The Panchakarma in details
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REVIEWING THE DEFINITION OF HEALTH
What is true health?
समदोषाः समाग्निश्च समधातुमलक्रियाः ।
प्रसन्नात्मेन्द्रियमनाः स्वस्थ इत्यभिधीयते ॥ ३८ ॥
सु. सू. १५
Su. Sū. 15
sama doṣāḥ samāgniś ca sama dhātu mala kriyāḥ,
prasannātmendriya manāḥ svastha ityabhidhīyate. (38)
Here is the definition of health as per the Suśruta Saṃhitā* , a fundamental text of Ayurveda. It can be briefly translated as a body in balance functioning properly and whose mind, soul and senses are full of bliss.
It is clearly stated that it is not enough to have a fit body to be healthy. It is also a matter of state of mind, purposes in life, fulfillment etc. Hence, in an holistic view, Ayurveda deals with all aspects all life in order to assist the body and mind towards health, that includes food, drinks, lifestyle habits etc.
Nowadays, it is very common to live with pain that we consider “normal”. We consider “normal” to have constant colds in winter, to have back pain at a certain age, to have allergies in spring, to have poor teeth conditions, to be constipated few days in a week, to have dry skin, to have chronic tiredness, to have bad breath in the morning, and mentally to be impatient, angry, nervous, stressed. In reality, it is absolutely not normal. Normalcy is to live without experiencing a troubled body or a troubled mind.
How to be healthy ?
Toxins are ever forming in the body, such as the sun and rain alternatively hit the fields, we are ever transforming and evolving. In us, things are dead and born again any second. The effects of our diet, our environment, our lifestyle and habits, our exposure to some improper conditions etc. especially in our modern society, makes us very prone to imbalances. Health is maintaining a state of equilibrium through it all, just like surfing on waves on a stormy sea -though shaken, standing still.
Health is a matter of a constant effort, improvisation and adjustments in order to keep that balance and live a long, happy life.
If the soul is the driver, the body is the car. One can not reach any place without the other. The body is the vehicle and as any vehicle, even though in proper conditions, it is used every day and needs to undergo maintenance from time to time to keep functioning properly. The thing is, in our society, we have a tendency to think that “we are good until we are sick” , ignoring that when we feel sick it is already late to take care of things. Our body is an incredible machine, a fine-tuned car, with an extraordinary capacity to regenerate itself and to adapt even to harsh conditions. However, just like everything, it has some limitations and once those limits are crossed, the internal homeostasis gets disorganized and we experience advanced diseases constraining our life.
Prevention is key
There are 6 stages of a disease development ( Samprapti* ). It is fairly easy to treat the diseases at their early stages and to maintain health and enjoy life without much restrictions and cost. However, we often take care of a disease once it starts to manifest which is only at serious stages where it is much more difficult to heal and includes a lot of efforts, time, restrictions and constraints. It is profoundly disheartening to see people cleaning their house, their car, putting expensive clothes on them, but never paying attention to the foundation of their life, their body and mind.
Basically, we all wear masks and it is time for a new paradigm to overcome it, a new way of living, promoting prevention, purity, respect and integrity in speech, attitude and relationships, especially towards ourselves.
Restoring the body’s natural balance
It is achieved by working on all sides either physically, physiologically, mentally, spiritually because a disease is almost always a multi-factor cause.
Merely, we do not cure the disease, we cure the persons, and further, we do not cure the person but we make it stronger and wiser to understand how to it itself. By doing so, not only there is a complete eradication of the disease and its consequences and symptoms, but there is a no longer the opportunity for the disease to manifest again. Also, the patient frees himself from fears and dependencies. For sure, we will fortify the body and the mind with the best methods Ayurveda can provide, but our role is also to advise and bring to consciousness the traumas and negative tendencies that ruin the balance. Our role is to invite the patient not to fight his shortcomings but to develop the opposite qualities.
In Ayurveda, there are multiple approaches to a disease among those, Panchakarma* is ultimate in the sense that it kills the disease at its roots, ensuring it can not occur anymore.
It is the ancestral yet most advanced and safest body-mind healing process ever created. As stated before, it is recommended not only for people already experiencing diseases but also to individuals willing to do the needful to maintain their health balance. It purifies and harmonize at a very deep level. It is the solution for many diseases for which allopathic medicine does not have answer. It is also to be considered as a support if you are undergoing another allopathic treatment and want to counteract or palliate the side effects always associated with, including chemotherapy and surgery, to support healing and recovery.
Panchakarma is safe and recognized by the body if practiced by an experienced Doctor.
How it works?
