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Contents of Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre Newsletter 7 - October 2004

  • Nalanda News
  • "Bringing out a sense of wellness at the core of your being"
  • Natural Eating Guidelines
  • Digestive Seeds
  • Fantastic Fennel 
  • Upcoming Activities at Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre 

Nalanda News

A warm welcome to all of you. We carry many of you who have touched our lives, in our hearts. We love to hear your news, as we often wonder how your journeys are continuing.

For those of you who did not see it, below is the article which appeared in The Argus on the 4th of October. It gives you a good idea of what you can expect from our Ayurvedic Wellness Retreats. Also, this weekend on Free Spirit on Sunday at 1pm, there will be a feature on our group retreats at Pringle Bay. We hope you enjoy it!

We are introducing a new weekend workshop, Yoga and the Five Elements, which will take place on the 26th - 28th November. Also coming up next weekend is the one day workshop: Ayurveda - Doshas, Diet & Digestion. See the end of the newsletter for more details on these and our other activities.

Bringing out a sense of wellness at the core of your being
October 4, 2004

  By Jeanne Viall          

A half-day retreat at the Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre in Hout Bay could be just the thing you need to restore a sense of balance and well-being particularly as the stresses of the festive season loom.

What woman would say no to a retreat, albeit only a half-day one?
In the midst of a hectic week in which time seems speeded up, the invitation from the Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre seemed heaven-sent.
Drink plenty of water and herbal tea a few days before, I was instructed, and wear loose clothing.

On arrival at Nalanda I'm greeted by Samantha Wittenberg and Margit Gilliot, who will be my gracious hosts for the morning at this quiet spot on the Hout Bay mountain.

First up, I'm taken to the cottage on this rambling property, where a log fire keeps the icy wind at bay. I'm told that this morning is about me, and must put my notebook away until later. They've organised a programme for me, but I'm not to know what it is, the idea being that I let go and relax.

To start the process, I'm given sesame oil, which I have to keep in my mouth for around 10 minutes while I walk around outside. This is called "gandoush", and is a detoxifying process that should be done first thing every morning (after tongue scraping).

The oil is a bit strange, but not unpleasant. But that's where digestion begins, and in Ayurveda good digestion is central to health. It's also a good practice to start your day with a thorough tongue scrape - which may sound odd to some people, but is common practice for many Indians. You clean your teeth, why not your tongue?

I'm encouraged to drink a lot of water and tea - and a pot of fragrant cardamom tea awaits me. It's a warming tea for a cold day.

In Ayurveda there are three main body types; Pitta (fire), Vata (air) and Kapha (water/earth), as well as combinations of these.

You are born with a constitution and your lifestyle throws it out of balance, causing all sorts of disturbances. Samantha is an Ayurvedic practitioner and a remedial yoga therapy teacher. During the consultation that follows, she assesses my body type, and what's needed to bring my body back into balance.

Then I'm off for a massage with Margit, who studied Ayurvedic massage in France and worked in a pancha karma centre in Normandy for many years. The room is warmed, the massage bed is low on the floor, and I'm made cosy with a duvet. Margit's hands are like petals on my toes as she starts on my feet, ever-so- softly, and then with increasing pressure. It's never uncomfortable though.

I feel a sensation I'm unfamiliar with, which sends waves of sensation up my body. Afterwards, Margit tells me this was a massage using a small bowl made from different metals and ghee (clarified butter). For the next hour or so, I'm transported. The oil is warmed, and it feels as though she's using litres of oil (sesame and coconut, I'm told).

Massage, she says, is love therapy - and you must give it to yourself and others. "Of course you can learn techniques, but that's just a tiny bit of what I do. I go with what feels right and appropriate in the moment."

Ayurvedic massage offers a variety of options, including a body rub with chick pea flour, a massage in the foetus position and one using rice cooked in milk. Shirodhara is a therapy using warm oil poured on the forehead. The masseur decides what you need. Ayurvedic massages have a balancing effect on all body types, says Margit.

I would have been happy to fall asleep right there, but it was time to go back to the cottage, and more tea - this time ginger - and a facial steam, which was a mixture of cinnamon and other spices. It cleared my head, and I felt very ready for the yoga session with Samantha. It felt wonderful to stretch.

 Lunch is an optional extra for the half-day retreat. The cook is Daniel Erasmus and the food was served with aplomb by Xolisile Mahlobo. Rice, dhal and vegetables - simple and delicious.

Because digestion is so important, it follows that what and how you eat is also important. Food really is your medicine in Ayurveda, which has a range of seeds and spices that aid digestion. Before the meal, to stimulate the digestive fire, I eat a tiny amount of agni paste, which is a mixture of ginger, turmeric, jaggery (palm sugar) and ghee. Afterwards, a pinch of digestive seeds.

Samantha ends by giving me lifestyle advice, which includes tongue scraping, a morning massage with warm oil and the sesame oil mouthwash. And no eating late in the evening, as your digestive fire is at its lowest at night.

