The word ‘pancha’means five and ‘karma’means procedure. So Panchakarma is a set of five treatments or procedures .These five are meant to remove ‘doshas’ or bio toxins from the body through five different routes.
Elimination of toxins from the upper part of the body by inducing emesis.
Elimination from the middle part by inducing purgation
Elimination from the lower part by means of decoction enemas
Elimination from head , neck and sense organs by means of nasal oil/powder pulling
One can fully fathom the depths of these treatments only after one has personally experienced them.
The above explanation is just for a layman to get a basic idea, it’s by no means complete.
Among the above, ‘Basti’ is a dual treatment as it cleanses as well as nourishes. It is the most widely used and the most powerful one.
Every patient need not undergo all the treatments. The required treatments will be chosen after a detailed consultation, keeping in mind the patient’s strength and the time duration available.
Three step process
We cannot jump to Panchakarma directly, there are some preparatory procedures. Once Panchakarma is done with, we cannot jump back to normal lifestyle, so there is a post Panchakarma regimen.
Hence Panchakarma is a three step process:
Pre Panchakarma (Poorva karma)
There are a variety of procedures in this category. They mostly act as preparatory procedures for main Panchakarma but many a time they become treatments on their own.
They can be divided into two types
Drying treatments improve metabolism and open up the channels. These open channels can then be used to transfer oils / fats to the deeper tissues. Dryness can be brought about by powder massages; powder bolus massages (pottali) etc.
Oiling is both external and internal.
External oiling is induced by oil massage (abhyanga), shirodhara ec. For internal oiling the patient is given medicated ghee (clarified butter) to drink. These oils then bind to oil soluble toxins and can be easily removed from various parts of the body by the main Panchakarma procedures (pradhan karma).Along with the oiling, herbal steam baths are given to loosen up the toxins bound to oils.
The pre Panchakarma procedures are very important for achieving results from Panchakarma and also removing the risk of adverse effects.
Main Panchakarma (pradhan karma)
These are the five main procedures as discussed above. They are used to eliminate fat soluble toxins already bound to the oils given during the oiling process.
Five different routes.
Basti has special healing properties of its own as discussed above.
These procedures are physically and mentally demanding and require a level of and faith and self discipline on the part of the patient. It cannot be done in very weak or acutely sick. In weak patients the pre panchakrma procedures themselves become the main treatment along with dietary regimen.
Post Panchakarma (paschat karma)
After the main procedures, special diet regimen along with some healing herbs is given to recoup from the effects of this demanding journey. Just as a clean glass would attract more dust, similarly the body is vulnerable to toxins at this juncture. So it is slowly nurtured and brought back to its normal strength.
These post treatment procedures assure the rekindling of strong digestive fire – Agni and thorough rejuvenation of tissues.
Even after the patient leaves, he is expected to continue with the advised diet and lifestyle for a few more days after which he/ she will slowly return to normal lifestyle.
FAQ’s related to Panchakarma
Everybody is suffering from toxins. They impair our functioning, dull our minds, reduce our longevity and in many people they manifest as real disease.
Such toxins in the body are indicated by:
- Poor absorption
- Being overweight or underweight
- Swollen glands
- Skin rashes or itching
- Frequent colds
- Discernible tongue coating
- Bad breath
- Tiredness without any exertion
- Lack of stamina/vigour
- Sleeplessness or reduced sleep
- Excessive sleep
- Bad dreams/ nightmares
- Reduced sexual desire
- Depression or anxiety
Anybody experiencing these symptoms should go for a Panchakarma cleanse.
Panchakarma brings about general well being and restores the original body mind constitution of an individual.
It has curative properties and is used to treat a wide variety of conditions as:
- Psychiatric/ psychological
- Fertility/ menstrual
- Nervous system
This is not an exhaustive list and there is much more in the scope of these remarkable treatments.
Some of the benefits are:
- Reduced signs and symptoms of disease
- A feeling of lightness in the body and mind
- Clarity of thought
- Better sleep
- Better metabolism
- Better sensual perception
- Clearer skin
- Initial weakness followed by improved strength and virility
The benefits are subjective and may vary from person to person. Some signs are felt immediately and others are developed over a longer period and get more profound as the time passes. One has to patiently follow diet and lifestyle even after Panchakarma and the positive signs will continue to emerge.
