Kalari bootcamp – Kalari Dharmikam – Centre of learning and healing
I arrived, 8th March 2016, in the middle of the night to the Kalari Dharmikam Ashram in Trivandrum. I felt like I had taken a trip back in time to an ancient sacred village. The Ayurvedic herbal smells in the air were intoxicating, and the plants were so green and luscious. My room was very simple, just a single bed and a small desk with a chair. They left a nice plate of fresh fruit for me as a welcome gift. (It was the only room with ac, which I specifically requested) I slept like a baby that first night in the arms of our Mother India.
The first morning at 6:30am I was told that I was supposed to meet Swamiji for my Ayurvedic consultation. It wasn’t easy for me to get up, my body felt like a sack of potatoes that early in the morning. It was the first time in years that I had been up at that time. So, you can only imagine the condition I was in for my first consultation. Hair was disheveled, eyes were sunken in, held up by dark circles, and my brain was in a cloud of NO CAFFEINE. I can only imagine the figure that Swamiji saw in front of him.
Swami or Guru Balachandran Nair is one the few surviving great masters of Kalaripayattu who has served as a warrior in the truest sense. He has dedicated his life to the preservation of the ancient martial arts tradition of Kalaripayattu, by establishing this ashram.
By virtue of his long dedication and devotion to his Masters, who trace their lineage to the mighty sage Agastya, he has acquired the knowledge of the Marmas and has on record on ancient palm leaf and other manuscripts treatments for virtually every known ailment, disability and injury. Through his intense discipline and training of mind he has reached the stage of “Self-Realisation” and Guru Balachandran Nair is a warrior now turned healer of international renown and recognized through his extensive travels, documentary programs on television channels such as Discovery, National Geographic, German, French, Swiss and Japanese television and countless features detailing his unique capabilities in the print media such as Yoga Journal etc.
Swamiji (as the ashram dwellers respectfully call him), sat me down in his small office which was encompassed by ancient books, ayurvedic herbs and oils, incense, and various other knickknacks. He took my hand and listened to my pulse…then without asking me any questions he went on to tell me everything about myself. As he continued to tell me very personal details of my life, I felt like I was slapped sober. I was shocked at every personal, emotional and physical detail he knew about me with only the sound of my pulse. As our consultation came to an end, tears streamed down my face because I realized that I had just met a master.
He put me on a serious rigorous training program of Kalaripayattu and Ayurvedic healing. I was up everyday at 5:30am for Kalari bootcamp training sessions, running in the muddy fields, knuckle push ups in the mud, lunges, balancing on one leg on a 8ft high, 5 inch thick wall, learning the traditional Kalari fight sequences, and being pushed like never before….each day my teacher would guide me to push through more fear..floating thoughts..”The body can do anything if you allow it to, why do I limit myself..with the I can’t consciousness.” After my training in Kalaripayattu or Kalari, I was given an amazing Abhyanga massage where the healers pour warm oil on the aching body. The healers are also trained in the practice of Kalari so they know where to massage to relieve any muscle acts and pains. Everyday after class I would feel broken and bruised, then the healers would patch me back together.
I stayed at the ashram for 2 1/2 weeks, the most difficult, painful yet magnificent time of my life. I will continue to go back annually to spend time with Swamji and push myself in a new way.
My deepest realization at the ashram is that physical training and healing therapy go side by side. We as dancers tend to abuse our bodies, not eating on time, smoking, partying, drinking and pushing our empty systems to the limit. This is not the way to sustain yourself for a long career in dance. Everyday at the ashram I had breakfast at 9:30am, lunch at 1:30 and dinner at 7pm. My body was treated like a machine, and due to this regulation it allowed me to push it to a degree that I never knew existed. We as performers, people using our physical bodies for our art form need to find a BALANCE. Fill the cup before you use what is in it. Just like a car can’t run on empty, neither can we.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” ~B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga: The Path To Holistic Health