Even when we take good care of ourselves, we are constantly exposed to contaminants and pollution, and our lifestyles are usually stressful. The effects of these external toxins and stress accumulate in our bodies, weakening our organs and systems. Over time, this can result in degenerative, non-specific conditions that eventually develop into serious, chronic diseases.
Therapeutic Panchakarma helps reverse the negative effects of daily living by cleansing the body of these toxins. This restores our natural state of health and wellness, bringing balance to our bodily systems and improving their functionality.
Once you've experienced the powerful healing and rejuvenating effects of a weeklong program of Panchakarma, you can imagine the benefits when Panchakarma is included in your life-long health and wellness planning. The continuous process of deep cleansing at the cellular level coupled with the energizing and rejuvenating effects on a regular basis over several years produce extraordinary results.
Benefits of Regular PK Treatments:
Save on medical bills that are prevented due to your excellent health.
Strengthen your immune system and become more resistant to illness.
Reverse the negative effects of stress, thereby slowing the aging process.
Enhance your self-reliance, strength, energy, vitality and mental clarity.
Bring about deep relaxation and a sense of well-being
What Is Panchakarma?
Panchakarma is a strong reduction therapy. It is the single most powerful healing therapy utilized in Ayurveda. It is applied for the purpose of eliminating ama (toxins) and excess doshas in strong patients and is beneficial in the healing of many conditions. Panchakarma is not a procedure but a process. It eliminates accumulated impurities from the mind-body physiology; it is essentially a detoxification program. Today, as improper diet, stress, and environmental hazards abound, panchakarma can be of great help.
A panchakarma program takes place over the course of several days, allowing plenty of time and space to rest and process the experience. Each step in the program is purposeful and is meant to ultimately restore your body’s innate healing ability. Your body knows how to cleanse itself quite efficiently and is well-equipped to remove waste through various channels such as:
Since your body has its own detoxification system, what’s the purpose of panchakarma? Think of a car that is well-maintained and how long it can be kept running. Give it good oil and the attention it needs, and it will reward you with many good years. Ignore your car and its parts start to wear out and overall functioning is less than optimal. While you are more complex than a car, the same concept applies. Sometimes your body and mind need a little help. You need all your parts to be running smoothly to feel healthy and energized. In order to do so, a little conscious effort is needed.
Panchakarma helps to gently clear the channels of removal in the body so that everything runs smoothly and efficiently, like a well-oiled machine. In the process, your mental and emotional bodies go through their own cleansing process as well. The mind and body are intricately connected according to Ayurveda. What you do to one affects the other. For example, when you feel stress you will always feel it somewhere in your body. Or, when you have a good workout, your mind feels light and clear.
Classic and Modern Panchakarma
As with anything that has been around for a very long time, panchakarma has evolved throughout the years and the modes of practice have differed throughout India. For a little history, here are the five classical elements that make up panchakarma therapy as they were originally written:
A panchakarma program today will usually include the following:
Herbal oil massages
These therapeutic processes are still based on the five actions and the effects are powerful and long-lasting. Using your body’s channels of detoxification the entire program is designed to not only heal your body but facilitate a deep-rooted release of stress that has sometimes been stored for years. For many, panchakarma ends up being an unexpected and powerful journey into the healing process.
Ayurveda teaches that your natural state is one of health, happiness, and an inner sense of well-being. As the above definition confirms, this can be achieved when your body is clear of toxins, your mind is at peace, your emotions are calm and happy, your wastes are efficiently eliminated, and your organs are functioning normally. This sounds great, but how do you not only get to this point but also maintain it? This is where Ayurveda shines.
Which one describes how you feel? When ama has accumulated over a period of time, mental and physical functioning is diminished and it feels like it takes a lot of energy to get anything done. The body is working overtime to perform what it usually does with ease. It is difficult to restore balance and harmony until the impurities have been eliminated. Once ama is reduced and agni is strong, you can tackle life a lot easier.
In the world is busy, stressful, and toxic that places a huge strain on your physical and mental systems, especially over time. While you may not see it with your eyes, you most assuredly feel it. Stress is a huge problem and is the cause of many ailments. How can you focus on creating a happy life that Ayurveda promotes when you feel like crap? The first step is clearing out the gunk, or ama, through panchakarma and then learning tools to maintain good health.