Then we talk. Margit tells me she is also an Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga instructor: "I feel humble about what I do. Ayurveda is a vast body of knowledge, and I've tasted just a little of it. We do not claim to do therapy here, but work from a wellness point of view. And I see it work for people. Our vision at Nalanda is to be a platform for Ayurveda."

They offer various retreats - from a half-day one to as-long-as-you-need residential retreats. They also offer one-day Ayurvedic workshops, retreats at Pringle Bay and a "Give and Receive" Ayurvedic massage workshop over a weekend. 

It's tempting to stay for the afternoon - my sinus has cleared, I'm feeling calm and rested - and a nap would be great. But I have things to do, hours to work still. I leave clutching a handful of recipes, a tongue scraper, ghee - and feeling recharged, surprisingly so after only a morning.

Mostly, though, I'm touched by the ambience of warmth and trust at Nalanda. What stays with me are Samantha's first words to me: Being here is about non-judgment - we don't judge you, you mustn't judge yourself here. And Margit's magnificent massage.

The mini retreat is a wonderful present to give someone, I muse, especially with the silly season coming up.

Natural eating guidelines

Feeling sluggish? Perhaps you're plagued with chronic sinus, tiredness or just don't feel on top of the world. In Ayurveda, how you eat is as important as what you eat. Here are some guidelines:

  • Eat in a congenial, quiet place with pleasing accessories (tablecloth, flowers and so on).
  • Engage in light, calm and soothing conversation, or observe silence while eating.
  • Avoid eating when you are not hungry, or failing to eat when you are hungry.
  • Over-eating overloads the digestive fire.
  • If possible, share your meal. The gift of food is the best gift of all.
  • Only eat when your previous meal has been digested (three to six hours).
  • Regularity of mealtime routines promotes health.
  • Food is most health giving when made from fresh, wholesome, seasonal produce, and is freshly cooked, warm and appealing to the eye, as well as tasty.
  • Try to include all six tastes in every meal or at least once a day (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, pungent and astringent).
  • Eat food that is prepared by someone who is happy, content and working in a pleasant environment.
  • Avoid eating when you are depressed, angry or otherwise emotionally upset.
  • Water or ginger tea may be sipped before and half way into the meal. Drinking cold drinks or large amounts of liquid before or within one hour of a meal dampens digestive fire.
  • Eat at a comfortable pace so that the food will move at a proper pace through the digestive tract.
  • Chew the food well and be aware of its smells, tastes, textures and sounds.
  • Experience the joy of eating with your hands.
  • Avoid eating while standing or lying down.
  • Sit on your heels for 15 minutes after meals, or take a gentle walk to encourage digestion.
  • Eat nothing within three hours of bedtime.
  • Don't cook food for more than two hours, or leave it standing.
  • Take agni paste, or a mixture of a small amount of grated fresh ginger, lemon juice and salt before meals. 


  • Recipe for Digestive Seeds (eat after a meal to aid digestion and prevent flatulence)
    half cup fennel seeds
    quarter cup sesame seeds
    1 Tbs cumin
    1 Tbs ajwan seeds
    2 pinches of salt, preferably rock salt
    1 Tbs water

    Clean seeds of all foreign objects. Dry-roast each seed separately.

    When fennel seeds are slightly brown, add water in which the salt has been dissolved and stir.

    Allow seeds to dry out completely before taking them off the heat.

    Mix all ingredients and allow to cool before storing in an airtight jar. - 

Fantastic Fennel

Fennel is sweet and slightly cooling, but balances all constitutional types. It is one of the best herbs for digestion. It helps to relieve menstrual or other cramps and dispels flatulence. It is calming for the nervous system. For coughs, fennel is a decongestant and expectorant. It also has a very long history of magical uses.

Boil up a teaspoon of seeds for two cups of tea or pour boiling water over a piece of the fresh plant for a refreshing summer drink.


On behalf of the team at Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre, we thank you again for your support and wish everybody peace, health and happiness.

With love and greetings,

Margit and Samantha


Upcoming and ongoing activities at Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre

(click on those which interest you to find out more - this will link you to our website)

Ayurveda - Doshas, Diet & Digestion: 6 November 2004

Yoga and the Five Elements 24 - 28 November  2004

Seven Spiritual Laws of Success 10 - 12 December 2004

Ayurvedic Massage - Give & Receive: 21 - 23 January 2005 

Ayurvedic Massage Retreats, over 1, 3, 5 and 7 days

Ayurvedic Dietary & Lifestyle Counselling

Weekly Yoga classes and individual sessions

Practical Ayurveda Evening:  15th November  Cost: R90 per evening
Spend an evening relaxing with Yoga, enjoying a tasty ayurvedic meal as well as learning about some practical aspect of Ayurvedic daily routine.


Welcome to Nalanda Ayurvedic Centre