Von Julieta Schildknecht


«Take the opportunity to step out of life’s demanding routine, get back in touch with yourself and revitalize your life». Alistair Shearer & Dr. Suma A P.


Dr. Suma do you see your Spa as the main attraction from Neeleshwar Hermitage?

Of course, almost 40% from our repeated clients come to us because of their Ayurveda massages. This happens repeatedly year after year uninterruptedly. Since 4 to 5 years we have been treating many old clients. At first year they came to the resort for relaxation and once they got familiar with our Ayurveda treatment, they like it and return using one of our packages (Detox package, Stress package).
I am happy that we are doing a great work on behalf of this beautiful place. Ayurvedic treatments are of different kinds.
Hence there can be very strict Ayurvedic Hospitals, where the clients are given strict diet, strict medicines it will not be very encouraging to them, they can be almost like punishment to those who come for holidays because they are sometimes unpalatable bitter medicines along with hardships of treatment morning, afternoon and evening. Few clients are happy with that too. It will suit them if they are a patient.

Our clients prefer relaxing so they like to be at the beach for some time, they like to be at the pool for some time and our treatments go along well because we are in the wellness side . We are giving care through our Wellness with soothing treatment. We are not a Hospital and we are part of a resort. Regarding their Diet we advise them not to eat all of what is being offered at our restaurant if they opted for a Detox package. These clients are more concerned about their diet and even though we impose a strict diet we offer a tasty and differentiated food for them. Therefore even if their package is a 21 or a 28 day package, they don’t feel bored of eating always the same.


Why are you doing a consultation with your clients before starting the treatment?

The consultation is prefered even if you are having just a massage. It is always good to have a talk to the doctor. Knowing your body type or Dosha , they can plan the treatment. This way the heat of the oil can be determined before using it for the massage. How much pressure you need for your massage and also its strokes intensiveness, it is all related to knowing the body type. Even the adequate food suitable for each body type is described during a one to one sitting.
Again consultation is required to know the body type.


A few people can have stiffness in their body or ache or sometimes very bad circulation. But when the doctor talks to you she knows what is necessary and what is suitable to each person. After the consultation i advise the therapists according to the clients profile. Use that oil, this kind of herbs bundles ( Kizhi) and the heat should be controlled. For a Pita person they are not very happy to tolerate the heat. For a Vata type a little warmer. All this has to be planned.
A one to one consultation is a must, thats our policy here. If we are to do a planned treatment it is good to have a sitting before undergoing treatment. Thats our view of doing it classically.


When did you start with Ayurveda?

My grandfather was a Sanskrit scholar, I couldn’t learn much detailed Sanskrit still I thought if i am doing some professional degree i will go with Ayurveda because Ayurveda has a holistic approach of life and it requires Sanskrit as well. Ayurveda has a healing power without using chemical medicine but pure herbal medicines. We can source any plant for medicine we see here and there because every plant is a medicine in Ayurveda (nasthi kinchit anoushadham). How to use it or how to make maximal use of a plant from outside thats what Ayurveda intends. Thats what always interested me. I didn’t mind living in the city (Mangalore) and embracing a 5 and a half year course, four and half years of studies and 1 year pf internship. We learn on the first semester the basic of modern medicine: anatomy and physiology. Later we start learning about the plants and the preparation of medicines and pathological case patients. We learn everything when we are getting to know different patients at the Hospital.


Why did you decide to work as an Ayurveda practitioner in the field of Wellness?

Actually I was working in a Hospital before starting here. Some of the patients required more specific treatments. We have in Ayurveda two types of treatment: pacifying and purifying. The prevention requires detoxes, tablets, powders and all that. The purifying goes with the panchakarma treatment. I was doing pacifying medicine some years but I wanted new challenges. While working there at the Hospital i heard of the resort. They called me for an interview and i thought I will work here with clients from a different level and from abroad. At our Neeleshwar Hermitage we have no detailed treatment center but I still enjoy being here and putting my efforts in it.



Is your Spa a very traditional Ayurveda Wellness Centre?

