I first discovered this powerful internal cleansing program when I overheard a girl in my yoga class asking the teacher, “Umm…what is Panchakarma?”
As our knowledgeable teacher began explaining this age old Ayurvedic internal healing process, I began to think I could definitely do with a detox”. And with that thought in mind,my research began.
Now if you’re sick of hearing the word ‘detox’,don’t worry, I won’t bang out about all the benefits too much.
However, I will say that from my experience I’ve found that overtime, the toxins we consume daily create disease that debilitates your mind, body and spirit.
The Ayurveda approach to reduce your toxic load and bring your body back into a state of homeostasis is called Panchakarma. And as you’ll soon see, it’s highly effective.
But be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted as this has to be one of the most intense treatments I’ve come across.
In this post you’ll learn exactly how a Panchakarma can improve your wellbeing, and if you’re interested, how you can skip the expensive South Indian retreat, and enjoy the benefits at home.
WHAT IS PANCHAKARMA?
Panchakarma is a basic Ayurvedic detoxification treatment which removes all nasty toxins from your body and makes it pure again. The word Panchakarma literally means five therapies, which remove disease-causing toxins from deep within your body and balance your all 3 doshas.
This is not just some ancient & outdated set of therapies, scientists have been researching how Panchakarma creates & affects healthier behavior patterns.
A Panchakarma treatment improves your physical & mental health, strengthens your immune system, reduces stress levels, slows down aging and increases your vitality.
There are 2 pre-purification methods used before Panchakarma – Snehana (oil massage) and Swedana (sweating). Both these methods are used for loosening toxins in the body before the detox process begins.
The 5 therapies of Panchakarma are Vamana, Virechana, Nasya, Basti and Raktamokshana. Now, don’t you get intimidated by all these exotic sounding Sanskrit names because I’m gonna explain each therapy in a simple way. Before we dive into the world of Panchakarma, take a look a this short video which explains ‘What is Panchakarma?
Vamana (Medicated Emesis Therapy)
Let’s start with Vamana, which is a medicated therapy that induces vomiting (yes, you read that right, it’s called emesis). But don’t worry because it’s controlled vomitiwhng – it is induced in a planned manner with a time for it to start and stop which is closely monitored. The idea behind it is to remove excess Kapha toxins from your body, especially the respiratory system. Ayurvedic doctors prescribe this treatment to people with a high Kapha imbalance (usually it’s a congestion in the chest).
Expelling excess Kahpa out can often cure diseases completely. Since Kapha is found in the chest, the most easy way to take it out naturally is through the mouth.
Treats: Respiratory diseases such as bronchial asthma, skin disorders such as vitiligo & psoriasis and digestion problems such as hyperacidity & chronic Indigestion, nasal congestion, chronic allergies, hay fever, edema & obesity.
Virechana (Medicated Purgation Therapy)
When Pitta toxins get accumulated in the body, they manifest themselves in the form of various diseases. Virechana is a controlled detox technique which uses laxatives to cleanse the gastro-intestinal tract, gallbladder and liver.
Treats: Skin diseases such as vitiligo and psoriasis, asthma, diabetes, chronic fever and headaches, joint, digestive and gynecological disorders, herpes, elephantiasis and paralysis.
Out of all the 5 therapies, Basti is believed to be the most important Panchakarma technique. Called the mother of Panchakarma, Basti is colon-cleansing treatment which removes Vata, Pitta and Kapha toxins accumulated in the body. In this therapy, an enema made with medicated ghee/oil and herbal decoction is administered to a patient for many days.
Treats: Digestive disorders such as colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation and hemorrhoids. Spinal problems like neck arthritis, backache, sciatica, an enlarged liver and spleen, obesity and infertility.
Nasya (Nasal Cleansing)
Since the nose is viewed as the doorway to the brain, Nasya therapy focuses on treating diseases affecting the head region. It involves removing accumulated Kapha toxins from the head and neck area through the nostrils. This is done by pouring herbal medicated oil into the nostrils which spreads all the way to the head, ears, eyes and throat. Such a treatment can take between 7-30 days depending on the condition of the patient.
Treats: Chronic headaches, migraine, insomnia, epilepsy, memory loss, premature graying of hair, hairfall, sinusitis, ENT (ear, nose and throat) disorders, cervical spondylitis, frozen shoulder, nasal allergies, Trigeminal neuralgia and Bell’s Palsy.
Raktamokshana (Blood Cleansing)
Raktamokshana, literally meaning letting out blood, is a blood cleansing therapy which is used very rarely by Ayurvedic practitioners for extreme blood-borne diseases. Before you read about this any further, please note that this is NOT done in a regular Panchakarma. Since there is a high risk of infection in this procedure, many Ayurvedic centres don’t provide Raktamokshana therapy.
Treats: Eczema, psoriasis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, varicose veins, diabetic wounds, boils, abscesses, hypertension, thrombosis (blood clot) and alopecia.
