Now that the good doctors at the Ayurveda Retreat took care of my dermal and nasal toxins and opened up my pores, it was time for Snehapana.
I was told my body was ready for the next phase of Ayurvedic therapy, diet, supplements and massage. Little did I know, the dreaded Snehapana (Sney-huh-paa-nuh) and Vamana( Wuh-muh-nuh) were just around the corner!
They sound like two evil twin sisters from a bad Bollywood flick. But like in the Hindu pantheon of Gods, even the dark deadly Kali is essential to promote the cause of good.
Drinking progressively increasing amounts of medicated ghee till it literally comes out of your pores(Dadimadi Gritham in my case for fertility and hormonal imbalance). This is usually followed by Vamana.
Induced vomiting to rid the stomach of toxins especially from the small intestines. Most tourists are considered too delicate for this very vital part of Panchakarma therefore many retreats do not offer this difficult procedure. This is a challenging process for the patient and requires immense strength of will.
For the physician too this is a stressful time, as some patients get unruly and aggressive, some breakdown and cry, some get obstinate and refuse to throw up, some have simply lost the ability to throw up. All this makes it extremely important to do this process only with a qualified physician you trust.
Why is Snehapana important?
The Gastrointestinal tract is the most absorptive organ in the body. It breaks down food and takes it to every cell in the body.
Without Snehapana the medicated ghee will not find its way to every cell in the body. Without Snehapana, the medicated ghee will not bind with the toxins in each cell. Without Snehapana, the toxins, now bound to the ghee, cannot make their way back to the Gastrointestinal tract for flushing out.
Once the medicated Ayurvedic ghee has made its way into the intestines, much of it goes into every cell of the body and the leftover binds with the slimy ama or endogenous toxins trapped in the villi, or finger like structures of the intestinal wall. This is forced out of the stomach lining by Vamana.
Why use Ghee, why not chicken fat?
Ghee is structurally the closest to our body’s lipids, is cooling, has healing properties and is superior in hitching the toxins for the ride out of the body.
My Snehapana prep begins, Day 4:
Duration: 2 hrs
I was allowed to rest and eat well balanced, good meals, copious amounts of fruit and even a bit of indiscretion in the form of a cupcake. I was told I was being prepared for Snehapana.
Abhyangam or ayurvedic massage with large quantities of oil was done.
I was massaged with Pinda Thailam for my pitta body type skin. As usual this massage was done by two masseuses, mirroring each other, using long squeezing strokes.
I was made to sit, lie and sit again in the standard seven positions while the massage was done.
Again, as stated before, a vigorous rubbing and pulling of muscles is done to loosen toxins. This is the polar opposite of a soothing Swedish deep tissue massage or a shiatsu (if that is what you want, please don’t pay ayurveda prices for a relaxing deep tissue massage) .
The treatment room is kept bright to keep the patient from sleeping and the masseuse to see how the skin is responding and any problem areas that need to be avoided.
The patient remains alert as an active participant in her healing. The masseuses are not supposed to make idle chat. Instead they concentrate on providing healing in a silent, sacred space.
Abhyangam is followed by a 15 minute steam bath and a lovely warm bath with herbal bath water and cleansing with udhwarthanam herbal powders.
I had quite a bit of Kapha deposits under my skin as I was starting to gain weight. Even though I am a Vata Pitta body type, I has gained extra pounds due to hormonal imbalances.
Day 5, Snehapana begins
Duration: 3 seconds
Snehapana or a drink of medicated ghee was scheduled for 6.30 a.m.
One is expected to brush one’s teeth and be done with the morning rituals to drink 25 ml of medicated ghee. Piece of cake, I thought!
After I drank the vile green liquid that made me gag, I smelled the lemon that was provided and focused on thinking pleasant thoughts.
My system was in shock, I generally felt strange in the tummy region.
I was advised to stay out of the elements. I covered my head and ears with a scarf or woolen shawl to prevent catching a cold or fever. And I was also advised not to exert myself as the ghee starts to loosen the muscles and joints.
This meant no more running by the beach, no more hard Yoga. Only gentle stretching, slow paced strolling, reading and resting.