Yes, we are doing as much as possible on the traditional way because for instance if we tell our clients to drink unpalatable medicines and all that, they may not like it. What we are doing here is blending it. We are not submitting them to a strict hospital type restrictiveness but we advise them to not go directly in the sun after the massage, we advise them not to swim in the sea during their treatments. The instructions we give them will help them regain their health and Purification treatments are always very strict.



What would be the ideal time for a Detox treatment?

Detox treatments are good when we don’t have a heavy stomach, better to do them in the morning hours. Since we are not a hospital we have to follow our restaurant hours. Actually the ideal would be before meal. It is possible to do it after a meal but with a gap between meal and the massage ideally one and a half hour later that would be good. In the hospital we do it before Breakfast.



That means early in the morning and at what time?

Early in the morning around 7.30 – 8.00am according to the Kapha, Pita and Vata predominance in the body (dosha predominanace).



How many days are required for a Detox treatment?

For clear and cleansing should be at least 14 days.



And for other treatments?

Other treatments like relaxing sort of treatments or wellness care to your body we can make a plan for 7 days minimum. In the plan includes cleansing the body because each and every massage we do is oriented towards the heart, circulation comes from the heart and goes towards the heart. We are detoxing through the intestines. We are doing it with a few of our clients with internal medication , and most of the time this is part of the package when requested.



How do you see the Spa, as being part of a retreat or just as part of Neeleshwar Hermitage resort?

As part of relaxation. Many clients don’t like to be rushing in sight seeing they prefer to sit at the pool, practice yoga, meditation. Most of the clients are middle aged , they are very happy to be in such a relaxed place.



Do you also have children clients?

Actually we are not very happy with the policy of the resort regarding children. There will be restrictions for them as it affects the silence of the resort.



Would you treat a Child with Ayurveda?

Sure. Even new borns with umbilical chord but not as a treatment. After three days in our homes we massage new borns with a mild coconut oil, we stretch them and start at that age with Ayurveda massage. It can be normal massages only at the age of 7 to 70 years. That is the Ayurvedic view of doing it. If it is an infant the massage and the strokes are different until 7 years, they are mild. In our Spa we give children massages in less time (30 minutes) and don’t use steam.



Is it common to have women as Ayurveda doctors or is it more a male world?

It is a 50/50% learning Ayurveda. There are a lot of male and female doctors.



In the University?

Also, I think 30 were ladies and 20 were man, almost equal, speaking about our batch.



At your Spa you are free to create different plans of treatment. What would be the ideal and is there more to be discovered in Ayurveda not regarding Wellness but in terms of healing medicine such as Cancer or Neurological problems?

Doing a complete treatment In such a retreat or boutique area like here is difficult. Because if you massage a patient they can not go to the pool or to the rooms, this is not a place for patients. Soon after the massage we take our clients to the shower to wash them. In a hospital we send them along with the oil. In the morning they have a massage and in the afternoon, in the case of Parkinson disease for instance, there will be the use of bundles treatment shirodhaara , shirovasthi, etc.
We have some restrictions, we cannot demand or keep our clients away from other activities.. Still what we can do we are doing, even giving medicine for whom required. Ayurvedic hospitals do very quick and strong massages in 30 minutes and they do complete body massages. We do it in 45 minutes so that our client receives individual attention and individual care.

If we have clients with problems which I can cure with Ayurveda medicine then i help them and i arrange to get them internal medicines. Now a days we are getting decoctions ( kasha yam) also in tablets which are helpful. We are helping our guests as much as possible.


Do you follow the western tendency of showing Ayurveda as an “In or trendy” treatment and what do you think of that?

Ayurveda became a trend with the need of the human being. People were out of the path because they were busy doing lots of other things not taking care of their body and it was a must for them to follow the Ayurveda. It is not because it is a trend that they are making use of it but I am sure because of their need.