Panchakarma is a therapy completely individualized based on the constitution of the person, the current health status, the digestive and strength capacity, and infinite factors that are assessed by the doctor. It is always a tailor-made program that is adapted and different for each individual. It depends upon your constitution ( Prakriti* ) , your current health state ( Vikriti* ), the stage of the disease ( Samprapti* ), your age, any many many other factors. Two people suffering from the same disease from an allopathic viewpoint ( Ex : cancer or liver cirrhosis ), will absolutely not have the same treatment in Ayurvedic medicine. The therapy comprises multiple therapies at various degrees, in a definite sequence for a definite period of time. Therapies can be either Shodana* ( cleaning ) or Shamana* ( pacifying ). In any case, it is not a procedure advised for those who are not willing to face some discomfort due to the healing crisis and the release of emotional and physical tensions accumulated, that can come before reaching peacefulness. In fact, a healing crisis occurs when a large quantity of toxins that have been locked in our tissues for years are eventually released for elimination. As these toxins are expelled, one may experience tears, anger, frustration, questioning, strong bowel movements, headache, insomnia, mood swings, and various other symptoms that we will help you face.
The word Panchakarma, Pancha means Five and Karma means Procedures. It is called so because it comprise the 5 main purifying procedures. But many other procedures are also incorporated in a Panchakarma course depending upon the need of the body and mind of the patient. The procedures that we practice are detailed in the next section below.
Duration of Panchakarma is from minimum 3 weeks up to usually 6 weeks but it can go up to 94 days. Ancestrally, this duration was much longer , from 37 days to 94 days but this had to be shortened considering our current hectic lifestyle and the modern world we live in.
There is no minimum or maximum age to undergo a Panchakarma but the procedures will be selected accordingly.
The descriptions that follow cover the variety of procedures that can be applied or not to you; your own protocol will be told during the first consultation and may change accordingly to the evolution of the treatment. You may be prescribed multiple therapies among those listed below, and they will be done for a specific number of days, at specific times of the day, in a specific order. Multiple therapies can be practiced in a single day. Various medicine are also likely to be taken along with food.
Consultation and pulse reading
During the first consultation and pulse reading, we will hear and assess your concerns from a physical, emotional and spiritual perspective. We will go through your complete history ( lifestyle, medical, emotional, social…) and will develop from there your personalized line of treatment based on your constitution ( Prakriti ) and your patterns of imbalance ( Vikriti ). We will fill a medical anamnesis form with all the details, that will be given to you during the final consultation. Note that throughout the treatment you may have multiple consultations and pulse reading in order to follow the evolution.
Some requirements are to be followed during the cure ( this includes restriction of physical exertion, sexual activity,overeating,excessive speech, auditory and visual stimulation, no nap during the day, shower only on empty stomach, no snacking…) and will be given at this time. Failure to commit would end up in termination without refund.
Asthanga Hridayam* – 13/29
“First with the drugs which are digestive and which increase hunger, next with oleation and sudation therapies ( Snehana, Svedana ) and finally they ( toxins ) should be expelled out with Shodhana therapies – Vamana ( emesis ), Virechana ( purgation ), Basti ( enema ) and Nasyam ( nasal cleansing ) at the proper time, and in accordance with the strength of the patient.”
- Deepana Pachana ( Carminative and digestive )
This phase consist of igniting and enhancing the digestive fire as well as to target specific doshas or toxins. Usually, churna (powders) will be incorporated along with food ( before, after or during meals) for few days.
- Snehana ( Internal oleation with medicated Ghee )
Medicated ghee ( that may vary from one day to another and may vary in dosage also ) will be taken early morning instead of breakfast for a determined number of days ( from 1 to 7 days ). The ghee will have multiple effects based on the targets needed to be focused on. This part is not very pleasant, but is a treasure of Ayurveda as ghee as the capacity to reach the deepest tissues of the body, enter all the channels and the mind.
- Abhyangam ( massage ) and Svedana ( sudation )
Now that all the toxins have been captured by the ghee throughout the entire body, the massage and sudation will help to move them into the stomach for their elimination. Abhyanga is a strategic massage performed with warm medicated herbal oil in order to deeply penetrate the skin, loosen impurities, stimulate circulation among other benefits. Svedana is an individually herbalized steam bath, during which the head and the heart are kept cool while the body is heated to remove mental, emotional and physical toxins lodged deeply within the tissue, without the body becoming overheated and stressed.
- Vamana ( Vomiting )
That procedure aims at removing toxins through emesis. It is an excruciating treatment that is applied only in case of serious necessity and depending upon the strength of the person.
- Virechana (Purgation)
Some specific medication will be given in order to trigger the elimination of all the captured toxins through multiple bowel movements. It can be prescribed for one to few days.
Translated as “enema”, the original term is used mainly to describe a procedure involving a local retention of medicated product in intestines, colon, uterus or urinary bladder. However, nowadays it has been extended to define other local retention such as on eyes, joints, heart,etc.
