Panchakarma (5 actions) is a cleanse and rejuvenating therapy series. This progression of therapies takes many weeks of preparation, followed by an intensive round of Ayurvedic treatments. Panchakarmas are a life-changing experience, and leave you feeling clean, light and pure, both in your physical body and through your higher consciousness.
Panchakarma is an alchemic practice – It is the practice of using the rhythms of nature to refine and distill us to our most essential form. It is the process of deeply eliminating Ama, or toxicity, from the depths of the body which allows for proper cellular communication. When our cells are healthy, happy, and functioning optimally, we have the capacity to build a higher quality of tissues and thus a higher, more radiant quality of Ojas. It can bring back a state of balance within the body and stillness in the mind. It can bring a connection with the rhythms of nature and reverse the disease processes. It releases not only toxins but old belief patterns and emotions stored within the tissues. When these patterns and emotions are released, we can connect with the truth of who we are and live that truth.
The Panchakarma therapeutic process appears quite simple in its application. However, the effects are powerful and effective. There are three stages of a Panchakarma:
Stage 1: Purvakarma (Before Panchakarma)
Purvakarma is the preparation time before Panchakarma where you will eat very lightly and add increased amounts of ghee to your diet every day for up to seven days or more depending on the extent of your cleanse.
Light Mono Diet:A light diet will be prescribed to you depending on the intensity of your cleanse. It may start with little to no food and then graduate to more solid types of cleansing foods:
Rice Water: Rice water is the excess water from cooking rice.
Your light diet will usually start with rice water for one or more days.
Rice water balances the blood sugar and supplies much needed
electrolytes during your cleanse. You may sip as much as you need throughout the day.
If your cleanse is extensive, you may begin with a milk or water fast beforehand.
Rice Soup: After a mono diet of rice water, your practitioner will let you know when you can graduate to rice soup for one or more days.
Rice soup is blended 1 part rice with 4 parts water.
Kitcharee: After rice water and soup, your practitioner will let you know when you will graduate to a diet of basmati rice with split mung beans or lentils (kitchari) and vegetables like dandelion greens, sweet potatoes and beets. Consume morning, midday and evening or when hungry.
This is a process of inner oleation where tablespoons of ghee is taken in increased amounts daily. This prepares and nourishes the tissues and prepares the body for purgation. During this preparation stage, you will take increased amounts of melted ghee every day. Start with one tablespoon and increase by one tablespoon daily. Do this for up to 7 days as prescribed by your practitioner. You may take the ghee with the light diet that has been prescribed to you. Eat or drink the ghee slowly especially if you are not used to consuming large amounts of fats.
It is possible to over oleate – and it is important to be aware and able to recognize when this is happening. Nausea, a white coated tongue, paleness in the skin, and grogginess are all signs of over oleation. When this happens, reduce your daily intake of ghee by 1 – 2 tablespoons and make sure you are drinking enough water.
Daily Abhyanga, or Ayurvedic oil massage, is also a vital part of snehana.
Svedna is a type of fomentation that uses steam to open up the channels in the body and liquify ama (toxins). This will be done with the use of a steam tent followed by outer snehana or abhyanga massage with oil. Doing this allows the toxins (ama) within the body to move towards the body’s purgatory channels so that they can be easily eliminated during the cleanse. You will meet with your practitioner several times during your cleanse for this treatment.
Other types of Fomentation:
Svedna, while extremely popular, is not the only type of fomentation, or heating and sweating of the body, that can be practiced. These are several other types of fomentation:
Upanaha Sveda: fomentation by poultice
Nadi Sveda: localized steam treatment
Avagah Sveda: Warm baths with or without medicated herbs
Pizichili: warm oil poured over the body in a constant stream
These are methods that help draw out ama, liquify excess dosha, and increase agni. These methods can be practiced not only during panchakarma, but in everyday life as well. As with any fomentation treatment, it is vitally important that the body is well oleated first.
Stage 2: Panchakarma (Five actions)
Panchakarma means “five actions.” While there are traditionally five actions that are used to cleanse the body, three actions are used at Wasatch Ayurveda, and they are listed here:
– Nasya:Nasya is the nasal administration of herbal infused oil into the nose. It cleanses and lubricates the nasal and sinus pathways. You can do this on your own once daily during panchakarma, especially after svedna, or your practitioner may also administer nasya during your visits.
– Virechana:Virechana is the action of purgation using castor oil to eliminate excess ama in the small intestine and clear the liver and gallbladder ducts. On your last day of taking ghee, you will meet with your practitioner and will be instructed to consume 1-2 tbsp of castor oil. You will have loose bowels as your body cleanses and may have several bowel movements within 1-2 days. Note that all castor oil bottle labels have an anti-consumption warning, and that castor oil is perfectly safe to consume in small amounts during panchakarma.