When I talk with Vata, Pita and Kapha body type of personalities, when I give them the diet instructions, they say they recently quit such food and how they were feeling ill eating not properly. Our body tells us when something is wrong even if we don’t know whether it is Vata, Pita or Kapha. Our body will be upset even when drinking Coca-Cola. There were times when people didn’t care about drinking Coca-Cola. There were then lots of packages of Coca-Cola being sold in local shops. Today we hardly find it. In the same way, peoples’ awareness is improving.


How did Ayurveda became known, through Yoga and since when?

This system of medicine developed 5000 years ago. We have in India a great book called charak samhitha on Ayurvedic medicine and Sushrutha samhita on surgery.

When we were studying in Karnataka our medical college was very famous for Ayurveda treatment. In our medical college there were daily 800 to 1’000 out-patients to be treated. We were tired of working doing a few surgeries also. One of our professors was a very good team leader, who would manage the patients. Still we were supposed to do the helping side as well. At that time in Kerala it was not so practical to do the Ayurveda with surgical mode. They were doing the massages and internal medications there as well. Indians are keeping themselves away from the modern medicines as much as possible.
It is 20 years since I finished my course so possibly that is the time since when it became more popular.

Now a days there are much more Ayurveda doctors than 20 / 30 years ago and they are not able to earn as much as older doctors once earned in a Hospital. There is almost a saturation in our field, but still opportunities are coming.



How did Ayurveda became famous in overseas?

German people made it famous because they are always exploring something new. They were very serious with the treatments. All foreign clients when they come we want to make sure they are better treated than previously. We will be taking maximum care if for a moment or a stroke it will be in a soothing way of doing the treatment.



Has anything changed, are you a traditional Ayurveda Doctor or did you implement new methods?

Actually in traditional Ayurveda we can not do much implementing. The only thing is the steaming process (swedana), the herbal bundles (kizhi). We are sourcing our herbal bundles directly from nature. We are plucking the leaves, frying it with coconut, garlic basis, lemon, all fried and then we make the bundles. That is called ILAKKIZHI leave bundles and that is changed into powder bundles PODIKKIZHI . In the machinery they make these herbs in powder. These are the main changes. We can not say it is against nature. If clients come with osteo arthritis or back problems since long we are treating them with leave bundles also. It is very difficult to source the leaves in the mountains but we are getting them. I am sending my therapists to collect it.



How are Men taking their treatment?

Men do take treatments. However ladies are the clients who are strongly in a passion with massages. Most of the Man follow their wives after hearing from them how good the massages are. Once they get acquainted with the treatment they enjoy doing it.



Why are Men skeptical?

There are Men who don’t like to be touched by others. Ladies they like to be cared for and due to the hormone difference, they are mostly positive about the massages. Man like to be in the sun. However once there is a consultation they like to take the treatments. Then they come daily.



Considering hormonal differences when your clients search your treatment?

Women arrive here when they are in their menopause. This means emotionally during a tough time and we are giving our clients supportive treatments therefore the results are good. Women’s energy comes from their hormones. If Women lack energy they become a little worried. Thats when they need more care. Man don’t have this problem.



How can Ayurveda help women when they face this health process?

Our intention with Ayurveda is to help to get the body balanced. First we have to know if there is a Vata predominance or a Pita predominance or whatever they are. That is what we are doing not only with the medicines but also with the food to restitute the body’s balance with all three Doshas.



What are the Men problems when they come here?

Most of the time back ache problems, joint articulation problems, tennis elbow, osteo arthritis …. if they are sporty.



Any clients with heart problems?

There are not many but we have some. One of our clients with a pacemaker has been coming for four years. We are giving them suitable treatments not all of them. We don’t give them a feet massage (Pada Marma Abhyangam) nor kizhi (herbs bundles). Everything will be decided after our one to one sitting.



Coming from a traditionally indian background in a predominantly male society, how is it for you to work with foreign clients?

In our contemporary environment there is not much difference between men and women in a work environment. In my mother’s time – and she is 60 now – ladies were not working and they were not supposed to learn after marrying. That’s all changed. Their generation wanted their children to learn more. We all learned because of our mothers support. Even in our higher studies we were granted specially because of our mothers demand. That helped a lot and the whole society has changed. That generation gap has positively changed.



