According to Ayurveda, diseases are only a product of our mind. Dis-balances in our doshas can affect our digestive tract, cause inflammation, produce toxins (Ama) and eventually lead to disease and illness. Therefore, lasting health depends upon our capability to fully metabolise all aspects of life, assimilating what makes us feel good and eliminating the rest. Panchakarma helps to unravel our old patterns, increases our energy and mental clarity, and helps our body detox naturally.
Panchakarma is a holistic detoxifying procedure for the body, soul and mind. It includes 5 actions: Vamana – emesis, Virechana – purgation, Vasti – enema, Nasya – nasal drops, Rakta Mokshana – bloodletting. Panchakarma not only helps our bodies to expel toxins but also corrects any doshic imbalances, especially whilst releasing ama through all of our channels of elimination –colon, sweat glands, lungs, bladder, stomach and intestines. This is one of the best ways to cleanse our muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues. The best time for this intense detoxification programme is spring or autumn.
Undigested emotions can lead to toxicity through indigestion
Ama represents a by-product of: inadequate digestion, lack of exercise, poor lifestyle choices, genetic predispositions, hormonal and digestive enzyme imbalances, dietary indiscretions, and low Agni (digestive fire). It is important to stress, that there are different types of Agni in our body – not only is our food digested but also our experiences and emotions. So having a weak emotional Agni can produce the same amount and sometimes even higher toxic build up than someone with a low digestive Agni! Thus, holding on to anger, sadness and guilt can be more debilitating than actual physical digestive problems.
Consequently, undigested food or emotions can cause gas, bloating, pain and constipation. The residue of this poorly digested food then accumulates in our digestive tract and seeps into our bodily systems. This thick and heavy essence, which clogs up our systems and damages our tissues is one of the most damaging sources of all diseases and is known as Ama. Increased Ama in your body can be detected by analysing the coating on your tongue. It is also present in strong smelling stools which sink down the toilet rather than float to the top.
In order to create a balance, the first thing is to reduce the sticky Ama by bringing any excess doshas back to balance. The second step encourages the Ama to move out of the tissues and into the digestive tract. It is then safely removed through cleansing procedures. However, before any purification can take place, the body and mind need to be calm and stable. This can be done by taking warm medicated oil, either internally or applied to the skin through massage. This calms the mind and nervous system and helps free any accumulated toxins from the tissues.
Each Panchakarma therapy is highly personalised to your doshic type, as well as to your age, immune system, digestive strength, etc. For best results, Panchakarma requires supervision from a well trained Ayurvedic doctor. It is also important that you take it seriously and are committed to it. It not only brings your body and mind into balance but also releases emotional blockages and stimulates your spiritual awakening.
The intense purification process is conducted during one/two weeks of therapy and combines daily oil massages, steam therapy, enemas, purgatives and emetics. However, the treatments used depends upon how far developed the disease is in the body.
These are some of the therapies that may be conducted during a Panchakarma treatment:
- Abhyanga: herb oil massage, stimulating arterial and lymphatic circulation and detox. As nutrients enter starved cells, any stagnant waste can be removed easily.
- Swedana: herbal steam therapy in a heat chamber. This eliminates toxins through the sweat glands. There are many receptors on our skin that connect to our nervous system, so when oil is placed on our skin it instils a sense of love, trust, and care, allowing us to feel relaxed and open.
- Shirodana: the pouring of warm, herbal oil over the forehead to synchronise brainwaves, calms the mind, body and spirit. This creates deep relaxation and synchronisation of thought waves.
- Garshana: dry lymphatic skin brushing with a wool or silk glove. This removes old skin, enhances circulation, and allows for any massage oil to be absorbed.
- Pizichili: warm herbal oil that is soothingly poured all over the body and then massaged into the skin. Great for a deep tissue cleanse and heightened awareness.
- Udvartana: lymphatic massage with a herbal paste. Restores the skin's radiance and removes lymphatic toxins from the body.
- Five Senses Therapy: using mantras, touching marma points, taking herbal medicines, colour therapy, and smelling aromas. All of these therapies combined helps harmonise the senses and opens the heart.
- Basti: enema – pulling toxins out of the colon. This treatment is usually left until the end.
- Nasya: oil drops for the nose. This clears the sinuses and excessive mucus and heals the central nervous system.
- Shiro-Abhyanga-Nasya: head-neck-shoulder massage, followed by a lymphatic facial massage, aroma steam and sinus-nasya. This works wonders for respiratory disorders and head and neck problems.
- Pinda-Swedana: boiled rice milk and herbs are massaged into tissues and joints. Relaxing, detoxifying and rejuvenating.
Once the body is free of toxins, the internal energy can flow freely, heal the body, and keep it balanced and nurtured. The mind will become light and clear. For many, it is a life-changing experience!
Most people will experience a healing crisis after Panchakarma. This is the consequence of large amounts of toxins, which have been trapped in your tissues for years, being released into your system for elimination. Healing crisis symptoms include: insomnia, heaviness, aching, flu-like symptoms, fever, discomfort, vivid dreams, and emotional mood swings. However, if you experience this, there is no reason to panic as they are all natural reactions. If you are concerned then please speak to your doctor or practitioner for peace of mind.
The Panchakarma treatment ends with a short rejuvenation period. During this time it is important for you to eat simple foods (soup), to focus on strengthening your Agni, to use herbal remedies, and to ensure sufficient rest to allow for your tissues to return to full strength and health.