The UAE may be home to some of the swankiest hospitals around, and Abu Dhabi recently upped the ante with the new luxury Burjeel Hospital, with suites designed to offer five-star hotel-style surroundings (including VIP and presidential suites). But pay a visit to an alternative treatment centre and you’ll likely find a busy waiting room, suggesting there’s still room for the likes of traditional Chinese medicines and ayurveda in the UAE today.
Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre in Oud Metha is one such centre, and in the past few months it has brought on board a new ayurvedic doctor, 40-year-old Indian Asha Jones, renewing its focus on those therapies and increasing the number of different treatments it offers.
Sanskrit for ‘the knowledge of long life’, ayurveda is an Indian medical practice believed to be more than 5,000 years old, and is based around the idea that the body is made up of three elements – tissues (dhatus), waste products (malas) and doshas (best translated as ‘energy forces’). It’s the three doshas (tridoshas) that all treatments are focused upon, as it’s believed they assist with the creation of tissues and removal of waste, and influence all movements and sensory functions in the body and mind.
Individually, they are known as the Vata dosha, responsible for all movements; Pitta dosha, associated with fire and heat, and responsible for the metabolism; and the Kapha dosha, the heaviest of the three, which provides the structures and lubrication for the body (joints, and so on). Ayurvedic therapies are all geared towards making sure an individual’s tridoshas are in balance to ensure a healthy body and mind.
During my own consultation with Asha, she asks a few questions that address my stress levels, sleeping patterns, how easily I get angry and the condition of my skin and hair. She decides I have a Pitta and Vata imbalance and recommends abhyanga (a deep-tissue massage) using generous handfuls of thick herbal oils, and sirodhara (pictured right), where oils are drizzled over the forehead and hair. Both are designed to relieve stress and help alleviate anxiety and insomnia.
The treatments themselves are divine – the massage leaves me more relaxed than I’ve felt in months, and my apprehension about having oil dripped over my head in the manner of water torture is mercifully ill-founded: the treatment reveals itself to be incredibly soothing.
Back in the consultation room, Asha hands me a list of lifestyle and diet advice she has prepared based on my imbalances. My bullet points include suggestions such as going to bed before 10pm and getting up before sunrise (yikes!), listening to calming music, avoiding dwelling on anger, paying attention to myself in order to give up ‘argumentative attitudes’ – I get the impression she has me down as a psychopath. I’m cheered, however, by the diet advice on the following page, which includes the unusual suggestion that I should ‘avoid eating in a ruffled atmosphere or mood, unpleasant or disorderly surroundings’. Though dismayed by advice to avoid flavoursome foods, particularly garlic, onion and chilli (which, for me, rules out cooking almost entirely), I’m told to start eating more sweet food – something Asha goes so far as to emphasise during our chat. She quickly has my full attention.
Determined to give it my best shot, I shrug off my qualms about giving up spicy food, try my best to understand what might qualify as a ‘ruffled atmosphere’, and vow to dive head first into a sugar blow-out. By noon the next day, I’ve already consumed a bar of chocolate, a small ice cream and a piece of cake. Taking Asha’s advice, my mind should apparently be soothed in no time – yet somehow I don’t think my body is going to thank me if I keep it up.
Consultations with Asha Jones cost Dhs250; ayurvedic treatments start at Dhs150 for a 30-minute foot massage. Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, Oud Metha, www.dubaihtc.com (04 335 1200).