– Basti:Basti is the use of medicated enemas to thoroughly cleanse and nourish. Your practitioner will instruct you to administer the basti at home sometime after the virechana.
There are two main Bastis used:
Nirooha Basti: This is the first basti done. You will be given nirooha herbs with instructions to simmer them with water and sesame oil. Once the basti has reached room temperature, it may be administered. Hold the liquid in for at least 15 minutes before allowing it to evacuate.
Anuvasana Basti: This basti will conclude the panchakarma and is very nourishing. As instructed, simmer the anuvasana herbs in water and sesame and administer as instructed.
– Vamana: Vamana is the process of purging excess Kapha dosha via the upper respiratory system. This liberates udana vayu, and helps remove energetic, kaphic blockages which allows for increased energy, and a smoother flow of prana through the body. Your ayurvedic practitioner will prescribe an herbal decoction that usually consists of rock salt and licorice that is taken into the body and then forcefully purged out by vomiting. Despite how it sounds, this process is extremely refreshing and gentle, leaving you with a cleaner stomach and a lighter clarity within your consciousness. This practice is not recommended without proper guidance by a certified practitioner.
– Rakta Mokshana: Rakta Mokshana is the process of cleaning the blood and pacifying excess pitta and heat in the rakta dhatu through the action of blood letting, usually by leeches. This practice is not typically found in the west, and is not usually offered by ayurvedic practitioners in the west. When appropriate, rakta mokshana treatments can be found in eastern countries, specifically India.
Stage 3: Paschatkarma (Post panchakarma)
Paschatkarma is the follow up process of rebuilding tissues. It is an opportunity to develop new strength and purity within the body and to choose a lifestyle and diet that is suitable to your constitution. The following can be one during the process of rebuilding:
– Light Mono Diet:Continue to eat your light mono diet for at least 3 days. Start with rice water and then slowly progress to kitchari with east to digest vegetables over the course of up to one week or so. Introduce other foods slowly and do not consume any processed foods for at least one month. It is important not to return to bad habits which can undermine any progress that has been made and to choose a diet that is in harmony with your constitution.
– Rekindle Agni (digestive fire):After panchakarma, agni is diminished and this will geratly affect your digestion. To rekindle and build agni, continue to take your digestive formula or tea 15 minutes before meals. Continue your daily yoga practice and be conscious of the quality and strength of your agni as you rekindle it. Listen to your body and what it needs, making sure not to rush the process of reintroucing foods back into your diet. Eat slowly, do not overeat, and only eat when you are hungry.
– Building Foods:Once you are able to digest foods more comfortably, begin to incorporate tissue building and nourishing foods into your diet such as bone broth and medicated ghee. This usually happens about one week after finishing panchakarma. Continue to consume these building foods for at least one month.
– Avoid Stress:Avoid any physical or emotional stress and environmental extremes for one month as you rebuilld tissues and integrate new healthy habits into your life. Please give yourself adequate rest time during this stage.
Panchakarma Shopping List
Ingredients for Kitchari: basmati rice, dhal (either split mung beans or lentils) and herbs/spices recommended by your practitioner
Cold Pressed Sesame Oil
Castor Oil (note that all labels warn to not consume internally, but castor oil is perfectly safe to take internally in small quantities during panchakarma)
Digestive formula (if applicable)
Nasya Oil (optional)
DO’S AND DON’TS
Do take triphala, up to 2 tsp. in the evening and 2 tsp. Upon rising steeped in hot water. If you are sensitive to triphala, start with 1⁄2-1 tsp and build up to 2 tsp.
Do take your digestive formula (if prescribed) 15 minutes before eating.
Do drink plenty of water, warm water and herbal teas (as prescribed).
Do take time o work and all social engagements.
Do get enough rest and retire to bed by or before 10 pm. Preferably rest at sundown and rise at sunrise
Do your Dinacharya. Refer to the Dinacharya page.
Do meditate, contemplate, and journal your experience.
Do honor your own experience and be patient with your process.
Do surround yourself in sattvic environments.
Do your sadhana to build agni and burn ama.
Do call your practitioner if you have any questions.
Don’t watch graphic or violent movies/T.V. shows.
Don’t engage in activities that are overly stressful.
Don’t take any medicated ghee or rasayana specifc for building the body, but continue to take any other medication that you need.
Don’t consume cold drinks or stimulants like coffee.
Seasonal panchakarma sessions are available at Wasatch Ayurveda. Timothy Lewis offers Fall and Spring time panchakarma retreats, as well as personalized one-on-one panchakarmas here in Salt Lake City. Timothy’s Panchakarma in Utah can also help you sustain these healthful improvements by making positive changes in lifestyle.