Crushed into Gold.
My first Ayurveda Panchakarma experience in July 2015 first crushed me into nothingness before the Panchakarma Goddess lovingly built me up again.
There are times in life when we have to hit absolutely rock bottom and have no more reasons left to cling to our mental constructs of who we are, that we truly begin to transcend into a higher plane of healing.
Over a period of 3 weeks, I experienced some events that even now I cannot fully explain or comprehend. Yet I know, my life itself is the gradual revelation of all the experiences.
As I read, educate, and train myself in the Yogic and Ayurvedic sciences, I have the vocabulary to explain some of the phenomena I felt my physical and energetic body go through.
Just as the minute details of a meeting with a lover is best kept private, so should the details of a soul’s evolution.
One fateful summer day in South India
My journey began with a visit to the local hospital in my hometown Thrissur. My mother knew the lineage and convinced me to meet the lady Vaidya. Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Bhagavathi is Kerala’s most celebrated Ayurveda OB-Gyn.
The doctor checked my pulse, read my reports, and advised a 3 week Panchakarma.
I found the doctor a wonderfully humble and maternal woman who instantly won my trust but the hospital was mostly for low-income locals. Even though it was clean, I was used to better facilities available in India’s top hospitals in the city and felt I needed a place where I did not have to be away from my little 5-year-old girl.
Dr. Bhagavathi sensed my discomfort and said the best course would be to go to the retreat by the beach. She immediately made a phone call to check if there was any availability.
As the good Dr was on the phone, my daughter bolted out of the room, restless from waiting for hours for the appointment. The hospital was by the central bus stop, so I chased after her in panic.
I had no idea what I was walking into….
By the time I returned after about 30 minutes which involved chasing my daughter, feeding her snacks, and calming her down, my mother and the doctor had fixed my 19 days long stay.
The doctor explained to me that she had educated my mother on all the procedures and a cottage was available for me the next day at the beach close to my home.
I had never heard the word Panchakarma in my life, not all Vaidyas practice this purification. My grandparents were Vaidyas but this was never mentioned ever.
I asked my mother if there was anything the physician shared I should know and she said, everything will be taken care of. And that she was scared for the little one running off, that she couldn’t focus and she remembered nothing. You will get to know in time, she said.
What is Panchakarma?
Panchakarma literally means ‘five evacuative procedures’. The five procedures are:
- Nasya: Medication through the nasal cavity to remove Kapha/phlegm from the sinuses and head.
- Vamana: Cleansing of bile and toxins from the gut, yup, by inducing vomiting.
- Virecena: Cleaning out the small intestines think not one, not two but many many trips to the loo.
- Vasti: Enema, plain and simple, but performed two ways. One with a large quantity of herbal decoction and another with an oil-based medicine. This counts as two procedures. There are about 80 Ayurvedic medicines to put up there, but I have only experienced 4 different kinds.
(Apart from these there are several other supportive therapies, which we will talk in detail later. This is just a quick review.)
The yoga and Ayurveda retreat I did my Panchakarma at, did not practice the fifth ‘Rakthamoksha’ using leeches. Bloodletting is reserved for patients who show up with severe heavy metal toxicity or other ailments, it should not be done on otherwise healthy individuals.
The panchakarma course of treatment
The course of Panchakarma is determined by the Ayurvedic Physician after she checks your Prakriti, pulse, and tongue to determine which of your doshas are vitiated. She gauges whether your Ayurvedic body type is a Vata, a Pitta or a Kapha, and that combined with your ailment, charts out how your Panchakarma will be performed.
Here is a link to my free Ayurveda body type quiz, this will help in figuring out your body type.
During my first Panchakarma experience, I was getting treated for a gynecological health problem so my Panchakarma was 19 days long.
During Panchakarma organically prepared medications are introduced through the dermal, rectal, oral, and nasal tracts. The body is prepared to receive the cleansing therapies by exfoliation with herbal powder, vigorous four hands massage with medicated oils, steam baths to open pores, a strict diet, and a constant supply of several oral medications, three times a day.
A qualified Ayurvedic physician must always be supervising the timings, medications, diet, temperament of the patient, contraindications, and adherence to the regimen.
The body gets prepped successively to receive the next phase of treatment so I am not sure 7-day flash treatments work. A 14 to 21-day treatment is ideal depending on your symptoms.
