If you are thinking of getting a Panchakarma done and are hopping with excitement, flight tickets and a reservation confirmation in hand, let this outline sober you. I always do better when I know what’s coming at me, I am sure you will too.
To recap,Panchakarma is a completely organic Ayurvedic cleansing procedure which introduces medicines through the dermal, oral, nasal and rectal passages to flux out toxins in the body and mind. Here is my panchakarma schedule, please bear in mind, yours may look different based on your ailment, body type and health goal. But the processes and how they are done will be the same.Each prepares the body for the next process and shortcuts only take away from the desired result.
Anything other than this is not Panchakarma or the Physician has decided that following a similar schedule may not be good for your ailment.
Day 1-2-3 Udhwartanam and Nasyam:
Duration: 2 - 3 hours
Actors: Two attendants, one wooden bed and a jumpy patient.
Enter patient, strip and dress in a disposable undergarment and lie on the wooden bed called ‘pathy’.
Massage is done by two masseuses at each side in tandem. The patient is made to sit and lie in 7 positions like sitting up, lying down, turn to right, turn to left, on your stomach etc. Massage is done in long squeezing, rubbing strokes. Exfoliation is achieved through liberal rubbing with herbal powders. I was massaged with Eladi Choornam which is cardamom based.This is called 'Udhwartanam' ( oo-dwa-rtha-num)
Udhwarthanam is followed by vigorous facial massage and massage of forehead and sinuses (the frontal, Ethmoid and Maxillary) using herbal medicated oil. A vigorous massage is needed to loosen the phlegm and help drain it, so go with it.
Once the facial massage is done, the head is tilted back and 7-10 drops of medicated oil is applied in each nostril. This is called 'Nasyam' ( nuh-syum). The quantity and type of nasal medicine is determined by your ailment, tolerance and body type. One is supposed to pull the medicine into the oral cavity through the soft palate and spit out the phlegm, which is laden with toxins and must never be swallowed.
Oiling the nostrils is followed by blindfolding and steaming of the face and back. More phlegm comes up as the pores soften. The attendants help spit it out.
This is followed by fumigating the irritated nasal passages with an herbal cigar. This is called ‘Dhoomrapanam’ (dhoo-mra-paa-num) literally smoking. Medicinal smoke is taken into each nostril and expelled out through the mouth. This did soothe my assaulted nasal passages.
Smoking is followed by gargling with about 300ml of medicated mouthwash. It tasted salty, peppery and ginger like. The procedure is finished off with generous oiling of the body and a steam bath for 15 minutes.
Finally top off the day at the good doctors, with a nice warm bath.
My experience in retrospect:
Udhwarthanam was not pleasurable for me but this is how the skin is effectively exfoliated. Lights are not dimmed so the masseuses can see the effect on the skin, look for sore spots, redness etc. and avoid the area. Patient is not supposed to relax and go to sleep; patient is an active participant in his healing. By the 2nd and 3rd day, massage can get painful, depending on your sensitivity.
Nasyam was a shocker for me. I had never taken anything up my nose and the mild organic irritants in the oil, do just that. They irritate the nasal passages to bring the out trapped phlegm. Ayurveda believes phlegm creates mood disorders. On the first day, I misunderstood and the oil went down the wrong way in my throat. A burning chest till wee hours of the morning is not a memory I cherish.
As a well brought up Indian gal, my last brush with smoking was in the college dorm and that had not fared well as I inhaled the smoke into my stomach and got a stomach ache. This time too I was off to a bad start with smoke in my eyes and much swearing but by day three I was blowing smoke rings. If you have never smoked, expect discomfort.
During these days I was also on 6 different types of pills,oils and potions, four times a day. I also had dietery restrictions and a travel freeze, which I ignored and suffered an excruciating headache. The medicines slowed down my digestion and I could eat only small quantities of freshly made, simple food.
At the retreat that I did my treatment, my oils, herbal powders and toiletries were kept exclusively for me. My herbal exfoliant was kept labeled with my name for re-use. After treatment the wooden bed was washed down with soap and water. This is an important hygiene measure; please check with your facility. Ask different people, conflicting answers are a red flag.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat. By day three my skin had never looked better, my head was clear and I felt great.
Congratulations, you just graduated to read Day 4-8 !