We all know what we should and shouldn’t do when it comes to health and well-being. Yet we continue to eat the things that are now proven to be toxic for us, like processed sugar. We continue to work long hours and wonder why acidity is an issue. We force ourselves into gruelling fitness regimes and end up exhausted instead of energized. We go on diets and fall into the familiar pattern of cheating and then negotiating with ourselves when we can’t keep up.
So, how should one start changing patterns? I ask Harshvardhan Saraf, founder, Vedary, a holistic health centre in Mumbai.
“We try and teach you the language of transformation. All the healing you need is within you but you need to listen to your body. When you come here for a signature assessment, we ask unexpected questions—what sort of holidays do you enjoy?—instead of your latest blood pressure readings. We ask what you want to do in life and sometimes people don’t know what they want—they are functioning mechanically. That’s what creates stress," he says.
Saraf has battled allergies and chronic sinusitis and psoriasis. When the predictable steroid-antibiotic route did not work, he took charge of his own health. He changed his diet, found an alternative lifestyle and healed himself. That was the inspiration for Vedary, which started operations last year.
The centre’s wellness programme works on helping you understand your body’s acid-alkaline balance, and metabolic and activity-rest rhythm, giving an insight into your emotional and mental state. The focus is on “energy literacy"—helping you recognize and stay at your optimal energy levels.
Recently, the centre had a visiting team from Austria’s Viva Mayr Health centre. The centre’s methods are based on Modern Mayr Medicine, a holistic approach to healing that has its roots in the Mayr Method, pioneered by F.X. Mayr in the late 19th century. It emphasizes natural healing—eating right, fasting, and focusing on digestive health.
“Self-poisoning begins in the intestine" is one of their mantras. Like Ayurveda, the modern Mayr method is not a fan of raw food but has its own prescribed diet protocols. Potatoes, I discover, are good for you—they are highly alkaline.
But your mental state while eating is also considered important. “It is not what you eat but how you eat that can have a direct impact on your gut, says Viva Mayr’s Sepp Fegerl, a doctor. “People tick all the right boxes and still wonder why they have PCOD or acidity or some other problem. Even if you are eating the right meal that fits all the healthy boxes—organic and green and so on—it won’t help if you are stressed and gobbling down the meal because you are between meetings. It is better to spend some time breathing, centring yourself and eating something small or not eating at that point."
Chewing has become a bit of a Mayr signature, with training sessions on how to chew right. It seems like basic biology—as you chew, you generate more saliva to help food break down and be digested easily—but there is more to it.
“You can reprogramme your body away from sugar and caffeine easily if you chew right." You could be asked to chew each morsel 40 times when being trained to chew right. Fegerl suggests practising with a piece of jowar bhakri. In Austria, they use local flatbreads for training. “Chew till your food melts in your mouth and you will never feel hungry. You will discover how little you need to eat to be full. When you have the ‘Aha’ moment, you will find it easy to make this a habit," he says.
The same principles apply to the Mayr fitness approach too. “What is important is not the kind of exercise you do but whether your body is getting enough oxygen and whether you use fat as fuel, says Michael Omann, Viva Mayr’s head of sports science. “If you get those two right, you will be giving your body an optimal workout. Otherwise, your body will be stressed and you may find that the exercise you are doing is not suited for you at all." When your gut is out of whack, it can change your posture and alignment too.
Some of this comes from being sedentary. Omann suggests constantly making opposite compensatory moves to help both gut and balance, i.e. if you have been sitting for too long, stand; if you have been standing for too long, lie down; if you bend forward over the computer, do a back bend or stretch, and so on. It sounds simple but remembering to make this a regular practice is important.
In the wellness world, there are seven stages of disease manifestation, beginning with early warning signs like low energy, toxic build-up and inflammation. If left untreated, they can manifest as a chronic or untreatable disease. But simple lifestyle changes using natural healing techniques can root out some of these causes in the early stages so that they don’t progress into a full-blown disease.
Change starts with awareness, or, as Saraf says, “It’s about learning to make friends with your body." We can all chew on that.