Just recently I went on panchakarma retreat in Ayurveda Yoga Villa in Kerala. In Sanskrit panch means five and karma means action, so it is literally five detox treatments.
To do it properly takes time 3 to 4 weeks, because you need to prepare and recover from each treatment. At ‘Yogavilla’ all the remedies are made in a traditional way, and supercharged with special Sanskrit mantras. The herbs and food are all freshly grown on site, or picked from the natural forest surrounding the centre.
On this programme there is no cheating. Brace yourself for a few weeks with no tea coffee or naughty treats. Whilst there I realised the detox is similar to the herbal ones I use at home see detox pathway.
First Stage Purvakarma (Preparation)
The first stage is ‘Purvakarma’ which means preparation for the detox. This is with full ayurvedic massage which loosens up the toxins, and by taking medicated ghee which lubricates the colon. The herbs in the ghee also penetrate into the tissues and start the process of deep detoxification. This medicine is designed to work on all levels, physical, mental and spiritual. This requires you to be relaxed and calm as you take the medicine, to trust and accept it fully. Ancient Sanskrit mantras are used while making the medicines, to awaken the higher consciousness in yourself and the herbs
We started with 50ml of ghee on the first day. Then it doubled for the next two days, to 100ml then 200ml. I worked out that if we carried on at that rate, we would be taking a over a gallon after 6 days! The third, and final day is quite intense, as the ghee really gets to work on your liver and releases a lot of toxins. You more or less fast for the 3 days, but you can have rice porridge if you are hungry.
First Treatment: Vamana (Vomiting)
The next therapy is Vamana (medicated vomiting). This involves drinking about 8 pints of herbal tonic, then throwing it up. It reminded me of a typical Saturday night when I was a student, apart from you remember it more clearly. They actually served the tea, in half-pint beer glasses just to add to the authenticity. The herbal tea was actually nicer than some of the cheap British beer we drank then. It was also like being a student, in that this was the main topic of conversation the next few days, until the next big night out!
Vamana (vomiting) may seem a bit drastic, but in ayurveda it is considered one of the most powerful ways to release toxins from the body. The good thing is that it is quick and all over in a hour or two. The therapy starts at 5am so you are not fully awake either and it’s finished before breakfast. This is anecdotal, but my wife Samia has suffered from asthma years, and has been fine ever since. Or she could be saying that so she doesn’t have to repeat the treatment!
Second Treatment: Nasaya (Nasal Cleansing)
The next stage Nasaya is a nasal clearing. This involves aromatic nasal drops which really clear out your sinuses. It is also followed by medicated smoke which you shallowly inhale into your mouth and throat. As well as cleaning the medicated herbs are absorbed through the skin into the upper part of the body.
By this stage some of the group were experiencing remarkable improvements in their health. One lady had rheumatoid arthritis, and could hardly bend her hand. She was amazed that she could move more easily. It is a beautiful thing, when you think you are stuck with a condition, and you get relief using food and natural therapies.
By this stage I got the feeling in an ideal world most hospitals could be like this. In a peaceful location with simple vegetarian food relaxing and detoxing therapies.
Third Therapy: Virecana (Purgation)
The next stage was purgation. A lot of undigested debris can be held in the colon, this not restricts absorption, but also creates new toxins within your body see my blog herbal colon cleanse.
This is relatively easy process, just take the medicine, which tastes quite nice, and wait an hour or so. Then sit on the loo the next 6 to 8 hours! You also invited to keep a poo diary with times amount and texture of each movement.This helps pass the time and is a lovely thing to treasure afterwards.
Also the purgation gives you a new topic of conversation as the Vamana experience is get wearing a bit thin by now. After purgation you eat lots of ayurvedic kitcheri (see my recipe) for a couple of days, which is soothing, nourishing and delicious.
Fourth Stage: Basti (Enemas)
Next are a series of enemas. There are two types, a small oil one of about 100 ml and a larger herbal one 600 ml. Normally these alternate for about 6 to 7 days the small oil one lubricates the colon, and the larger herbal one cleanses. There are two functions of the enema, it cleans and rinses the colon and also the herbs are absorbed through the colon wall to heal and nourish your body.
Fifth Stage: Resaynam (Rejuvination)
The final stage is rejuvenation. This is like a sort of graduation, all the hard work has paid off, and you have achieved something that can’t be taken away. Your room is cleaned and decorated with white bedding, flowers, incense and a ghee lamp. You dress in clean white clothes, and eat separately from the riff raff (other students who are still toxic). It is almost like an initiation, you have changed. It is a way of honouring yourself, and your new purified body, mind and spirit.
This is the time to eat nourishing food, relax and feel a bit superior to everyone else. It is the time where you can meditate more deeply and continue the purification of your mind and spirit through meditation and pranayama.
This was definitely a fantastic panchakarma experience. But don’t have to wait and do nothing if can’t go to India straight away. There is lots of detoxing, yoga and ayurveda you can do at home. I do special weekend retreats where you can discover your ayurvedic type and which yoga, and detox techniques will suit you best. Not only will you benefit from the weekend but you will have personalised therapies and techniques to take home with you.