After the agonies of Snehapana and Vamana (Read,if curious, Panchakarma Detoxification: Day 4-8- Snehapana: Into the deep dark woods…),rest cure begins with Pizhichil (pee-zhee-chill) massage.
This is really a gentle massage of the skin using a continuous stream of warmer-than-body-temperature medicated oil.
Two attendants pour warm luscious medicated oil in a soothing stream all over the body, in the seven positions that Ayurveda prescribes. The excess oil is gently massaged off the skin in relaxing strokes. You are literally drenched and a bit like a wet chunk of soap in a shower. The attendants are super careful to prevent any slippages and accidents.
Pizhichil massage is a balm to the body and soul. You feel a settling.
Pizhichil is followed by a steam bath and then Nasyam. After the prescribed medicated oil is poured into each nostril, fumigation of the nasal passages is followed by gargling. (For details on Nasyam, please read “Panchakarma Detoxification: Day 1-3: Exfoliation and Nose busting.”)
Pizhichil Treatment Benefits:
The warm oil helps loosen the fat deposits under the skin and the steaming helps sweat out toxins. What is dislodged under the skin gets taken to the vital organs for purification. Skin and muscles get toned. Any residual emotions that need addressing start to manifest, some people get angry, some sad, some happy.
The body gets hot, I could literally feel my body buzzing with energy and heat. The restructuring has begun in earnest.
My experience in retrospect:
The days that followed the Vamana, were hard for me. I was coming undone and yoga, meditation, and faith in the Almighty kept me going. The Pizhichil helped soothe and released a lot of mental pain. For me, mental pain physically manifests like a burning sensation on my forearms. How did it feel for you ?
I hardly slept, my blood pressure stayed high and I constantly had burning forearms. I stayed present with the feelings and I knew my mind was breaking down to rebuild itself. My identity was dissolving and a new Salila was emerging.
My weight fell to 108 pounds but my muscles, I had worked so hard to build, were still intact. I lost an inch off my body all over. My skin was clear, my cheeks were red and my hair felt longer.
I was okay even with my extreme lack of sleep, I was energetic and ready for yoga every morning at 6.30 a.m. I was able to to hold my shoulder stands and pleasantly surprised to find my body a lot more flexible in other poses. In my heart I knew my vital processes were taking care of themselves.
Will I do it again?
I am still in the thick of the repercussions of my identity shift. Will I ever want to go back to being the old me. NEVER!
All organisms, whether an amoeba, a young tendril reaching out for the sun or an Elephant matriarch leading its family through an ancient migratory path, is in alignment with its nature and what is life giving to itself and to those who depend on them. We humans unnaturally take on roles that diminish our life force. We do it for the sake of normalcy and meeting expectations of others. Panchakarma, rebalances our mind and brings it in tune with our true nature, to protect the organism and to go towards what is life affirming.
We are almost at the finish line. Onward we go!
Foot note: Pizhichil was used to massage the Royals of Kerala, helping them de-stress at the end of the day. The Royals of Kerala were polar opposites of the Royals synonymous with India, known more for their Rolls Royce collections and their extravagant hunting expeditions. The Royals of Kerala continue to be accessible, humble, public servants, who laid the foundations for the high literacy, socio-economic development and living standards that Kerala enjoys today. I attribute it to their vedic learning, yoga and regular ayurvedic Panchakarmas.
There is nothing like a Panchakarma to knock your hard edges off and separate the chaff from the essential.