My Ayurvedic body type is Vata, as are most Americans. I am prone to extreme dryness. My eyeballs are so dry I have not worn contacts for the last six years. My skin is super dry. Otherwise, I thought I was pretty healthy, my medical reports are stellar but I had a minor gynecological problem my Kaiser Permanente doctors attributed to my advanced age of forty, at that time. I am prone to little anxieties and thinking too much. I like to call myself introspective.
Here is my Day 1- 3 experience
Following that Day 4-8 Snehapana
Day 9, was the stressful Vamana
Day 10-15, the final therapies
Day 16-19, the delicious enemas to round off the experience
After my Panchakarma Experience
Post Panchakarma I notice all my social anxieties and driving-related anxieties completely gone.
I got into an accident when I arrived in the US and got ran off the freeway by a speeding car that nearly crashed into mine. Since that minor scrap changing lanes always gave me knots in my tummy. I noticed that all the fear is gone and I change lanes singing a tune. I am a completely relaxed driver and continue to stay so.
I find myself nine pounds lighter, from 118 pounds I have gone to 109 pounds, the same weight I had in my twenties. I had been dieting and doing power workouts since January hoping to nudge that 118 lbs to 115 lbs at-least. I am a five-foot-nothing so even three pounds make or break a dress size.
I look ten years younger, so say, my family and friends. The bumps on my face I developed during the third trimester of pregnancy are almost gone.
My skin is clearer and so much less dry. I bathed with the oil (Sahacharadi Tailam) I was given during discharge and continued to take a teaspoon of medicated ghee (Dadimadi Gritham) every night to keep my Vata from getting perturbed. Perturbed Vata is no fun!
The result of a completely natural body cleanse through panchakarma is that not only do bodily issues get resolved, but even mental blocks disappear, bringing a complete restoration of your natural self.
In my case, I have decided to let go of several key relationships that were toxic to me. I have also broken through my purpose in life, you can’t miss it, it is all over the blog.
Finding the right Ayurvedic retreat:
Please know that there is a perfect retreat for you at your budget and location specifications. From my experience of advising many clients and helping them pair with a perfect retreat, here are some points to keep in mind
- Established retreats are in high demand and get sold out 3-8 months in advance, you may get lucky with cancellations but it is a roll of the dice.
- If a retreat is new they may take a year or two to establish themselves however once they have made a name, its best to book in as much advance as possible especially if planning to travel from Oct – April.
- Seaside retreats sell out before inland retreats.
- You will be under the extended care of a physician, it is important to feel like you can trust this person. It is advisable to have an email exchange or a video chat to get to know if you like the person.
- Indians are IT savvy and websites are a great front to any business however reality may be different, construction may be happening on-site, the chief physician may be traveling, the chef may have resigned, there may be staff turnover affecting the quality of therapists, only a travel advisor like me will know these details.
- We absolutely love some people when we meet them or just have a strange aversion. The personality of the physician is important to consider.
- Read between the lines when you read TripAdvisor reviews. Especially read the negative reviews. Read the response of the facility, this will tell you more than all the good reviews put together. There is not a single facility without an unhappy customer, I have had a few in spite of my most sincere efforts. People get busy and don’t read everything I send them or don’t remember my advice, they forget to tell the physicians about allergies and end up with bad reactions. Some confuse me with a travel agent, I do provide a full suite of services with partner agencies to buy tickets and I advise on Visa if you need my help, however, my main role is to find an excellent facility where your expectations to regain health back is exceeded.
- Go with your gut, whether it is to book online by yourself or to hire me to advise you, you are moving towards an experience that will grow you by leaps and bounds.
Give yourself into the hands of the Panchakarma Goddess, she will lovingly mold you into a shiny new you
Since then I have experienced two more Panchakarmas but they were not as intense as my first experience. I was well versed in the therapies and have devised meditations and inner work prompts to go deeper with each Panchakarma. I take this time to wash all my koshas of the impurities I have collected.
However, my most profound shifts happened in the Panchakarma of 2015.
It’s been two years since my last Panchakarma and my body is craving for one, I plan to organize a group retreat when the skies open. If you are interested in joining me, please leave me a message through my Trip Inquiry form, mentioning that you wish to stay in touch for the Panchakarma Trip for 2021.
Please share if you have an Ayurveda detox experience. I would love to read and respond. DM me on Instagram if you are there as well. Thank you!