“A person undergoing Panchakarma attains longevity, memory, intellect, freedom from disease, youth, excellence of luster, complexion and voice, excellent potential of the body and sense organs, power of the spoken word coming true, respect and brilliance”
… from the ancient Ayurvedic text Charak Samhita
What is Panchakarma
Panchakarma is the oldest scientific system of
cleansing and revitalization in the world today. Working in harmony with the body’s natural processes and rhythms, it is gaining popularity with people who recognize the body’s capacity to heal itself given periodic re-balancing through cleansing. Panchakarma dates back to India’s Golden Age when these luxurious and life-extending treatments were originally reserved for royalty. Now, everyone can receive Panchakarma’s benefits of longevity, positive health and radiant beauty. Through a lavish series of treatments, Panchakarma brings balance and equilibrium to cells, tissues and organs, enhancing digestion, assimilation and elimination, bringing energy and enthusiasm back to our lives. As our body, minds return to harmony, we naturally have the focus to follow the higher aspirations of our spirit. Truly, Panchakarma is a precious gift from the enlightened seers of antiquity, bestowing health, well being and wholeness to those who partake. Ayurveda states that every human being is a unique creation born of Pure Consciousness, descending into the five great elements Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. In the physical body, these five elements form the three biological humors called Vata (air + ether), Pitta (fire + water), and Kapha (water + earth). Vata, Pitta and Kapha (VPK) are called Tridosha. Tri is three and dosha is that which causes changes in the body. The Tridosha, body, mind, senses, and soul comprise the human being. Our psychosomatic temperment is expressed through the specific combination of VPK set at conception. In Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, this mind-body genetic blueprint is called Prakruti, or constitution.
Panchakarma in Today's World
Because we constantly interface with the external environment through the devitalized foods we eat, non-stop lifestyle, changing relationships, occupational stress, pollution, seasonal changes, etc., changes are bound to occur in the natural balance of the doshas (VPK). Disturbed doshas express symptoms respective to their nature. For example, if Pitta (fire/water) becomes disturbed due to eating spicy oily food on a hot summer day (all heat -increasing factors), the body may respond with heartburn, acid indigestion, and in-flame-ation, while emotionally one may become “hot under the collar”, irritable, critical or angry. Likewise, V and K have their own modes of expression respective to their attributes. When VPK undergo aggravation, the digestive fire (agni) is affected and toxins (ama) are produced. Ama is a sticky, noxious substance which circulates throughout the bloodstream, then clogs channels, coats cells and tissues, blocks vital force, disrupts healthy communication between cells, and adversely affects metabolism and immunity. Likewise, the mind and senses’ inability to ’digest’ life’s experiences during stress or trauma also creates mental and emotional ama, restricting the flow of positive feelings and mental clarity.
Seasonal changes can also create ama. The changing external atmosphere directly affects our internal atmosphere. Spring colds and achy bones in winter are examples of the body’s response to these transitional periods. Juat as a farmer weeds and tills the field before planting, Panchakarma done twice or thrice a year weeds the body of old wastes and prepares for a healthy new season ahead.
Regardless of how the ama accumulates within, our body is continuously filtering and adapting to this imput while doing its level best to maintain health and equilibrium. As time goes by the physiological toll is revealed: first, minor symptoms appear which, if ignored, lead to more serious conditions later on.
We Receive Panchakarma
• to free the body of toxic matter.
• to enhance the power of digestion and metabolism.
• to eliminate illness at its root.
• to gain the strength, increase virility, and improve progeny.
• to restore and revitalize the complexion and all organ systems.
• to increase the power of sense organs and motor organs.
• To feel good again!!!
Panchakarma initiates a fresh start towards optimum health and well-being. It also provides a drug free natural therapy for addressing chronic imbalances. Though the emphasis is generally on physical change, at a deeper level Panchakarma refines and develops the body’s subtle essences connected to immunity, intellect, insight, intuition, and love.
