During our recent India visit, we spent 15 days at Manthena’s Arogyalayam, |a naturopathy health camp| ashram | headed by Dr. Manthena Satyanarayana Raju near Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. We went there specifically to get some long term solution/ideas for my husband’s low back pain issue. But, it was also a chance for all of us as a family to unplug and enjoy the lush, green surroundings.
This blog post outlines the diet we followed there, the exercises, activities and my view of the place.
Dr. Manthena Raju’s (founder’s) philosophy:
Dr. Raju is a very popular naturopathic doctor in the state of Andhra Pradesh. He had a daily TV show running for more than a decade. He also has a lot of supporters and followers, many of whom have donated him land and money to built this health center.
The main gist of Dr. Raju’s teaching, as per my understanding, is that you use nature to help cure the body. Here are his top recommendations:
- A person should drink anywhere between 1.25-2 litres of water in the morning.
- Food should be prepared and eaten without salt and oil. (also called MOSS free cooking, M& S -masala and sugar)
- Fasting your body is a way to self-cure.
- Do yoga daily for physical health
- A sedentary job requires just 2 meals a day.
My thoughts on Naturopathy
People who know me well, know that I am a skeptic. Name any health ‘cure’/ panacea – and I always approach them with a pinch (nay) a bucket of salt!! (pun intended)…If there is anything that even remotely sounds cult-like, alarms go off in my head and I start running the opposite direction. That’s just me – not saying it is right or wrong, but that’s me.
I have read Dr. Raju’s books and listened to his lectures. While, there are lot of very useful recommendations to consider, I am not convinced on all of his recommendations. So, instead of taking an all or none approach, I adopted ideas that make sense to me.
But, I also have no problems admitting that Dr. Raju has helped many people overcome serious lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. I believe that his service motive is true. I also believe a lot of people, who are giving testimonials, have felt relief after following his suggestions. If you are currently eating a very rich diet, his rules make it very simple to change gears and get results quickly.
However the Arogyalayam (health camp) is bigger than just the diet aspect of Naturopathy. Whatever may be my qualms about Dr. Raju’s diet philosophy, I am very impressed with the Arogyalayam – the people there, the yoga classes and the professionalism with which it is run.
Manthena’s Arogyalayam – Many services, Caring people
The people there are honest and caring, the place is lush green and clean (super-impressive). The rooms are well-maintained. There is a doctor and floor manager for every floor.
There are treatment services provided everyday- like massage, mud baths, TENS therapy etc. Personally, I am not a big massage person and some of the treatments felt like time-fillers. However, I enjoyed the mud bath more than I thought I might.
One of the under-appreciated aspects of the arogyalayam are the physiotherapists in-house. They give you targeted exercises to strengthen weakness in any areas. The fact that this treatment is included in the payment package is a great deal.
The yoga classes are wonderful (best aspect of the arogyalayam, IMO)- there are different classes going on throughout the day (general yoga, diabetes yoga, pain yoga, obesity yoga, etc). The yoga teachers are very knowledgeable and helpful. If you are physically incapable of going to the Yoga Hall, the teachers come to your room to help you practice yoga. Now, that is true service!! Hats off to the wonderful yoga teachers!!
Diet-wise: Under doctors’s supervision, I also got to try out fasting. This is something I have not tried till now, but having tried it – I feel it is definitely worth exploring as I get older.
I lost 2 kgs in 15 days, which I believe is the norm. I could have pushed it more with more than 2 days of fasting, but I do not believe in rapid weight loss. Weight loss was not my goal to accomplish there.
I was even more thrilled with the improvements in the range of motion in my left shoulder thanks to the physiotherapist on-site who worked with me daily. I got ‘frozen shoulder’ 4 years back and get pain whenever I exert it too much by exercising. I never paid attention to it before, but with 15 days at my disposal – I was able to pay attention to it and improve it. I was thrilled to have done that.
My husband, who was the main reason we went there, had great results by improving the flexibility in his back. He credits most of this to the yoga classes there and the physiotherapist who worked with him. He has been practicing his yoga religiously ever since we got back to the US.
Let’s get to the meat of the matter (more like ‘sprouts’ of the matter hahaha…) – The food!!
This is the only food I could not eat- Raw sprouts. They give you lemon to squeeze on it and give you variety of sprouts, but the 2 days I ate this, let me just say – I was eagerly waiting for lunch!!
But, thanks to my doctor, (the doctor prescribes the diet based on what your treatment needs are), she changed my order to boiled sprouts and that made me a happy gal. I liked the taste of the cooked sprouts and it is healthy as well. Score!!
