I came from the US to the ashram in mid-October 2016, desperate for change in my life, with two main goals: 1) Become free of the daily doses of anti-depressants I had been on since seven years and 2) Learn how to deal with stress to prepare myself for medical school.

My self-esteem was at an all-time low; being overweight and coping with emotional issues since childhood, I put myself under a lot of academic pressure to perform well. I would try to lose weight quickly, only to find it always coming back, due to my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and subsequent hormonal imbalances. The stress of beginning high school, wrong food habits and hours at the gym which damaged my knees, gave me severe depression and anxiety. I started medication, which made me gain 50 pounds. Side effects included excessive sleepiness and fatigue, mental fog, trouble focusing, worsening anxiety levels and chemical addiction. Being accepted into medical school started to feel like a very distant dream.

By the time I made it to Rishi Chaitanya Ashram, Gannaur, Haryana, I was taking prescription and over-the-counter medicines twice daily for depression, anxiety, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, acid reflux, various vitamin and mineral deficiencies and lactose intolerance, all of which were causing resistance to weight loss despite my best efforts.

Ayurveda provided me the understanding of the relationship between body and mind. I learnt that light and easily digestible food helps the body’s natural capacity to heal itself, as more energy becomes available to optimize functioning. Health means alignment with our natural prakriti, or individual body composition. My body having a strong kapha element, I just needed to balance my extreme kapha back to its innate level.

This helped to shift my focus from weight loss to balancing my doshas. Along with intensive Panchkarma treatment for the first 21 days, consisting of Udvartana, a powder massage that detoxifies cellulite, I regularly did my sadhana as per the ashram schedule (pranayama, mantra jap, tratak, etc.), practicing yogasanas twice daily and eating mainly vegetable dalia, khichdi, light sabzis, daals, fruit and vegetable juices and soups. I struggled with this new way of eating at the beginning, but with revered master Anandmurti Gurumaa’s love to hold onto, I could consciously choose what was best for my body, not my tongue!

Post-panchkarma, I continued to follow this daily regime and was able to slowly reduce my medication doses. Gurukripa, along with my sadhana, asanas and nourishing diet gave me the physical and mental capacity to deal with it. In December 2016, I left the last of my prescription medicines during the retreat in Rishikesh, with the blessings and support of my physical mother, Gurumaa, and Ganga Maa.

Guruji’s grace, along with efforts to reduce my kapha and train my mind, made my weight drop in a consistent and healthy way - a total of 21 kgs lost, averaging 1 kg per week, for the 21 weeks I’ve been here.

I feel like I came to the ashram in a battered secondhand Maruti, and am leaving in a brand new Mercedes! During Sunday Darshan a few weeks ago, Gurudev spoke about how as a child, she used to take everything - from food she cooked to her school copies and pencils - to the Mahatma who lived near her in Amritsar, and would ask him to bless the items and “make them new”. This is exactly what Guruji has done for me - truly made me new; turned this very body, mind and heart into prasad that will sustain me for the rest of my life.

I will be beginning medical school this August, as a scholarship recipient. Even though it may appear as though I have reached the same destination, this journey has changed me, from the inside out, all because of my Guru’s unfailing compassion, patience and faith in the best of my potential.