The Tridoshas (VPK) originate in specific zones of the Gastro-Intestinal Tract (GIT), the body’s central passageway from mouth to rectum. Kapha is produced in the stomach, Pitta in the small intestine, and Vata in the large intestine. When doshic imbalance occurs, ama (toxicity) is generated in these sites. Over time, accumulated ama is eventually carried away via the bloodstream by the cyclic movement of the doshas (VPK) from the GIT to the periphery of the body (muscles, fat, bones, nerve and reproductive tissues). This circulating ama will then lodge wherever the body’s immunity is the weakest. Skin disease or joint pain are examples of ama lodged in the periphery of the body.
Minor symptoms of discomfort signal early signs of toxic build-up in the GIT and at this stage, correcting the imbalance is usually not difficult. But if these warning signs are ignored and ama travels to the deeper recesses of the body, these initial minor symptoms will later escalate into major illness when the build-up of toxins finally overwhelms the body’s natural capacity to cleanse.
The goal of Panchakarma is to deeply purify the entire body, eliminate toxic wastes from their place of origin, and re-establish strong metabolic strength to insure ama is no longer produced. Even though Panchakarma can include symptomatic treatment, its real importance lies in its power to eliminate the root cause of disease once and for all.
Panchakarma’s practical approach utilizes our body’s own inherent mechanisms of elimination for self-healing and provides a pure, safe, uncomplicated, yet awesome opportunity for transformation.
Panchakarma Has Three Phases
1. Purva Karma – preliminary procedures
2. Pradhan Karma– elimination procedures
3. Paschat Karma – restorative procedures
Before ama that is hiding deep in the tissues can be removed safely without harming the inner terrain, the body must be properly prepared. Like an orange that cannot yield its juice before fully ripened, ama cannot be released until the body is sufficiently “ ripened”. This is accomplished through Snehana (internal and external oleation) and Swedana (heat therapy). Panchakarma always begins with oiling and heating of the body, generally accomplished through a series of daily oil massages followed by herbal steam therapy. Oleation and heat loosen, dislodge, and mobilize deeply seated toxins. Once back in circulation, ama will flow from the body’s periphery back to the GIT where it will be flushed out through specific cleansing procedures. In Sanskrit, Snehana means love and affection and is accomplished internally through ingesting herbalized ghee (clarifed butter), and externally through full-body oil massage. These unctuous substances penetrate through the tissue layers, softening and loosening impurities, encouraging ama to lovingly yield its stronghold. This unique Snehana massage also deeply nurtures and nourishes, making the skin radiant and lustrous. Swedana is typically accomplished with a full body herbalized steam bath. Induced sweating allows the oil to penetrate deeply, opens the body’s channels, and increases circulation so ama can begin its journey back to the GIT for elimination. Swedana also releases surface toxins through the skin, and can potentially help rid the body of harmful bacteria and micro-organisms. Snehana and Swedana are given in a daily series of sessions, the lightness and purification of the body increasing with each treatment. Since we have seven bodily tissues (plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerve, and reproductive), a seven day PK program is advised for basic, yet thorough cleansing. Longer programs are necessary for chronic conditions. All susbstances used in Panchakarma procedures (oils, herbs, etc.) are specific to the client’s constitution and conditions.
This is the main operative phase from which Panchakarma receives its name: pancha means five and karma means action. Panchakarma is the administration of the five eliminative actions which remove ama from the body.
The five therapeutic actions are:
1. Basti: Gentle enema therapy using specific herbal and oil solutions to cleanse and tone the system. Basti works in the large intestine, normalizing Vata Dosha.
2. Virechan: Purgation therapy which drains impurities from the digestive zone. Working in the small intestine, Virechan removes excess Pitta Dosha.
3. Vaman: The use of emetics to induce vomiting which removes mucous- related ama. Working in the stomach and upper GIT, Vaman removes Kapha Dosha.
4. Nasya: Nasal therapy which removes obstructions from the sinuses and also lubricates dry nasal passages.
5. Rakta Mokshan: Detoxification of the blood.
All Panchakarma programs are tailored to the specific needs of each person in which only the necessary eliminative actions are given.
