Ten years ago, there was a time in my life when I was busy juggling a social/work career, investing/managing a property portfolio, seeing hypnotherapy and coaching clients that I never took time out for me. I was burnt out and stressed out. My body was a mess – I suffered from allergies, chronic constipation, and constant fatigue. I realised that while I was training people to be better versions of themselves, I neglected myself. I then discovered an ancient system that changed my life and health – Panchakarma. Ayurveda recommends Panchakarma as a seasonal treatment for maintaining a healthy body. It is useful in treating illnesses such as Depression, Cancer, Infertility, HIV and general overall body maintenance. This discovery was the beginning of my love affair with Ayurvedic Wellness Retreats in Kerala, India.
What exactly is Panchakarma?
Panchakarma is a centuries-old therapy (first carbon-dated Vedic scriptures are from 3200 BC) that originates from India, and it is the principle Ayverdic method of physical purification. Ayurveda offers an alternative approach that is different from that of traditional western and Chinese medicine.
How is it different?
Using centuries-old techniques and herbs, it is an intense process that cleanses the body. Panchakarma penetrates deep into the nervous system. It is a Sanskrit word that means “five actions” or “five treatments”. It is a process used to clean the body of toxic materials left by disease, poor nutrition, and environmental toxins. Usually, the body has the innate ability to efficiently process and remove these waste materials, including the vitiated doshas. However, because one’s repeated dietary indiscretions, poor exercise patterns, lifestyle, genetic predisposition, digestive enzymes, metabolic co-factors, hormones, and agnis regulate the body’s internal homeostasis become disorganised. It can lead to the accumulation and spread of toxins throughout the physiology resulting in disease. This waste matter is called ama in Ayurveda. Ama is a foul-smelling, sticky, harmful substance that resides in the digestive tract. Without going into too much gory detail, you can see the ama come out in your stool, and it is a greenish sticky substance. Panchakarma will remove the excess doshas and correct imbalances in them and eliminate the harmful ama out of your system through the body’s organs and channels of elimination (colon, sweat glands, lungs, bladder, urinary tract, stomach, intestines, etc.). Panchakarma purifies the tissues at a profound level.
Panchakarma consists of 5 primary purification practices that work as an in-depth cleansing process.
- Therapeutic emesis for removing excess Kapha is useful for dealing with depression, grief, and attachment.
- Therapeutic purgation for removing excess pitta – useful for dealing with anger
- Therapeutic enemas for removing excess Vata. Helpful in treating fear, anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and nervous system disorders.
- Nasal Cleansings that clear toxins from the head – this is good for allergies, headaches, and insomnia
- Blood Cleansing for removing toxic blood, generally anti pitta
For the cleansing to be effective, the doshas need to be bought to sites so the body can eliminate them. Kapha to the stomach, pitta to the small intestine and vata to the large intestine. It is a process that usually takes seven days of oil massage (snehana), enemas and steam therapy (svedana). Massage and the steam therapy loosen up the toxins in the deeper tissue, allowing them to flow back into the gastrointestinal tract ready for elimination.
Panchakarma is not for the faint-hearted. It involves 2 – 4 hours a day of treatment. You are also likely to feel worse before you feel better. The intense process can bring up a whole range of emotions and feelings as the purgation takes place. As your body cleanses, you begin to feel better, and it is like pressing a reset button on your body. It gives you greater focus and clarity, and I could not imagine my life now without it!