Diet: Rice congee with salt, and only when I was hungry.(Yup, you read that right! )
Abhyangam was followed by a steam bath in a steam box, which I did sitting up on a stool that was covered with a towel to keep my bum from burning. The box looks a bit like a guillotine with just my head sticking out. The neck region was padded with a towel to not let the steam escape.
Within 5 minutes I could feel the sweat start to pour like rivers down my back and the reddish Pinda Tailam melt into a pale white opaque liquid.
My therapists gently cleaned up the pathi wooden table and kept a sharp eye on me. When 15 minutes were up, I was very ready for the welcome relief of fresh, cool, normal air.
I was given a warm bath with herbal water and mung bean flour scrub for soap. My hair was shampooed and I was cleansed and toweled down like a baby.
I was given a fresh change of robes with some herbal powder, rasnadi churnam, for my moordhanya marma point on the head, sandalwood for my agya chakra space between the eyebrows. This was to help prevent any adverse effects of the therapy(duration: 1 ½ – 2 hours).
6.30 a.m and here comes the knock for my 50 ml of Dadimadi Ghritham. I closed my eyes and drank it up, now somewhat familiar with the taste.
My Ayurvedic diet continued to be Rice congee with salt, when I got hungry at 1 p.m. I was given the same for dinner as well.
My treatments for the day were Abhyangam followed by steam bath in the box and a warm bath (Duration: 1 ½ – 2 hours).
100 ml of ghee at 6.30 a.m. was on the menu for breakfast.
You know, by now, you are getting there; you can feel it come out of your pores. There was a sheen on my skin and my underarms (excuse me!) were starting to feel icky.
My diet was a thinner Rice congee with salt, which I was given only when I got hungry at 3 p.m. I had the same menu for dinner and was honestly starting to get tired of it.
My treatment was also the predictable Abhyangam followed by steam bath and a warm bath. I noticed that the darn underarms won’t degrease no matter how many times I soaped them.
Day 8, the grand finale of Snehapana
125 ml of ghee at 6.30 a.m!
I know. It was totally nuts.
I was blindfolded for drinking this large amount and given a large lemon to squeeze and smell, which I totally used for half the day. My lemon was in bad shape by the time I had bruised and smelled the essential oils on the skin to keep me from gagging.
For treatment I had the same Abhyangam with my wonderful therapists, which followed with steam bath and a warm herbal bath (Duration: 1 ½ – 2 hours).
My Ayurvedic diet was tweaked and I was given copious amounts of boiled rice water through the day and in preparation for Vamana emesis, on Day 9.
For dessert I was offered a bowl of delicious sweet black bean and sesame porridge for dinner, it was so welcome after the long stretch of bland congee.
I was also given a bowlful of laddoos (Indian sweets) made with a large amount of sugar, ghee and chickpea flour. I could barely eat one.
Sugar is given after a period of fasting in Vedic healing for a phenomenon called Carb Loading which is eating high amounts of sugar/carbs right after fasting so the liver, instead of storing it as glycogen in its tissues as usual and sending the leftover to the muscles, bypasses storage and sends the excess sugars straight into the muscles, giving the muscles access to fuel for longer duration.
This helps the muscles stay active for much longer stretches of time than normal.
What doesn’t get to the muscles, and stays in the gut lining binds with the ama ghee slime on the intestinal walls, making the ghee-ama complex even more syrupy, gooey and ready to dissolve with the Vamana medicines and herbal decoctions.
When we throw up, all of it comes up in phases.
During my last Panchakarma in 2018, I threw up till clear bile came out, this was considered to be a complete vamana.
My experience in retrospecT
The gruel diet was the hardest part for me; I am ex-chef and love my food. The Ghee actually made me feel good. My body was so dry internally that the Ghee diet was strangely energizing. By day 8, I could really see my skin glow with an oily sheen. My cheeks and lips were red, I am a nutty brown otherwise. This is the sign the doctors are looking for. My veins looked a bit more prominent than usual, I remember showing the physician’s how the veins on my legs were standing out but my body seemed fine otherwise.
Would I do it again?
Knowing what I know now, YES!
Day 9: Vamana
Vamana needs a blog post of its own. You can read about my Vamana experience here. Sally forth brave Ayurvedic cleanse warrior.
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