Panchakarma is an ancient form of purification developed thousands of years ago in India. It is considered to be the ultimate mind-body detoxifying experience.
It involves several levels of purification practices.
Pancha means 'five'. Karma means 'cleansing action'. However, the practice of Panchkarma has evolved to include more than five cleansing actions.
Traditional Panchakarma Treatments
1. Nasya, Nasal Administration of Medication
Usually involves oil, ghee, and powdered herbs, and gentle massage of the nasal passages. Aims to clear sinuses, help with headaches, and eye problems.
Similar to Neti, one of Yoga Shatkarmas.
2. Basti, Herbal Enemas
Again using oils, ghee, and herbal decoctions. Aims to alleviate constipation, distention, sexual disorders, back pain, arthritis, and even common cold.
3. Virechan, Internally-Taken Purgatives/Laxatives
Oil, ghee, and herbs, you guessed it. Indicated for asthma, colds, indigestion, poor immune system, skin conditions, diabetes, and more.
4. Vaman, Therapeutic Vomiting
Involves drinking lots of salted water, or licorice tea, and inducing the stomach to expel it to clear toxins from the digestive system. Great for asthma, diabetes, colds, and indigestion.
You feel incredible afterwards (my personal experience).
5. Rakta Moksha, Blood-Letting
Ancient practice, indicated for acne, scabies, and liver and spleen problems.
Usually, Rakta Moksha and Vaman are excluded. As you might imagine, few people in the West would be OK with blood-letting and intentional vomiting.
So instead, a few other detoxifying treatments such as massage and hot steam and oil therapies are added. Common sequence of steps in modern Panchakarma:
1. Oleation: special massages using herbal oils or by taking certain oils internally.
Examples: Abhyanga (a cleansing oil massage), and Marma Point Massage (facial point massage).
2. Swedana: heating the body using specific steam and warm oil therapies. Using therapeutic heat allows the loosened toxins to flow more easily from the tissues to the GI tract.
Examples: Shirodara (heating oil treatment), Yoga (practicing detoxifying yoga poses and breathing techniques), and Ayurvedic Diet (very light, bland, simple diet).
3. Basti and Nasya: used to eliminate the toxins that have accumulated in the GI tract and the nasal passages.
Other Details and Links
The Panchakarma treatments should be administered over a period of several consecutive days (up to 14 days).
It is recommended to do Panchkarma on a seasonal basis and when an individual feels out of balance, or is experiencing a particular illness.
On the West Coast of the Unites States:
Deepak Chopra's La Costa Spa
Mount Madonna Center
On the East Coast:
The Himalayan Institute
Kripalu Yoga Center
Arya Vaidya Shala, Kottakal, Kerala