They are of two types :
- Sneha vasti ( unctuous – nourishing )
- Niruha vasti ( decoction – cleansing )
Please note that contrary to what is claimed and often practiced, colonic hydrotherapies are dangerous and not advised. Colonic enema are practiced using first an oil based preparation in order not to aggravate Vata ( the colon is a seat of Vata ), and has to be done accordingly to specific steps.
- Nasyam consists of administration of medicated oil/powder/juice of herbs through nostrils, which helps to clear the channels for the Prana to circulate. Hence, it enhances all the ENT system ( Ear, Nose, Throat ) and head functions.
- Shirodhara consists of continuously pouring warm medicated herbal oil or decoction over the forehead for a specific duration. It is also the easiest, safest and effective way to aligned the chakras, balance the coordination and the entire system. It is an holistic treatment that works on every disorder by choosing the appropriate herbal preparation along with the use of mantras ( chanted and recitated mentally ) and lithotherapy ( gems and stones ).
- Udvartana is a dry massage with herbal paste. It is one of the best treatment for weight-reduction.
- Pinda Swedana is a deep cleansing treatment where rice boiled in milk and herbs is massaged deeply into the tissues and joints. The treatment is deeply relaxing and rejuvenating as well as powerfully detoxifying.
Final consultation and recommendations
During the final consultation, we will determine the post-treatment recommendations including medicine, diet, aromatherapy, yoga, floral elixir, lithotherapy, etc. to maintain and continue the effects of the treatment. If another cure is needed we will include a proposed date for a follow up depending on your availability and the season ( some treatments are to be done only on a specific season, accordingly to Ritucharya* ). None to multiple cures can be required within from 6 months to few years.
Going back home
It is advised to go back to your normal routine and job gradually, though it is not always possible to do so. The effects of the cure are profound and long-lasting and sometimes we can only sense it months after. Continue to treat yourself with compassion and comprehension, witnessing all the evolution in you and holding onto your determination. Sometimes, we may feel different or distant from our family, relatives, friends or colleague, we may attract other circles of people and events, we may take strong decisions to change our lives or we may make peace with our past. It is also part of the changes and whatever will come is to be embraced.
After the cure, one should maintain the benefits by working on the three sides: healthy thoughts, healthy lifestyle/attitudes/actions, and healthy food.
For pictures of our work and therapy rooms please check here.
Panchakarma is only effective if a special diet is followed at the same time.
It is a vegan diet mainly composed of a Dal and seasonal vegetables along with rice or chapati. All the food is fresh, cooked, and no raw food is allowed or only to specific patients and at specific times. The food is not spicy and is adapted to the cure and the constitution and state of patients.
-To be easy on the digestion
-To provide diverse nutrients, vitamins, proteins
-To improve the body’s metabolism
-To avoid the formation of toxins
In Ayurveda, the word for toxins is Ama, that can litteraly be translated by “undigested/metabolized food”. It is hence obvious that the digestion, the digestive fire or Agni, plays a crucial role in health and healing. Contrary to the new claims, raw food, raw green juices etc. are not adapted for everyone and are heavy to digest, containing the very essence of the food. To read more, here is an article to remove the myths on lot of things and proving the Ayurvedic point of view on those new trends.
Some considerations :
- Gluten intolerance and food allergies
Mostly, people facing gluten intolerance problems is only because the cereals are G.M.O and the digestive system is imbalanced. We use whole wheat flour since years and even coeliac patients do not face any issue as the treatment helps with that.
- Lentils and IBS ( Irritable Bowel Syndrome )
Lentils are often blamed for flatulence, being heavy on digestion, forgetting it depends on how it is prepared. It is one of the best source of proteins and each lentil have their own specific properties, Moong Dal being the easiest and lightest. For people facing IBS it is still advised to eat lentils at the Centre in order to reprogram the digestion, judge the tolerance capacity, though it takes time to fix it.
Why not kichadi at every meal?
It is common to read that Kichadi should be the only meal during a Panchakarma. Actually, in the Himalayas the climate is very different than in South India. Kichadi is made of rice and moong dal. Rice is not good to eat in the evening as it is heavy and cold to digest. Moong dal are the easiest to digest but it is important to incorporate other beans in order to repair the body’s digestion without burdening it. Ayurveda is a mind body medicine and as we take care of the body we have to take care of the mind also, and often a same type of meal during weeks creates frustration, anger, resentment that can lead to impair the digestive fire.
Why choosing us?
We are fortunately not the only persons in the world aiming at practicing an Ayurveda in accordance to the fundamentals and we humbly make our best efforts to honor this science. However there are many inauthentic places that is why a word of caution is mandatory.
