Does getting a massage every day for three weeks sound like a dream? What if I told you it can become a reality—with an ayurvedic practice called panchakarma?
In our daily lives, our body, mind and spirit accumulate a lot of impurities that hinder us from being the best version of ourselves.
This often leads to anger, irrational behavior, sickness and many other negative effects of a toxic environment.
If you don’t address it, all this negativity will spill from your cup and overflow to the people around you.
The best way to heal and rejuvenate your whole wellbeing is through an ancient therapy that has proven its splendid effect for many generations: panchakarma.
What Is a Panchakarma?
Panchakarma is designed for sodhana (purification). It is one of the most well-known purification therapies in Ayurveda.
Panchakarma treatments typically last anywhere from 5 to 21 days in an ayurvedic spa or a special Panchakarma facility.
In Sanskrit, Panchakarma means “five actions.” This is because a complete Panchakarma experience consists of five treatments:
These traditional treatments use ayurvedic massage oils and herbal remedies to detoxify the mind and body. (We’ll explore each one on a deeper level shortly!)
Not only does undergoing a Panchakarma bring a multitude of benefits, additionally, Panchakarmas are also an integral part of Ayurveda.
Many professionals consider it the oldest medical system in the world. In fact, it’s still one of India’s primary healthcare systems today.
Since Ayurveda is a holistic healthcare system, it focuses on both treating sickness as well as preventing it by nourishing the body. As a matter of fact, its key principle is that the mind and body are connected, and when we balance the mind, the balance extends throughout the body.
In Ayurveda, there’s no technique or tool more powerful to heal the body than the mind.
To balance the mind, people who live ayurvedic lifestyles practice yoga, meditate, eat foods that their doshas favor, and form other habits that balance their mind and body.
But sometimes, we’re just in need of a major detox.
That’s where treatments like Panchakarma come in.
The goal of Panchakarma is to extract toxins stored in the body. By ridding yourself of these impurities, you restore balance and well-being.
The Benefits of Panchakarma Treatments
Life is hectic living in a fast-paced environment. Stress and pressure can begin to pile up.
Undergoing an Ayurvedic Panchakarma is a great way to detoxify your body of all these impurities.
Because of its extensive procedure, Panchakarma has a lot of wonderful benefits. Here are a few listed below:
- Completely eliminates all the toxins from your body
- Balances the three doshas: Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth)
- Relieves stress
- Boosts your body’s immune system
- Induces and heals your metabolism
- Aids in weight-loss
- Revitalizes and improves the lustre of skin tissues
- Calms your mind, body, and spirit
- Slows down the aging process
- Improves pulse and sleeping patterns
7 Different Types of Panchakarma Treatments
As mentioned previously, Panchakarma traditionally has five treatments.
However, as the years have gone by, some of its traditional treatments have become obsolete.
Because of this, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have developed modern treatments. These treatments provide the same effect as the traditional ones using different methods.
Panchakarma now has seven types of treatments: Abhyanga, Shirodhara, Garshana, Swedana, Udvartana, Five Senses Therapy and Pinda Swedana.
Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic massage that uses warm herbal-oil.
It breaks down impurities and promotes the overall wellness and health of your body.
Other benefits of the massage include:
- Reducing stress and lowering blood pressure
- Improving your skin by increasing blood flow
- Relaxing the muscles
- Stimulating lymphatic drainage
Abhyanga’s end goal is to amplify the internal healing system of your body.
Shirodhara comes from the Sanskrit words shiro (which means head) and dhara (which means flow).
To use this healing technique, pour herbal oil on your forehead. This helps our brain waves to synchronize and our body to enter serenity.
Some of its other known benefits are improving sleep and insomnia and reducing stress and anxiety.
Garshana is a dry massage that uses either a silk glove, a soft sponge, or a dry brush. Use the material of choice to scrub off dead skin layers, leaving your skin supple and radiant.
It also opens your pores in preparation for oil treatments, stimulates the skin and lymphatic system, improves blood circulation and helps in releasing toxins.
Swedana is an herbal steam bath that keeps your head and heart cool. This prevents your body from experiencing stress and overheating.
This treatment helps to release toxins found deep within your skin. Swedana comes from the Sanskrit word swid, which means to perspire.
Udvartana is an exfoliating treatment. It includes a brisk massage technique and a herbal paste that creates heat. It helps condition your skin, dissolve toxins in your body, reduce fluid retention and increase blood flow.
Five Senses Therapy
Five Senses Therapy, as mentioned in the name, is a treatment that involves the five senses. It creates harmony between the senses for a therapeutic effect.
In sound therapy, you listen to Vedic hymns and mantras.
Touch therapy invigorates specific vital points.
Taste therapy includes the intake of herbal medicines.
Sight and visual therapy involve Ayurvedic color therapy.
Smell therapy uses aromatherapy.
Pinda Swedana is a deep cleansing treatment using rice cooked in milk and herbs, placed inside a warm herbal bag. It is then used to massage your skin and joints. It helps to relax and rejuvenate the body.
The 5 Traditional Panchakarma Treatments
As mentioned earlier, some of the traditional Panchakarma treatments aren’t being practiced anymore.
However, some still are.
There are five traditional panchakarma therapies: Basti, Nasya, Vamana, Virechana, and Raktamokshana.
This first therapy uses an herbal enema decoction to expel toxins from the colon.
Complete Basti daily for the whole duration of Panchakarma therapy.
It’s one of its most important aspects because it removes vata found in your large intestine and bone tissue.
This therapy is very effective, reaching targeted tissues and correcting vata disorder. It’s a powerful treatment against constipation, arthritis, and piles.
Nasya is a treatment that focuses on the head.
