmosphere in the evening, when the sun fades into the sea, is just stunning not only for humans, but also for herd of “holy” cows that gather motionlessly on the sand-like statues.
For swimming and relaxing, Anjuna Beach, originally a favorite destination for hippies in the 70s, is a calmer and less crowded place. Come in the afternoon, have a sea-view seat at the popular waterfront restaurant, Curlies, and enjoy the local King’s Black Label premium beer, which is only available in Goa. In the early evening, sun worshipers will slowly leave way to local women who sell coconuts, pineapples and cigarettes, while Curlies transforms into a chill out night club with sounds of lounge music rippling through the air.
Golden sunset in GoaIndian beer
A few elderly hippies enjoy a toke as a young woman practices her yoga nearby, facing a sunset that illuminates the beach in golden and luscious pink hues.
Goa is a wonderful experience and has far more to offer than parties, hippies and drugs. People say it is not the real India, but dreams are never real—they are just a glimpse of reality. Goa is currently trying to redefine itself as a high-end holiday destination for culturally interested international travellers as well as the affluent locals.

Indigo: the Bollywood dining mecca in Mumbai

Only a block stroll from the iconic Taj Mahal hotel and the colonial past evoking Gate of India, nestles a trendy hotspot for the Bollywood celebrities and idols seeking crowd. Indigo has been attracting the innovation driven and internationally themed food zealots living, traveling or simply passing through Mumbai in the past 15 years. Its success is supported by three pillars of attraction.
Baby Beets Horseradish Pana Cotta, Herbs & Petit Greens
First, you can trust its high quality ingredients and carefully guarded hygienic preparation, which in India can save you an unpleasant fight with a food or water contaminated infection.
Second, the menu evolves constantly. The chefs’ thrill for new lavish marriages between worldly ingredients and western cooking techniques never bores the regular diners. I was impressed by the delightful first course of Baby Beets tossed with lettuce leafs, herbs and bread crisps, that was curiously paired with a jelly-textured horseradish pana cotta. The milky texture of the savoury pana cotta seasoned with pungent horseradish was an unexpected turn in the meal. Rather uncommon blend, yet with the chef’s sensitive touch the result tasted wonderfully.
There are many more surprising culinary concoctions such as the Pressed Watermelon Chilli Vodka (yes in your food) with Whipped Feta, Fennel and Pumpkin Seeds or French Farm Foie Gras Terrine Pickled Rhubarb, Rhubarb Soup, Fruit Nut Brioche. Who would think of serving goose liver with a rhubarb soup? Certainly not a common foodie like me.
Ravioli with cream sauce and parmesan shavings
Rahul Akerkar, co-owner and chef, spent many years in New York, where, while earning a master’s degree in  biochemical engineering from Columbia University, he was making money at various restaurant kitchens. This taste driven American experience drew him into the western culinary world. His international magic is stamping the entire menu.
These second courses give you a glimpse into the chef’s gastronomic soul bringing Italy together with Canada or Austria in one dish:
Pumpkin & Goat Cheese Tortellini Carrot Ginger Puree, Spiced Pecan
Chilean Sea Bass In Cardamom Tomato Minestrone Blue Mussels, Squid Ink Spaetzle – doughy spaetzle with mussels and fish? It cannot get more unconventional.
The chef of Indigo
In an interview for Huffington Post’s Perry Garfinkel the chef explained the reasons for his admiration of Western cuisine: “Subtlety. Less truly can be more in the kitchen. Why cover up the real taste of fish or lamb or delicate greens? It’s a young chef’s insecurity that makes him or her try to do too much with a recipe.
Although, the chef uses unheard of combinations, he still uses much less spices and sauces than a typical Indian food would have usually done.
His groundbreaking culinary zeal earned him recognition not just in India, but Indigo ranked 28 in the Asia’s top 50 restaurants awards by san Pellegrino and Aqua Panna.
Many vegetarian options such as the Seared Tofu With Tentsuyu Broth Vegetable Gyoza, Sweet Shitake and Daikon are a trip further to the east, unlike his previous more western directed dishes. The chef, like many of his professional cohorts, did not escape the global infatuation with Japanese ingredients.
Desert at Indigo
The deserts do not lag behind. From freshly made homemade ice cream (many rather unusual flavours), through sizzling hot soufflé to heavenly chocolate treats the pastry chef remains in the same adventurous spirit as the savoury dishes.
I went for the Pineapple Upside Down Cake adorned with Charred Peppery Pineapple, Chili Caramel and a scoop of Rosemary Ice Cream. The cake burst into a full life with the spicy chili flare and aromatic herbal ice cream.
Indigo terrace
Indigo’s third pillar of success lies in its location and design. Heavy wood, simple lines and distinct glass lamps penetrate the entire structure creating a no-fuss yet homy environment. Housed in a historic wood beamed Victorian mansion it blends an aura of several climates. The upper outdoor terrace is adorned with exotic trees offering breezy freshness that is multiplied by the whizz of swaying electric fans. It is only open for dinner during the more pleasant winter months.
The dining rooms (The Yellow Room on the ground level and bigger Main Room with a Shiva blue reflecting pool along one of its walls) are dedicated to pure food pleasure. While entering through a long bar hall lined up with tall bar stools on one hand and straw meshed lounge chairs celebrates social merriment. The Burgundy room is the scene for wine dinners and private dining functions. The choice of ambiances is abundant.
Torbreck Barossa Valley Australia
Drinks: The wine list with a broad-reaching international selection including Indian wines by the glass and bottle was awarded with the “Award of Excellence” by Wine Spectator from 2001 to 2010. In India proper storage, temperature control as well as correct serving temperature of wines are a common problem. Our bottle of the Australian red beauty Torbreck was in a perfect condition. From Barossa Valley, the almost 10 years old wine held up very well. Still powerful, yet more smooth after the substantial ageing process. The sommelier was enthusiastic, yet his expert wine knowledge was not up to the standards I would expect from a Wine Spectator awarded establishment.
Opening hours: Daily for lunch: 12noon – 4:00 pm; Dinner 7:00 pm – 1:00 am.
Address: 4,Mandlik Road,Near Taj Mahal Hotel,Colaba,Mumbai.
Contact: Tel: +(91) 22 6636 8980

