In a small meditation room with the smell of incense lingering in the air, Chandrika Devidasi sat cross-legged on the floor, peering intently not at a candle or some esoteric Sanskrit text, but at the screen of a Mac laptop.
Though a Spaniard by birth and residence, Devidasi, 50, looks far more Indian than Spanish, with a colorful fabric draped over her shoulder, her hair in a bun and a red bindi mark on her forehead. She read some of her lecture from her computer and her 10 students scribbled away, asking questions periodically. It was a class on the ancient Indian approach to health, ayurveda, brought to the Internet age.
Ayurveda is a traditional medicine that involves a holistic approach to disease and aims to bring the body into a proper state of balance.
“We’re a microcosm in the macrocosm that is the universe,” Devidasi explained.
“Our rhythms can be coordinated with those of the cosmos.”
Ayurvedic philosophy strives to create an internal balance between the three bodily principles, or doshas. All three doshas are present in the body, though one or two are almost always dominant.
According to Emanuel Amador, one of the directors of the Indian-Costa Rican Association of Ayurveda and Yoga, which hosted Devidasi during her one-month visit, “the ayurvedic approach to balanced health involves diet, massage and everything that’s going on in a person’s life psychologically.” It encompasses daily routines for waking, eating and sleeping as well as traditional medicines, yoga and meditation. All ayurvedic diagnoses and prescriptions are made based on the patient’s dosha type.
Ayurveda is part of the ancient Vedic tradition of India. It is “more than a religion,” Devidasi said. “It’s more of a philosophy, because it affects every part of your life. It has to do with how you eat, how you breathe, even how you have sex. You get so many benefits.”
In her final talk of the introductory course given at Mandala Spa in the western San José suburb of Escazú, Devidasi stressed the importance of aligning one’s body to the energy of the earth, for example, by waking up between 2 and 6 a.m., which is considered the most favorable time to begin one’s day.
She also emphasized cleaning and body care techniques that originated in ancient India, from scraping the tongue with a metal tongue cleaner to clearing the nose every morning with a specially designed pot and a solution of water, salt and baking soda. Devidasi explained that cleanliness and other preventive measures are major elements in avoiding disease.
“We get sick when we’re not looking out for our health; it could be that we’re not breathing well, or lack of exercise, or the stress of negative thinking,” she said.
Devidasi came to Costa Rica after Amador contacted her teacher, Swami Shankarananda Tilaka, in Spain, and asked if their institute could send an expert on ayurveda to Costa Rica.
She kept extremely busy during her visit, leading introductory and advanced workshops in ayurveda, a weekend retreat at Rincón de la Vieja in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, a specialized yoga class, private consultations and a culminating meditation and talk via Internet with Tilaka at the Vedic Foundation in Spain.
In addition to her work in the Spanish city of Granada as director of the Institute of Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine, Devidasi is a registered nurse and works at a hospital there.
Though the Indian-Costa Rican Association of Ayurveda and Yoga, which is based out of Mandala Spa, has only 14 members, Amador said he hopes it will grow. Bringing Devidasi to the area was an important step in raising awareness about ayurveda. And it seems to have been well received.
“I’ve seen a lot of interest in ayurveda here,” Devidasi said. The first day we had a lecture, the room was full, and the weekend course at Rincón de la Vieja was full, too.”
For more information about ayurveda or to schedule a consultation, contact the Indian-Costa Rican Association of Ayurveda and Yoga at 829-8959, or call Mandala Spa at 228-9627.