As many of you already know, I became an Ayurvedic Panchakarma Specialist this summer through the California College of Ayurveda. The course, steeped in the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda, was a specialized training which, when added to my Clinical Ayurveda Health Practitioner certification, allows me to help clients rebalance their doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) while cleansing and rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. Click here for further information on the doshas.
So what is Panchakarma, exactly? It is a detoxification that cleanses the body, mind and spirit. Normally our body has a natural ability to efficiently process and remove waste materials and balance the doshas, but as a result of repeated dietary and lifestyle indiscretions, poor digestion, genetic predisposition, and hormones, the body becomes imbalanced. This causes the spread of toxins throughout the body, and may lead to disease. According to Ayurveda, the waste matter expelled when our body is out of sync is called Ama: a foul-smelling, sticky, harmful substance that coats the internal passageways and tongue. Panchakarma works to eliminate Ama from the body and reset the digestive system.
Pancha means “five” and karma means “action or process.” Overall Panchakarma refers to the five specific practices offered to cleanse the body: vomiting, purgatives or laxatives, medicated enemas, nasya (the administration of oil to the nasal passages), and purification of the blood. When receiving Panchakarma, like all things in Ayurveda, the treatment varies depending on the person and their vrikruiti, or current doshic state.
Essentially, there are three types of Panchakarma administered for different results: tonification, purification, and palliation. Tonification strengthens the body, builds tissues (dhatus), and rebuilds vitality (ojas). It helps those who are pregnant, the very young or old, or the overly exhausted. Purification reduces and eliminates the body tissues, toxins and excess doshas. It is used when the body is strong, yet there is ama and excess weight. Palliation is a gradual purification and is used when vitality (ojas) is low, but purification of ama is still needed.
As part of my commitment to embodying my practices and furthering my Ayurvedic knowledge, I treated myself to a seven day, on-site Panchakarma at the beautiful sanctuary of Blue Sage Ayurveda, nestled in the Mountains between Nevada City and Lake Tahoe. My birthday fell during my treatment, and it felt like the perfect gift to celebrate another year on this beautiful earth. It was the ultimate in self-care, a time of reflection that helped me regain strength and wellness after a particularly hard and stressful year.
My Panchakarma was a carefully prepared and guided healing path that involved cleansing and rejuvenation. I worked closely with a Clinical Ayurveda Specialist who facilitated all aspects of my treatment. So often people start a cleanse without the appropriate preparation and send their system into shock. My Panchakarma occurred in three phases: purva karma, pradhan karma and praschat karma.
Purva karma is a preparation that includes a clean, mild diet of kitchari and internal oleation with ghee or other plant-based oils. The purpose of the internal oleation is to draw the ama (toxins) from the deeper tissues back to the digestive tract for elimination. Pradhan karma is for elimination of excess dhatus (tissue) and ama and includes herbs, enemas, purgation and a strict diet of soupy kitchari. The final stage is praschat karma, which is the post-care for building healthy tissues (dhatus) and reestablishing strong digestive fire (agni). It includes a slow integration of a diet that settles the doshas and is designed specifically for my body type.
My personalized Panchakarma treatment focused on elimination of vata in the body and pitta in the mind. Because fall is a high vata time, it is the perfect time to cleanse and clear in order to open the body’s channels for healing and health. Some of the treatments I received included daily two-person Abyhanga bodywork, shirodhara, Nasya oil administration, and a daily herbal sweat box. This was followed by a series of bowel purgation and enemas. Needless to say, I felt cleansed from the inside out. But the experience was far more than just a physical cleanse. It was an emotional and spiritual experience too! For more detailed description of the treatments, click here.
As my body cleansed, my thoughts, dreams, and meditations opened into a well of intuition, deep questioning, and clarity. It was seven days without technology or the Internet. I was left to simply be alone with myself and all that was arising within me. However, this was not always as easy as it seems. Meeting my darkness and light, anger and love, sadness and happiness – it all came up! I wish I could say it was just a blissful experience, but it simply was another opportunity to enquire into the depths of my being and to sit in comfort and discomfort, with it all, and learn from it. In the afternoons after my daily therapies, I rested in a pranic healing state of yoga nidra. I observed my food intake. I revisited thought patterns and old beliefs. I looked at certain relationships I wished to heal. I sorted through all of this, energetically releasing that which no longer served me. This processing illuminated situations that needed ongoing healing.
I really wanted to walk away with answers, but in all honesty I really walked away with more questions. The beauty of the experience is that the questions that manifested are those that live close to the core or the crux of my personal understanding – the questions themselves have clarity and connection and will further support an inquiry into my own truth and understanding. Two powerful questions that led to clarity included, “What is getting in my way?” and “Does action or non-action in this situation serve my higher self or my overall dharma for being on this planet?”
In the meantime I will remain committed to my Ayurvedic lifestyle, along with yoga, and meditation as a way to continue to peel away the layers of the onion! The self-inquiry and search for truth continues, but hopefully in a gentle pool of greater awareness.
Jasmine Grace is an Ayurveda Health Educator and Practitioner (A.H.E/A.H.P-Intern), Yoga and Meditation Teacher, and Owner of Yoga on High Teacher Training & Ayurveda Institute, Grow Yoga and Sekoia. To learn more about classes and workshops please visit her full biography or to schedule an Ayurveda Practitioner consultation or iRest private with her please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.