Ziya: pioneering modern Indian gastronomy in Mumbai

Ziya is a fine Indian restaurant with a streamlined statement – bold, glowing, elegant, smooth and proud to be counselled by the celebrity (Netflix and Masterchef judge in India) chef Vineet Bhatia. He is considered as the father of modern Indian cuisine and was the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star (in 2001 at London’s Zaika).

Ziya at the Oberoi hotelModern interior
Dining at Ziya can be a romantic affair. In its tuned down ambiance focus your gaze on the Arabian sea flushing the shores of Mumbai, hold the hands of your loved one and savour together the impeccable symphony of flavours created by the indian chefs.
Indian breads and dips
The busy and trendy Nariman Point, where the Oberoi hotel with Ziya inside is located, invites to a dynamic lunch or dinner out. Particularly if you imbibe in watching the rattling chefs at work inside the windowed kitchen. It is like an Indian top chef show live. One can learn how to toss and throw a colossal naan bread while dining, it looks like a Roman pizzaiolo skilfully whirling a pizza. You will be served a wide selection of indian breads, next to seasoned naan, chewy rotis and crispy poppadoms, accompanied by a holi festival coloured dips. The grassy green is based on mint, while the flamingo pink is a blend of beetroot and yoghurt, no artifice.
Indian Vegetarian tofu
The restaurant’s name is derived from the word diya, which means ‘glow, light, and splendour.’ The interior was designed to reflect this glory. Golden glowing panels, doors and luxurious chairs, ‘magic’ handmade carpets and ostentatious tableware.

The food is not the less subdued, flashing with flavours and original interpretations of classical indian fare.
Its brain is the London-based chef Bhatia (who closed his wonderful Rasoi there), who visits the restaurant throughout the year. His role is to supervise the chefs’ technical expertise, the recipes as well as presentation of the dishes. His innovative approach to Indian cooking at his London restaurant (now named Kama inside Harrods) was born in Mumbai. He mingles between here and his growing global emporium of restaurants from Dubai (Indego at Grosvenor House Hotel was very good when we went in 2018) to Geneva (Rasoi disappointed us a few years ago).
Indian Vegetarian brocoli dishMushroom Galauti
The menu is constantly evolving, but always contemporary Indian with a wide-choice of vegetarian plates, that are exquisite. One could easily enjoy giving up meat with food so delicious as this. A multi-course tasting menu is on offer, but we went à la carte. At Zaika I would highly recommend to loosen your stereotypical self and go for the new, yet unexplored dishes suggested by the waiters. Every single bite there was exquisite. Whether it was lamb, rice, the grilled paneer cheese or sweet and rich broccoli.

Fratelli Indian ChardonnayGuigal Cote-Rotie Syrah blend

Beverage selection is very good for Indian standards. An international wine list spans from Australia, through India to France and the US. Finding Indian wines abroad is not easy, therefore I went for a glass of Chardonnay made by Fratelli wines. Fratelli is one of the biggest wine producers in India making enjoyable, easy drinking fruity wines from mainstream varietals. A nice aperitif.
To follow, we went for a bottle of French, Rhone Valley blend from Côte-Rôtie by one of the best producers E.Guigal. Its spicy Syrah character accompanies the fragrant indian seasoning very well.

Opening hours: Lunch: 12:30 pm – 2:45 pm; Dinner: 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm.
The Oberoi Hotel, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400021, India.
Tel: +(91) 22 6632 5757
Visit: November 2013
Price: High (top Indian chef, one of the best Mumbai’s hotels, luxurious interiors = very expensive)

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