We have seen people coming at our Centre to recover from Panchakarma treatments that have been incorrectly practiced leading to serious and dangerous complications. We have seen SPA Centre practicing shirodhara and massages at the will of the patient without taking in account that those procedures are to be performed under specific rules. We have seen Ayurvedic clinic not adapting the treatments for each individuals and whose strictness lead to unsuccessful endings. Hence, please :
- Do not involve in any so called Panchakarma therapy that can be done in less than 3 weeks. It is of common sense to realize that it takes time and repeated treatments to heal and rebuild persons suffering from diseases since years with chronic symptoms. Nothing rush in Nature and Ayurveda mimics Nature. Just as we do not go from Summer to Winter, we have to learn patience for magic to take place.
- Do not involve in any so called Panchakarma therapy that is claimed to be done at home, for the same reason as above and for the fact that it is a serious treatment that requires constant medical supervision, specific and appropriate medication and treatments that can absolutely not be replaced by some general powders without assessing the constitution and health status of the individual. We have painfully heard of people trying a home cure and ending up with loss of consciousness, metabolic disorder, vasovagal response, etc.
- Do not undergo some procedures randomly (Some treatments such as Shirodhara or Abhyangam are to be practiced only after some purgation and toxins cleaning has been done, and this is clearly settled in Ayurvedic teachings.) Auto-massage is also not advised, especially on the stomach/abdomen even though you are suffering from digestive disorders. Even only a few massages can change the location of the digestive fire ( Agni ) to improper place, taking sometimes months to years to be centered again.
- Do not use online questionnaires to assess your constitution/Dosha type, only the pulse can be an accurate reading
- Do not try self medication ( including Ayurvedic products, herbs, etc.) without supervision from an Ayurvedic practitioner or a good Naturopath/Herbalist as even some “general panaceas” such as Turmeric or Garlic may not be proper for you to take
- Do not follow Dosha specific diet charts, they are not taking in account your current health status ( Vikriti )
- Do not practice recent programs or diets such as : liver flush (It can block channels, be too strong for the body, may be incomplete…), colonics ( it destroys the flora and aggravates Vata ), infrared sauna, raw food and green juices ( it profoundly impairs digestion), yogic salt purgation Shanka Prakshalana ( it is inflammatory, Vata and Pitta aggravating, one can experience fainting due to the impact on blood pressure and electrolyte imbalance, kidneys are also very impacted), coffee enema ( same as colonic ), herbal cleansing cure ( not only expensive but mostly ineffective at advanced stages of diseases or to be followed over months with supervision ). To be brief, all those do not have the multi-millenary background and wisdom of Ayurveda and for having seen the injuries they are doing to bodies and mind – though many people claim success- we can ensure that those are mainly harmful and inappropriate. Just like most of us and in search for answers and desperate quest towards health, Dr. Soni assistant, Emmanuelle, have tried almost all of the listed and experienced how destructive it have been, not at the beginning, but with time and after profound harmful effects. It is sure that there are good for each of those, but it is not for everyone and lacks in comprehending the crucial importance in a personalized approach vs a general one.
Contrary to many sources and Internet, all of this is not Ayurveda. Please consult an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner before engaging in any of those.
What to expect?
-During the first phase ( Deepana Pachana or Ayurvedic Powders to be taken with meals ) no other treatment occurs generally.
-During the Basti (enema) phase ( if applicable for you after the Virechana/Purgation ), unless specific cases, no other treatment can occur ( oleation has to be either internal or external, not both.)
-A time face to face with yourself. We do not offer touristic activities, wellness or Yoga activities or courses ( Ayurvedic courses can be offered though ). Most of the time will be spent in the Centre within yourself in between treatments or in Nature if you take walks.
-A vegan food that can appear repetitive for some people (breakfast is mostly fruit compote with chapati or porridge, lunch is rice+veggies+dal/lentils, and dinner is chapati+veggies+dal/lentils.)
Am I ready, is it for me?
When we decide to offer ourselves a deep treatment, it is to experience a regeneration, a cleansing, a reconnection with the consciousness, with our life force, with our emotions, and our inner and true nature. It is the gift of taking time to observe what is within, to hear it and to serve it. It is the starting point or another milestone in creating auspicious conditions for the impulsion of life, of abundance, of health, of strength and of hope.
It is a program that is more dedicated to health than to disease.
Behind every fear or pain there is a will. The treatment focus on that since only life can call and stimulate life. When a little child is often catching colds and being sick in winter a mother can either say “oh, you are sneezing again you must have caught another cold, rest now as you are very weak.” or “Look, it is your immune system that is fighting and soon you will feel better and stronger, keep encouraging it!”. What is the difference?
The state does not change, but the attitude changes, and it makes all the difference. We encourage life to grow, to develop, to bloom and we trigger something that completely reprogram our body and mind. It is nothing but confidence, faith, hope. It is a privileged moment to act with compassion towards ourselves and give us the gift of life. Obviously, it takes a lot of bravery, of commitment, of seriousness, only you can feel if it is your call or not; but if you are reading those lines you must have heard something already.