Health can be defined as a state when the body, mind and spirit function in harmony with each other.
The ancient science of Ayurveda emphasizes preventative measures and curative therapies, which include regular purifying of the body – in order to maintain an ideal state of health. Ayurveda also recommends proper diet and lifestyle guidelines to live a balanced, healthy life. Panchakarma is a Sanskrit term which literally translated means “five actions”, that help purify the body.
According to Ayurveda, every individual is a unique combination of the five universal elements (Pancha Mahabhoota) – represented in the mind-body system as the Doshas or the energetic principles. The three Doshas are:
Vata – Space (Akasa) & Air (Vayu)
Pitta – Fire (Agni) & Water (Jala)
Kapha – Water (Jala) & Earth (Prithvi)
A state of health exists when the digestive fire (Agni) is in a balanced condition; the Tridosha are in equilibrium, the three waste products (urine, faeces and sweat) are eliminated normally, the seven bodily tissues (rasa, rakta, mamsa, meda, asthi, majja and shukra) are functioning normally, and the mind, senses and consciousness are working harmoniously together.
When this balance is disturbed, imbalance occurs, which is disorder. Health is order; disease is disorder. Disorder can be created quite easily by a number of factors – an improper diet, sleep cycle, exercise style, room temperature, emotional and stress handling or seasonal change – can all derange the Doshas and create imbalance.
Panchakarma purifies the body by eliminating accumulated toxins (Ama), consequently improving metabolic rate and restoring digestive fire (Agni), while balancing the Doshas. While being primarily preventative, Panchakarma is also curative to a large extent.
Some general benefits of Panchakarma:
✓ Increases strength and immunity
✓ Promotes detoxification
✓ Increases energy levels, revitalises
✓ Anti-aging, rejuvenating
✓ Prevents neuro-degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s
✓ Prevents bone-degenerative disease
✓ Increases metabolism
✓ Increases memory and concentration
✓ Promotes weight loss, treats obesity
✓ Regulates menstruation
✓ Reduces insomnia
✓ Enhances the mind; promotes mental clarity and well-being and on a deeper level, enhances consciousness.
The process of Panchakarma involves three broad, consecutive stages.
PURVAKARMA (Preparation Stage)
- Breakdown and liquefy toxic blockages, clear body channels and move toxins to GIT through a – series of warm oil massages and other heat-applying therapies as well as oral herbal oil intake.
- The recommended duration for this stage is 7-10 days. It is done in the Ayurveda Clinic.
- Ama is broken down by the following actions:
- Abhyanga (oil massage)
- Udwarthanam (powder massage)
- Kizhi (hot bundles)
- Bashpa Sweda (steam bath)
- Snehapanam (oral oil intake)
- Purvakarma stage goals:
- Breakdown toxin blockages
- Force toxins out of tissues and cells
- Liquefy toxins through heat application
- Lubricate body channels through internal and external oelation
- Move toxins to GIT region
- Alleviate body parts and muscles from any tensions or pain
- Stimulate organs and their activity
- De-stress and relax the mind
PRADHANAKARMA (Elimination Stage)
- Remove toxins from the body and balance the Tridosha through five prescribed elimination and cleansing therapies.
- The recommended duration for this stage is 5-10 days. It is done while in the Ayurveda Clinic.
- The Five cleansing procedures used during elimination are:
- Vamanam – medically induced vomiting. Targets throat, stomach, lungs. Balances Kapha.
- Nasyam – medicated nasal drops/ powders. Targets head, sinuses, brain. Balances Kapha.
- Virechanam – medicated purgation. Targets liver, spleen, colon, gallbladder, intestines. Balances Pitta.
- Sneha Basti – medicated oil enema. Targets colon and intestines. Balances Vata.
- Kashaya Basti – cleansing enema. Targets GIT (colon, intestines)
- Pradhanakarma stage goals:
- Eliminate toxins, foreign substances, and Ama from body
- Eliminate excess dosha levels to establish equilibrium
- Cleanse internal body organs
- Reset digestive function
- Clear respiratory channels from unwanted phlegm
- Clear head region from liquids
- Stimulate functioning of the brain
- Improve cell absorption to nutrients
PASCHATKARMA (Post Treatment Care)
- Nourish exhausted body tissues through natural nutrients and a positive lifestyle and establish balanced metabolic and immune functions.
- The recommended duration for this stage is 2-4 weeks. This stage can be at home or in the Ayurveda Centre.
- Basic steps to follow during this stage
- Proper nutrition (healthy, light diet)
- Proper relaxation (7-8 hours of sleep every night)
- Positive lifestyle (low stress, mild exercise, yoga & pranayama are recommended)
- Certain Rasayanam (rejuvenating herbal preparations) and/or additional ayurvedic supplements may be prescribed.
- Paschatkarma Stage goals:
- Nourish and refresh body cells
- Invigorate body tissues, organs, and functions
- Establish balanced digestive and immune functions
- Oxygenate body and cells
In essence, this ancient Ayurvedic treatment method has been practiced for hundreds of years for holistic rejuvenation across India. The popularity of Panchakarma is spreading across the world primarily as a method to boost immunity and for detoxification but also comes with many other benefits.
For more information on this, you can contact Dr. Vishnu
Dr. P.R. Vishnu, BAMS, MD is director of the Sivananda Institute of Health at the Sivananda Dhanwantari Ashram, Kerala, South India
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