Are you also being professionally updated through congresses or symposiums?

Yes, we have the Ayurveda Association in Kerala as well as in other parts of India. We have monthly updates on a total of 10 classes throughout a year. The topics and the matters, whenever we have a doubt, it will be discussed with a group of teachers which means a real good support to all of us. It is important and we are a member of that association.



What is Ayurveda for you, would you consider it Art?

The Ayurveda is a science of course! It is a science of life. The life has to be supported with the elements coming from its surroundings. I am not against modern medicine, my husband is a modern medicine practitioner. I support it because if there is an emergency we will need modern medicine. But even in such situations I suggest my clients to get a proper diagnoses. If they come with a joint pain whether if it is a rheumatoid arthritis or a osteo arthritis we need a differential diagnosis and we take the help of a laboratory investigation. We are practicing the traditional Ayurveda but using modern help.



Do you have direct contact to your surroundings? What do you mean by surroundings?

I mean Nature. We are not growing our medicines here but GMP(Good manufacturing practice) is a good qualified factory. They produce real good medicines which they source from the Himalayas or from North India. From those areas they are collecting all materials to produce very natural medicine. Neeleshwar Hermitage insists on responsible tourism, so we source it from a local GMP factory.



Is Hanuman the Ayurveda god?

No, Dhanvantary is our god! Ayurveda stems from Dhanvantary he is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hanuman went in search of a medicine. Hanuman heard that King Rama was stuck with an arrow in the war with the demons and was unconscious and going to die. The sage instructed Hanuman to get a medicine which would heal and make him awake. Hanuman went to the hills of Himalayas to fetch the medicine and he couldn’t identify the track and there was no time to search any particular medicine. He was a thoughtful monkey god so he brought the entire hill to the sage. Thats why we have Hanuman’s picture here. The sage was able to select the medicine from the hill then.



Which god are you following Hanuman or Dhanvantary?

We are following Dhanvantary. Every Ayurveda clinic and every treatment we do we remember god Dhanvantary for giving us good blessings.



Is Dhanvantary a female or a male?

Dhanvantary is a male. He is the incarnation of lord Vishnu. He is part of the trimurti! There is Brahma who keeps the supreme divinity safe, Vishnu is the incarnation or its preserver and Shiva its destruction or regenerator.



The way the Spa’s building has been constructed is quite open and has a fulfilling peace. Has it been constructed according to the Ayurveda tradition?

Yes. In the Vaastu Shastra which is a very scientific and holistic way of architecture. . We all should build our houses according to Vaastu Shastra only. This is a traditional courtyard which is built to bring the solar energy into the house. In older days such a house was inhabited by a joint family living in different rooms. This space is a meeting place, an energy place which promotes harmony. Traditional houses like my grandmothers house you can see this kind of courtyard.


And what do you plant inside?

There will be a holy basil plant.


And how about the stones?

It is not a must to have such pebbles. it is for beauty sake.


Why do we take off our shoes to enter the building?

Thats because we consider Ayurveda divine. Those who come here come for peace and good health. They should not let things from outside intervene during their treatment.


Have you published a book about your work?

Not yet (smile).


What have you been collecting in your Library?

Some books about Anatomy, others about the History of Ayurveda and these are about the Plants and miscellaneous books on Medicine.


The restaurant has a beautiful courtyard and also a good Library!

Yes, our tradition is to read from the books. We like reading from real books not digital books. However the books in that , Library belong to our founder Alistair Shearer. He is one of our directors and a writer who published many books about Indian culture.



Is there anything you would like to share with our readers before finishing our interview?

Yes! I should say Ayurveda is a good opportunity for us to be in harmony with Nature not that we always should be doing massages and diet… We should enjoy Life, Life is too short. We should enjoy everything good or bad. Still once a year we should spend time for ourselves. In a day also a few minutes just for ourselves. Don’t forget yourself, that will not serve you good. Otherwise it will be depressing for us to continue our life. So, some time for making our mind good, some time to build our body strength, practice Ayurveda and yoga… everything will give a positive energy to follow through our journey.