KERALA South India; the land of house boats, coconut trees and the home of Ayurveda, India's system of traditional medicine. It is also the place from where all my family and ancestors originate. During British occupation of India, the integrated practices of yoga and Ayurveda experienced a dramatic separation. Ayurvedic medical schools and institutions were deemed primitive and closed down in favour of Western biomedical establishments which were seen as modern and progressive. Yoga having survived, travelled to the West without its indigenous system of medicine and until relatively recently, the deep connection between these two ‘sister sciences’ remained largely unknown. Just as acupuncture and Qigong are part of traditional Chinese medicine, so yoga is a part of Ayurveda which adopts a whole-systems approach to health-care. This includes yoga, massage therapies and use of diet and herbs amongst its many approaches.
Kundur Narayan Menon (Great Grandfather x3) LEFT
My great, great, great grandfather through my maternal line was an eminent Keralan spiritual poet and yogi. He is still studied in Indian classrooms today. He wears the stripes of Shiva (god of yoga) to indicate the nature of his spiritual path.
Yogini Gauri Ma (Great Aunt) RIGHT
Many years after graduating as a yoga teacher, I discovered that my father's aunt was a respected yogini living in Kerala during the mid C20th. This was a rare path for a woman in those days. She was honoured in her passing with a yogini's burial.
KaIaripayattu is an ancient Indian martial art. It is believed to be the oldest martial art in the world. My ancestors on my father's side were Kalari fighters that were employed to defend their maharaja generations ago. Their weapons can still be seen in our family temple in Kerala, South India. I long to visit that place and perhaps hold one of their swords in my hand! Their training included yoga and their healing system was Ayurveda. Elements of their training also influenced classical Indian dance. Discovery of this warrior lineage has lead me to form a deep connection with these movements and practices.
With great respect and love I honour my ancestors and all the teachers that have shared their knowledge so generously. I hope to pass a bit of it on in my own maverick way