It is advised to immerse oneself in the treatments and surrender to the process rather than being glued to the results. The more we let go, more the healing will happen.
A less than 12 days stay will be considered a wellness stay. Over such a period, we will only be able to achieve wellness and no specific disease process can be targeted. We will be doing pre Panchakarma procedures and enema cleanses if the condition permits.
For targeting a specific disease we will need 14 days to 4 weeks or more based on the nature of the disease and the patient’s body type.
For a Virechana (diarrhoea) or Vamana (vomiting ) cleanse, we need 2 weeks as these procedures need proper preparation. If we have to do a Vamana/ Virechana along with Vasti (enema) cleanse , then we need around 3 weeks. A complete cleanse with Vamana + Virechana+ Vasti + Nasya would require more than a month.
There will be daily talks with the doctor and also multiple lectures during your stay. These are aimed to create an understanding of the procedures being done, the way the procedures work and how to maintain your health in your daily life.
The food served will be vegetarian, cooked, and warm, following all the Ayurvedic principles. While we try our best to make it as tasty and full of variety as possible, still at some point it could feel monotonous and bland especially during a longer stay.
Food will vary depending upon which stage of the treatment one is going through.
Examples of some of the foods which will be served are:
- Khichadi (almost daily)
- Veg soups
- Cooked lentils
- Seasonal cooked /steamed veggies
- Rice water
- Roti made from grains of different kinds
We will consider any individual allergies before drawing the diet plan.
This is not an activity based protocol where we will fill the day with different types of activities.
The patient should be willing to rest and recoup.
During and after the therapies, one should not overindulge. This includes restriction of physical exertion, sexual activity, strong emotions, overeating, excessive speech, auditory and visual stimulation etc.
Natural urges should not be suppressed. These include the need to urinate, defecate or pass gas. Bath should always be warm.
The aim is to achieve the desired results no matter how many or what kind of treatments it takes. We don’t manipulate the treatments keeping the financial aspects in mind. So there could be 1/2/3 treatments or on some days no treatments at all (days of rest after main procedures).
A single experienced therapist (two hands) will work on a patient at a time. We have male and female therapists. The major procedures will be done by the doctor himself.
It is advised to spend time without any work or worries but a light work will not hamper the treatment process.
Strong Yoga or pranayama will interfere with the treatment process. Only a light self Yoga can be done and on many treatment days even that is not advised.
There will be some weakness after the procedures. The stronger the disease process that is being targeted, the stronger will be the cleanse and weaker the person will feel. A longer stay is advised in such cases so as to have extra days to bring back the strength. The post Panchakarma regimen of rest and recovery will take care of this weakness.
One has to adhere to all these guidelines even a few days after Panchakarma. Body is very pure after the treatments and this purity also renders it more vulnerable to anything impure. You will be just like a child very pure, soft and supple yet a bit vulnerable.
If one is already very weak when he comes to us, we will not do the strong cleanses and will rely on other treatments to build strength rather than inducing more weakness.
We are about 10 km from Dharamshala town.
We recommend, not having outings during your stay. Vata (wind element) goes up by travelling. So if there are other engagements they should be dealt with prior to starting the treatments. But if something comes up along the way, we will arrange a good mode of transport to travel around the town.
During the initial few days of your stay, we will be doing treatments to open up the channels and if one travels a bit, it will not impact that much. Once the internal oiling process starts and the deep cleanses happen the patient herself will not feel like travelling.
We can do walk in Panchakarma only if you are a local and are committed to have proper rest at home and eat strictly as advised . Staying in a hotel and eating outside food will create harmful effects rather than benefits.
If the periods commence right at the outset, we will have to wait before starting any kind of treatments. Hence a few of your days would be wasted. It’s better to plan your treatments so that periods don’t begin right upon your arrival. Once the treatments commence and periods happen along the way, we will continue with the treatments by making some alterations.