Panchakarma – Five Actions that Change your Life
The miracle of the human body is that it has natural healing intelligence which is capable of constantly rejuvenating itself. However, doshic imbalance and low agni (digestive fire) can block this natural capacity of the body. The presence of ama (toxins) in the system can be felt as fatigue, or a feeling of heaviness. It may include constipation, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, stiffness in the body, or mental confusion (see Ama – the root of all diseases).
Ama can most easily be detected as a thick coating on the tongue. To remedy this situation, Ayurveda offers the gift of Panchakarma, the science of rejuvenation. In this process, the body is purified of toxins and its balance with natural law is restored. Although simple home purification can significantly clean your body (see Simple home purification), a Panchakarma performed by trained Ayurvedic physician and tailored to your unique constitution is much more effective.
To prepare for such a powerful procedure as Panchakarma one undergoes the set of procedures called Purvakarma (literally: before action) so the body is ready to let go of the toxins stored deep within its structures. The two most important procedures used to prepare for cleansing are Snehana (oleation) and Swedana (therapeutic application of heat).
Snehana saturates the body with herbal and medicated oils in two forms:
- external oleation, where medicated oil is vigorously massaged into the body;
- internal oleation, where small amounts of medicated oils (usually Ghee – clarified butter) are ingested.
Swedana – steam baths are used to loosen the toxins and move them toward the gastrointestinal tract.
A variety of preparatory procedures can be used to enhance the effect of Panchakarma and to replenish and rejuvenate specific zones of the body.
Shirodhara – warm oil is dripped in a steady stream on the forehead, particularly in the “third eye” area to pacify Vata and release stress from the central nervous system, so the body’s natural healing mechanism can work better.
Pishinchhali- large quantities of oils are squeezed or poured over the body while massaging it vigorously with a bolus if rice wrapped in a cloth. The treatment stimulates the marma points and creates harmony between Vata’s five sub doshas. To be truly effective it must be administrated many times in succession. For this reason, pishinchhali is often used outside Panchakarma as its own protocol.
Pinda Swedana- a bolus of hot rice cooked with Vata pacifying herbs is soaked in hot herbal milk and rubbed vigorously over the entire body, focusing on the muscle tissue and joints.
After three to seven days of Purvakarma, the toxins are “ripened” and ready to be eliminated through one of five karmas (actions) of Panchakarma. These procedures may include:
- Vamana- therapeutic vomiting to remove toxins and excessive Kapha from the stomach.
- Vierechana- purgation or laxative therapy to remove ama and excessive Pitta from the small intestines, colon, kidney, stomach, liver, and spleen.
- Basti- medicated enema to remove excessive Vata from the colon.
- Nasya- nasal administration of medication.
- Rakta mokshana- purification of the blood is traditionally done in two ways: small amount of blood is withdrawn intravenously or the blood is cleansed with herbal blood purifiers such as burdock, dandelion, yellow dock, red clover, aloe vera, and manjista.
When the body is properly prepared and the treatment correctly administrated all procedures go effortless, and effectively remove toxins from all tissues of the body.
The Ayurveda physician will recommend some diet and life style modifications to maximize the success of treatment.
Experiensed Ayurvedic doctors watch case after case when Panchakarma achieves complete remission of disease in sick patients and produces a dramatically greater state of health, happiness and fulfillment in persons with relatively normal health.
Panchakarma is a special, powerful procedure requiring guidance from a properly trained medical staff. It is performed individually for each person with his or her constitution and medical condition in mind and requires close observation at every stage. I wouldn’t go to someone with a modest amount of Ayurvedic training for this procedure. Talk to the doctors and patients and look at reviews and recommendations.
See also: Ayurveda on Colonic.