What is Panchakarma ?
As the name suggests, Pancha in Sanskrit stands for Five and Karma are therapeutic measures thereby meaning five types of therapeutic measures. These are undertaken for the purification of the body and Ayurveda considers it necessary before the start of any other therapy. The logic being -as a cloth needs to be purified or cleaned of impurities and dust before it can be imparted a new color. Similarly the Body needs to be purified before it can be imparted new colors of youthfulness, health and vigor etc. In fact, most of the times, Panchakarma is an end in itself rather than a prelude to other therapeutic measures.
The Panchakarma therapy of Ayurveda comprises of five basic types of advanced treatment for evacuation of vitiated Dosha (toxic materials) from the body. One can consider this as a cleansing program of toxins from the body. There are so many subtypes of this therapy and different types of herbal massages, fomentation’s like steam, external oil treatments, Basti (medicated enemas), Virechana (purgation through herbs), Vamana (emesis through herbs), Nasya (nasal administration of oils) etc. are incorporated. These practices are extremely helpful in relieving deep seated diseases as well as it is also beneficial for maintaining and improving physical and mental health.
Purvakarma: Pre-purification Measures for Panchakarma
Before the actual operation of purification begins, there is a need to prepare the body in prescribed methods to encourage the body to let go of the toxins. The two procedures are Snehana and Swedana.
Snehana (Abhyangam) is the oil massage. Oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massage which helps the toxins to move towards the gastro-intestinal tract. Oil massage also makes the superficial and deep tissues soft and supple, thus helping to remove stress and to nourish the nervous system. Snehana is given daily for three to seven days, as indicated.
Swedana/Sweating is given every day immediately following the Snehana. An herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further loosen the toxins from the individual. Swedana liquefies the toxins and increases the movement of toxins into the gastro-intestinal tract.
Pradhanakarma: Main Purification measures of Panchakarma
Vamana: Emesis Therapy
When there is congestion in the lungs causing repeated attacks of bronchitis, colds, cough or asthma, the Ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting, Vamana, to eliminate the Kapha causing the excess mucus
Virechana: Purgation Therapy
When excess bile, Pitta, is secreted and accumulated in the gall bladder, liver and small intestine, it tends to result in rashes, skin inflammation, acne, chronic attacks of fever, biliary vomiting, nausea and jaundice. Ayurvedic literature suggests in these conditions the administration of therapeutic purgation or a therapeutic laxative.
Nasya: Nasal Administration
The nose is the doorway to the brain and it is also the doorway to consciousness. The nasal administration of medication is called Nasya. An excess of bodily humors accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated by means of the nearest possible opening, the nose.
Basti: Enema Therapy
Vata’s predominant site is the colon. Ayurvedic Basti involves the introduction into the rectum of herbal concoctions of sesame oil, and certain herbal preparations in a liquid medium. Basti, is the most effective treatment of Vata disorders, although many enemas over a prescribed period of time are usually required. It relieves constipation, distention, chronic fever, cold, sexual disorders, kidney stones, heart pain, backache, sciatica and other pains in the joints. Many other Vata disorders such as arthritis, rheumatism, gout, muscle spasms and headaches may also be treated with Basti. Basti therapy is divided in two main types, i.e. Anuvasana Basti or medicated oil enemas and Niruha Basti or medicated enema of decoctions and medicated oils.
Other miscellaneous therapies of Panchakarma:
Shirodhara: It is recommended in anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia etc.
Kati Basti: Useful in different backaches.
Janu Basti: Useful in arthritis of knee joint.
Nadi Sweda: Useful in pain disorders of different sites.
Pinda Sweda: Useful in neurological ailments and in the management of different pains.
Shashti-Shali Pindasweda: Useful in neurological ailments.
Tarpanam: Useful in the ailments of eyes.
Shirobasti: Useful in hair fall and other diseases of skull.
Uttara Basti: Useful in genitourinary diseases and infertility of female.
Udvartana: It is a medicated Ubtan to be applied over the skin for fair and glowing skin.
Why Panchakarma ?
According to Ayurveda, every human being is a unique phenomenon of cosmic consciousness. The three Dosha (humors) determines every individual’s psychosomatic temperament or constitution. Vata (ether plus air), Pitta (fire plus water) and Kapha (water plus earth) are called the Tridosha, meaning the three Dosha. The internal environment is governed by Vata -Pitta -Kapha (V-P-K), which is constantly reacting to the external environment. The wrong diet, habits, lifestyle, incompatible food combinations (e.g. milk and fish, melons and grain, yogurt and meat or cooked honey etc.), seasonal changes, repressed emotions and stress factors can all act either together or separately to change the balance of V-P-K. According to the nature of the cause, Vata, Pitta or Kapha undergo aggravation or derangement that produces Ama (toxins). To stop the further production of Ama Ayurvedic literature suggests putting the person on a proper diet with appropriate lifestyle, habits and exercise, and administering a proper cleansing program such as Panchakarma.
Word of caution
Panchakarma is a very special Ayurvedic operation requiring proper guidance from a highly trained and skillful Ayurvedic practitioner. One should consult with an Ayurvedic physician, not just someone with a modest amount of training prior to deciding for these cleansing procedures. Panchakarma is done individually for each person with their specific constitution and specific disorder or need in mind, thus it requires close observation and supervision. I am healthy.
Why I shall opt for Panchakarma ?
It is recommended for healthy persons also as a preventive treatment to keep physically and mentally fit and energetic. It is also done to best advantage, although not always, at the junction period between two seasons, thus helping a person to prepare their internal environment for the oncoming season.