This has to be my favorite meal of the day!! You are given 3 pulkas and unlimited subzis. You get 2 types of side dishes – mostly made with lentils or greens. They are made without salt, oil, masala or sugar. But they include nut powders, lentils, tomato juice, buttermilk, amchur powder, etc to bring out the natural saltiness of the subzis. I personally have no problem with this because my mom has cooked with low salt plenty of times when my dad was going through his health problems.
I ate very hearty lunches. So much so, that I very rarely felt hungry for dinner.
Dinner is only fruits. All kinds of fruits. You would think, that hey, how will that be enough? But trust me, you will feel quite full with all the fruit varieties. They were washed, cut and kept in a clean environment.
They get you started with fasting at around day 4 or 5. For fasting, they only give you lemon, water and honey. They tell you to squeeze half a lime and add 2 tablespoons of honey with a glass of water and drink every 2 hours.
I went in fairly certain that I will not be able to fast. I do not like the feeling of hunger. I do not like the feeling of getting stuck on thinking about food all the time. However, the doctor convinced me to give it a try. The first day morning, I was terribly hungry. But then, it subsided. Yes, I managed to live past that!! hahaha :). And then the hunger feeling disappeared. By day 2, I was floating along. I did not even need my lemon-honey. I barely felt any hunger at all.
I could have extended my fast to day 3, but I was happy just to try out fasting. The regular food there was super-healthy. I was eager to try out all the varieties of food they had. So, I told my doctor I did not want to fast anymore. So, I got ready to transition to juice fast the next day.
I met a girl who fasted for 18 days, when I heard that – my jaw dropped to the floor!! But, she dropped 8kg in 30days. However, she mentioned that in-between she was too weak to go for yoga classes. Personally, I would rather take the wonderful yoga classes than lie in bed all day fasting. To each their own!!
They give you 5 juices at fixed times during the day during juice fast. The juices include: Vegetable juice, Sugarcane juice (2x) (yum!!), buttermilk and Sweet lime juice.
A couple of points about the juice fast :
1. I think this is harder than the lemon-honey fast. You feel the hunger with the juice fast.
2. Can I say how impressed I am with the sugarcane juice set up they have at the Arogyalayam? Usually, in Indian roads you always see flies buzzing around the sugarcane juice stalls. The sugarcane juice stall set up in the Arogyalayam was the cleanest set up I have ever seen. Bravo!!
Once the juice fast is done, they progress you on to a fruits only day and then back to regular food.
On the last evening at the Arogyalayam, we are given a feast complete with yummy pani puri (made without oil!! – say what??), biryani, bhaji and payasam. They use cool cooking tricks to make all the items in this feast without salt, oil or sugar – which is pretty innovative and cool!!
But, as my mother-in-law rightly predicted (this was not her first visit), we feel super full after the feast, slightly regretting the enthusiasm in which we ate the feast delights.
Other cool attractions
Rajayoga Hall: There is a very nice meditation hall in the ashram. I would often go there after lunch. With plenty of cross breeze and the calmness, it was a great place to clear the mind. They also had guest speakers from across the country who would talk about meditation/spirituality, etc. It was very interesting.
Health Topic Speakers: While there were many speakers (some repetitive – on naturopathy’s importance), there was a bariatric surgeon who spoke on the last day. I enjoyed it thoroughly. He spoke about his patients, what are the different metabolisms and why they are not all bad, health rates in the country, etc.
While most of the speakers speak in telugu (which I can understand to a large degree), they provide translators for you in Hindi and English.
Krishna River: The backdrop of this gorgeous place is the mighty Krishna river. The ashram offers swimming lessons, and boating opportunities for the family.
Cooking classes: I religiously attended all the cooking classes by Ms Uma who is a darn clever cook who figured out ways to circumvent cooking without oil and salt.
We finished the ashram and then came home to attend a wedding. My father-in-law jokingly mentioned, “Now that you have cleaned your system (body), it is time to reload.” And boy, did we!! Check out my instagram profile (@upgrade_my_food) for the delicious wedding food videos.
But, we were so glad to have attended it. My husband is now seriously working on his back muscles using yoga. We thank the yoga masters and his physiotherapist (Mr. Ravi garu) for it. I thank my physiotherapist, Mr Narendra garu for helping my shoulder. I was also a big fan of the obesity (aerobics) yoga session – so fun!!
My oldest daughter got to practice her badminton skills and cartwheeling in the grass at the ashram.
My youngest – hmm…I got nothing…She spent all her time trying out different swings that were hanging throughout the ashram and running after centipedes :).
In conclusion, it is a wonderful place!! It is very clear that a lot of sweat and effort has been made to develop and maintain it. We recognize and appreciate that!!
Have you visited any such health centers? Post your comments and experiences below!!
Here’s the link to Manthena’s website for more information : http://manthenasatyanarayanaraju.com/arogyalayam/