It begins with a gentle massage and fomentation in your head and shoulders. Afterwards, you use a prescribed mixture of herb and oil drops, inhaling them to flush any excess mucus from your sinuses.
This is an important method which treats the central nervous system. It fights headaches, neurological disorders, sinusitis, and other respiratory illnesses.
Vamana is no longer practiced today, however, it is useful to understand the procedure.
This treatment uses therapeutic vomiting and eliminates poison from a person’s lungs and stomach.
During the treatment, inside and outside oleation and fomentation are given for a few days, including therapies and ayurvedic medicine.
The toxins melt and gather in the upper cavities of the body. Emetic medicine and decoction are then given, and the participant vomits.
The Vamana treatment was best used for treating asthma, hyperacidity, diabetes, lymphatic congestion and chronic indigestion, among others.
Virechan is the therapeutic purging of the excess bile that accumulates in a person’s gallbladder, small intestine and liver.
The excess bile would often result in acne, nausea, jaundice, and vomiting.
During the treatment, you must not eat any foods that would break the balance of your humor. Virechan treats jaundice, colitis, celiac infection and more.
Like Vamana, Raktamokshana is a traditional Panchakarma treatment that is no longer used.
In Raktamokshana, a small amount of blood would be taken from a person’s veins. This was done in order to release the tension caused by toxins produced by disintegrated red blood cells in the liver.
The process of letting the blood out also helped to stimulate the spleen, which boosts the immune system.
Raktamokshana also has other methods of purifying the blood, including herbs, gem therapy, or color water therapy.
This treatment was best for addressing various skin issues, such as dermatitis, eczema, acne, scabies, and rashes.
Panchakarma Step-by-Step: How Does It Work?
Panchakarma therapy consists of three major components: the preparation phase (poorva karma), the principal procedures (pradhana karma), and post-therapy procedures (paschat karma).
Preparation Phase (Poorva Karma)
During the preparation phase, Snehana—a therapy used for applying oil to your body and ingesting oil—eliminates imbalance, and softens and boosts the release of stored pollutants.
Throughout this therapy, you must drink a huge amount of herbal oil to lubricate your digestive system.
During the Panchakarma, you eat only Kitchari (spiced lentils and rice). At night, ghee or castor oil can be taken with it. This diet lasts for at least a week. It cleans your bowels and removes toxins before beginning your therapy.
You will also need to remove the following: meat from your diet, travel to far places, stress, and eating other foods that would break the balance of your body. You will need to do this for at least one month before the entire therapy so that when you’re ready to have the Panchakarma treatment, you receive the maximum effect.
Principal Procedure (Pradhana Karma)
Once your body is fully prepared the therapy focuses on eliminating toxins.
During this phase, you will complete the five treatments. Traditional and modern treatments are incorporated and customized to address the needs of the individual. Most likely, the therapies in this phase would include the following:
- Bastis (herbal enemas) – To flush out your intestinal tract and eliminate fat-soluble toxins.
- Nasya (nasal application) – To cleanse your sinuses and drain excess mucus.
- Swedana (sweat treatment) – To open your pores and get rid of impurities via the sweat glands.
- Abhyanga (oil massage) – To provide your tissues with oil and loosen and extract impurities.
Post-Therapy Procedure (Paschat Karma)
In this phase, you will balance your body and expel the toxins from your system.
You will now sustain this version of your body through the revitalization of the Agni and prevent yourself from reverting back to an unhealthy lifestyle. You can accomplish this through meditating, practicing yoga, following a diet that’s specific to your dosha, daily abhyanga (oil massage), and pranayama (breathing techniques).
After the therapy, your body will feel energized and light. You can eat healthy foods, immerse yourself in nature and exercise to maintain this balance.
The Panchakarma experience varies for every individual because it is customized to fit the needs of the participant.
Before diving into the therapy, you will have a consultation with an Ayurvedic Doctor that examines every aspect of yourself including your body, lifestyle, medical history, state of mind, dreams and more. Once the examination is done, the doctor gives you a diagnosis and creates and customizes your Panchakarma menu.
Panchakarma in a day:
Wake up at sunrise and do a gentle yoga accompanied by meditation.
Drink tea with your choice of spices and herbs.
Start with an Abhyanga (oil massage).
Spend time at a dry or wet sauna to relax and release some toxins.
Eat Kitchari for lunch—rice and lentils with spices.
Spend time meditating and enjoying nature. You cannot exercise or use technology.
Start the second treatment of the day, bastis (herbal enema).
For dinner, eat a light kitchari meal or cooked vegetables with rice.
Before going to bed, read and/or meditate.
The Panchakarma Diet
During the Panchakarma therapy, you follow a specific meal plan, which is usually kitchari and special herbal teas.
Kitchari is a mixture of basmati rice, mung dal, water, ginger root, mineral salt, ghee, coriander powder, cumin powder, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, asafoetida, cilantro leaves, and assorted vegetables. The Basmati rice and mung dal have a sweet aftertaste and give a cooling effect.
For people who live the Ayurvedic way of life, a mixture of seasoned rice and mung dal is their basic meal.
Participants are given the kitchari-mono diet because it is nutritious, easy to digest and has detoxifying properties. You must not consume cold drinks, cold food, white sugar, caffeine, alcohol and dairy products until the Panchakarma treatment is complete.
The reason for the dietary restriction is because your digestive fire (Agni) takes a rest. Also, the digestion process slows down because toxins go back into the gastrointestinal tract.
Panchakarma creates a healthy lifestyle that helps improve your character, mental health, and body. It also creates harmony and balance within the systems inside your body, lowering the risks of getting diseases and infections.
Panchakarma is a great way to start with a clean slate and reset your life into something far better. People who have undergone this therapy have experienced wonderful results and were able to fully connect with themselves.