This is the final phase where a rebuilding of immunity and metabolic functions occur. During cleansing, the digestive fire becomes somewhat weakened. If the food we eat is too heavy for our digestive capacity, little will be metabolized and new ama will be formed, starting the disease process all over again. Therefore, a regulated diet is given, going from more liquid preparations to increasingly solid ones. Once the digestive strength is fully restored, return to a normal healthy diet is possible. This phase is most important as it creates a strong metabolism and promotes increasing vitality so the body maintains optimum functioning. The client maintains this phase for at least as long as the time of treatment.
Along with a graduated diet, a gradual re-integration into the activities of daily life allows one to nourish the deep physical and psychological changes that have occurred during Panchakarma. Transformation continues long after treatment ends so it is imperative to follow simple daily routines that support the normalization of the body’s energy levels that will insure a greater and even more stable level of health than before.
After the body is purified, the mind and emotions balanced, then special formulas, foods and tonics known as Rasayanas may be recommended for rejuvenation, to increase the strength of the seven body tissues, immunity, and mental acuity. Rasayanas increase the effectiveness of Panchakarma’s rejuvenating process.
During Panchakarma and after, it is essential to maintain a quiet, restful, meditative environment for maximum benefit. A simple, light vegetarian diet and various herbal supplements are taken to assist the cleansing process. Physical cleansing may stimulate a simultaneous purification of the emotional and mental aspects of oneself. Self-examination, or self-inquiry into non-supportive belief systems is especially welcomed during Panchakarma. Meditation, journaling, or quiet walks would be time well spent outside of treatment sessions.
Who Receives Panchakarma
Most people are eligible for Panchakarma. There are, however, conditions in which Panchakarma is prohibited: pregnancy, menstruation, lactation, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases, excessive toxicity, obesity, for the very aged, debilitated, and the very young. In certain cases palliative treatment (diet, herbs) may be given to regulate the condition so that Panchakarma may be safely given at a later date.
The purpose of Panchakarma is to prevent disease in the healthy and to remove the root cause of disease in the sick. If you are already enjoying balanced, vibrant health, receiving Panchakarma twice a year, spring and fall, can be your greatest insurance policy for maintaining health. If you feel stressed and imbalanced, then Panchakarma is a most effective method for restoring health and harmony at most anytime in temperate climates. In India, Panchakarma is well known for its effectiveness is curing chronic illnesses which require longer periods of treatment.
Long Term Panchakarma May Assist With
• Rheumatic disorders: osteo, rheumatic, gouty, psoriatic arthritis
• Pelvic Inflammation
• Gynaecological disorders
• Allergies and Hay fevers
• Bronchial Asthma
• Skin Afflictions
• Insomnia & Psychosis
• Kidney diseases
• Digestive diseases: peptic ulcer
Common Conditions Helped By Panchakarma
• Constipation and bowel irregularity
• Stress and anxiety
• Menstrual discomfort
• Dry skin
• Sinus conditions
• Body ache and joint pain
• Low energy
• Food cravings
Immediate Benefits of Panchakarma
• Stress release
• Physical and mental equilibrium
• Increased energy
• Improved digestion
• Increased immune function
• Sound sleep
• Physical renewal and appreciation for life
• Deep relaxation
• Enhanced sensory awareness (improved taste, smell, sight, hearing)
Panchakarma is a perfect way to initiate a fresh start towards a healthy body and lifestyle. It also provides a drug-free natural therapy for addressing chronic imbalances. No matter where you are in the spectrum of health, Panchakarma offers a life-supporting way to increase personal wellness and inner harmony. The beauty of Panchakarma rejuventation therapy is that it renews, restores, and rejuvenates the body, mind and spirit in a way that is safe and deeply nurturing. At a more refined level. Panchakarma can be experienced as a rite of passage, an initiation that can help us prepare for personal transformation, allowing us to re-establish awareness of our oneness with all life, and re-affirm our sacred Self.
Ayurveda and Panchakarma by Dr. Sunil V. Joshi. Lotus Press