Signs You Might Benefit from Panchakarma
The signs of ama accumulation can be obvious. If you notice you have any of the following symptoms, you might benefit from a panchakarma program:
Thick layer of coating on the tongue
Tired throughout the day, especially after meals
Body aches and pains
Bad smelling breath, odor, and flatulence
Constipation or diarrhea
The Panchakarma Treatment
Depending on the facility, your panchakarma program may slightly vary. It’s always under the supervision of a medical doctor and/or an Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist. The program is specialized and is tailored to your mind-body constitution or dosha(s). It is often recommended to stay in-house for treatment in order to get the most out of the experience. The following description of a panchakarma program is based on Mind Yourself Ayurveda’s regimen but is different for everyone based you’re your needs and constitution.
There are three main components of the panchakarma process:
Preparation phase (purva karma)
Principal practices (pradhan karma)
Post-therapy procedures (paschat karma)
The preparation phase is designed to prepare your body for elimination of imbalances. It includes steps that are meant to soften and help encourage the release of stored toxicity. The therapy called Snehana (oleation) refers to both internal and external oleation of the body.
The purpose of purva karma is to bring ama and any excess dosha present in the body back to their sites of origin in the digestive tract so that they can be removed by the procedures of Pradhan karma. The purva karma are the actions that prepare the body for strong purification. These actions include a light diet, internal (medicated ghee) and external oleation ( oils according to your dosha) and fomentation. For ama to flow toward the digestive system, it must be softened so it can flow and then be dislodged from its current location.
During the principal procedures phase, now that your body has been prepped, your focus is on the elimination of toxins. This is where the five classical therapies take place which include the following:
Abhyanga, or oil massage, is the external oleation of the body. The type of oil along with the herbs used to prepare the oil are based on the recommendations of the overseeing practitioner. In panchakarma, massage serves as a way to provide oil to the tissues, loosen impurities, and encourage those impurities to start making their way out through your channels of elimination. Each day is a different massage treatment and is scheduled in a specific order that is optimal for cleansing.
A soothing stream of warm, herbalized oil flows onto your forehead to soothe the mind and nervous system. This simple yet profound treatment works specifically on balancing and stabilizing the activity of the mind, taking you on a journey deep within. Good for treatment of mental and emotional conditions such as insomnia, hormonal imbalances, disorders of the nervous system, stress and anxiety.
Swedana, or sweat treatments, are next. Dry and wet saunas open up your pores and begin to rid the body of impurities through your sweat glands. It helps to dilate circulation and speeds up the elimination of impurities that have been loosened by oleation. It also encourages a general state of relaxation.
Bastis, or herbalized enemas. They are made up of herbalized oils that flush out your intestinal tract, accessing the deeper tissues and eliminating fat-soluble toxins. The process is very gentle.
Nasya, or nasal applications, are medicinal oils that are applied throughout the nasal passages, clearing the sinuses and draining excess mucus. If you suffer from chronic sinus problems or allergies, you may find relief. This step can feel soothing and calms your mind.
The post-therapy procedures, also considered the rejuvenation phase, is the time to implement the tools that have been taught to help sustain the new and improved you. Ayurveda emphasizes the need to rekindle one’s agni (digestive fire) to prevent unhealthy accumulation.
This is accomplished through regular practice of the following:
The feeling of lightness and clarity accompanies this time. Impurities have been removed from your body, thus you feel more energized and it’s easier to make healthier choices. Rasayana means “that which is nourishing” and defines the mindset that you must consider during this time. Incorporate more natural foods, spend time in nature, exercise, and choose experiences that make you happy in addition to putting into practice agni-enhancing techniques.
Example of a typical day
Wake up with sunrise and practice gentle yoga and meditation.
Drink a cup of spiced tea with cumin, ginger, coriander, fennel seeds, and other spices and herbs for your dosha.
Enjoy a light breakfast.
Begin your first treatments of the day, such as an oil massage, shirodara and Svedana.
Eat a detoxifying lunch of kitchari (dal and rice in healing spices.)
Walk around in nature or sit and meditate. Highly recommended not to use technology!
Take naps as needed. (Yoga Nidra, sleep meditation)
Undergo another treatment, such as the herbalized basti.
Consume a light dinner of more kitchari or cooked vegetables and rice.
Read, meditate, or journal and then head to bed.
How Often and When
Traditionally, Ayurveda suggests doing panchakarma with the change of the seasons, so about three times per year. Any time you experience transitions, things can get out of balance and accumulations occur. Anytime you feel out of sorts or ill, consider panchakarma. The whole process helps to remind you about the importance of taking care of yourself and honoring where you are at and what you need in the moment.
Your body and mind thrive when given moments of respite and some peace. Panchakarma not only rejuvenates your body and mind but also teaches you about yourself. The value of knowing what good health feels like, even if it’s just a glimpse, provides a sense of hope that it’s possible to live in this world and feel good.
Mind Yourself Ayurveda offers a guided detoxification program from the comfort of your home.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.