How To Do Panchakarma At Home
Can’t find an Ayurvedic center nearby to do a Panchakarma treatment? Girl, then let me show you how you can do an Ayurvedic cleanse at home. In The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies INSERT AMAZON LINK, Ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad recommends a Panchakarma process that you can do at home. Although this version is safe for a healthy person, do NOT try it if you are anemic, pregnant or exhausted.
Before you start, you must find out what your dosha type is. According to Ayurveda, every person has a unique bodily constitution (called dosha) and there are 3 kinds of dosha – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around what is Panchakarma and decide that you want to do it at home, make sure you take time off from work and stay completely free. So, speak to your family or housemates, get someone to help with your kids (if you have any) and create a small cocoon for yourself.
All you have to do during Panchakarma is – rest, be gentle on yourself, walk in nature, meditate, do yoga and read light books.
Duration – A shorter Panchakarma at home can take 1-3 days (if you’re working during weekdays) and a longer version can be 4-8 days (think of a long weekend plus some extra days off work).
DAYS 1 – 3
1. On days 1 to 3, start with Snehana (oleation therapy). For internal oleation, drink 4 tablespoons of warm ghee early in the morning. If you’ve got high cholesterol, triglycerides and/or diabetic sugar levels, substitute the ghee with 2 tablespoons of flax seed (you can have this 15 minutes before your morning meal for 3 to 7 days). This lubricates your insides and kick starts the detoxification process.
Special tip – If you’re Vata, have ghee mixed with a pinch of rock salt and if you’re kapha, use a pinch of Trikatu instead of salt.
2. Eat a diet specific to your dosha (learn more about about Ayurvedic Diet & How To Eat For Your Dosha). Before bedtime, drink a Triphala tea. Mix 1 teaspoon of Triphala powder with 1/2 a cup of boiling water. Infuse it for 10 minutes. This mild laxative drink will cleanse your digestive tract.
3. When you’re doing Panchakarma, your agni or digestive fire becomes less active and your digestion slows down. That’s why you have to eat very light food that is super easy to digest. On days 4 – 5, eat only kitchari (a cooked mix of rice and lentils) with ghee during the entire period. Drink a tea according to your dosha.
Vata types can drink ginger, cumin, and coriander tea. If you’re Pitta, have cumin, coriander, and fennel. Kapha types can make themselves a cup of ginger and cinnamon (with a teeny bit of clove). To prepare each of these teas, use 1/2 teaspoon of dry powdered herbs and steep them in 1 cup of hot water for 4-6 minutes.
DAYS 4 – 5
4. During the 4th and 5th day, you can begin external oleation at night. Massage your entire body for 10-15 minutes with warm coconut or sesame oil. After every massage, rest for a bit and take a hot shower to sweat out all the toxins. Drink a cup of Triphala tea before you go to bed.
DAYS 6 – 8
5. Between days 6-8, you repeat pretty much the same process (eat kitchari, drink tea, do an oil massage, take a hot shower and sip some Triphala tea before bedtime). But there’s a new addition now – basti or enema.
To prepare an enema decoction, you’ll need an Ayurvedic formulation called Dashamoola. Boil 1 tablespoon of Dashamoola with 4 cups of water until it becomes 2 cups. Let it cool completely and strain the liquid with a cheesecloth. After administering the enema, hold the fluid for at least 45 minutes before you go to the toilet.
6. On the 9th day, you’ll be done with Panchkarama at home. Don’t rush into your old diet. Keep having the kitchari and start having it with steamed veggies. Slowly get back to your dosha-specific diet over the next few days.
Things To Avoid During Panchakarma
Now that you know what is Panchakarma and how to do it at home, be sure to avoid the following things for an effective Ayurvedic detox:
- Avoid all cold food & drinks
- Caffeine, white sugar, dairy, drugs and alcohol are a strict no-no
- No draining or difficult workout
- No sex
- No staying up until late
- No TV or loud music
- No electronic gadgets and surfing the net
Though Panchakarma has no known side effects, you have to follow all the instructions pretty strictly and if you cheat, you might experience adverse effects.
Pregnant and nursing women can not do Panchakarma. If you have health issues or don’t feel physically strong, please consult your doctor before you decide to do Panchakarma at home.
Things to Remember During Panchakarma
During Panchakarma, many of your old and unresolved emotions will show up (coz they’re buried deep within your body). Instead of getting worried or feeling bad, just be mindfully aware of these feelings and thoughts.
Keep warm and protect your body from draughts of wind.
As you begin to wrap up your Panchakarma, take a moment to pause and reflect on how you feel after this cleanse. Take your time, sit on your cushion, write your journal, do some yoga and meditate for a few minutes.
If your Panchakarma at home is done well, you’ll feel rested and revitalised. You’ll come out of it feeling way more self-aware, confident and blissful, and that’s when you feel the magic of Ayurveda.
By writing this post, I’m hoping to answer a question many Ayurveda newbies have. People often write to me asking – ‘What is Panchakarma?’. If you feel like this post helped you get one step further into your Ayurvedic wellness journey & motivated you to detox, then please go ahead, share it and don’t forget to pin it on Pinterest!
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