A recent scientific study showed that the average 30-year-old person actually has a 45-year-old body. Even though we are living longer, we are metabolically aging faster than generations before us. What happened? Well, a combination of poor dietary habits that include highly processed foods, sedentary lifestyle, overabundance of environmental toxins and chronic daily stress is making us age prematurely. Now that we are all potentially 15 years older than we should be, what can we do reboot our systems?
Imagine if there was a way to cleanse your whole body, rejuvenate your mind and empty your emotional baggage all in one step. Imagine if you could find a restart button to reverse the effects of your modern lifestyle and regain those 15 lost years. That is exactly what panchakarma is all about. Panchakarma is a time-tested Ayurvedic method of completely cleansing and rejuvenating your mind, body and spirit. Though it is thousands of years old, panchakarma has never been more relevant to human well being as the present, when we are faced with more chronic health challenges than any of our ancestors.
“Panch” means five and “karma” translates to action. Panchakarma traditionally utilizes five different treatments to help reverse the effects of time. Panchakarma is normally a process of cleansing and rejuvenating that lasts 3, 5 or 7 days. For severe medical conditions, panchakarma treatments are given up to 21 days. The process includes a number of treatments that are individualized to your specific health needs based on your dosha, or constitution. Be sure to speak to your physician about all of the treatments before undergoing treatment. Here’s what you might expect if your doctor prescribes this kind of treatment:
Consultation, diet and herbs
Panchakarma treatments start with a consultation with an Ayurvedic physician who will prescribe your diet and herbs for the next few days. Additionally, your physician may recommend some yoga poses and breathing exercises. The diets and herbs are intended to detoxify your body and rejuvenate your internal organs. The Ayurvedic physician will check on you daily to make sure the process is smooth and effective.
This is an ancient Ayurvedic massage traditionally done with two therapists working on you at the same time. Abhyanga utilizes special massage oils that are made with a number of herbs that are formulated to actually balance your entire body. This massage has a number of benefits besides relaxation. When you have two therapists working on you simultaneously on either side of your body in sync, it may help balance the left and right sides of your brain. The oils lubricate your joints and release toxins, while the strokes stimulate your body’s lymphatic system and relax the muscles. After receiving this treatment for a number of consecutive days, your body begins to absorb the oils, which may help lubricate your channels and remove deep-rooted toxins.
Just the thought of this treatment alone can bring you to a state of tranquility. This is a treatment that utilizes a steady stream of warm oil that pours directly onto the center of your forehead. The oils are medicated using different herbs that are generally used to cool and calm the mind. Shirodhara is by far one of the most calming treatments that you can get, leaving you in a deep state of relaxation. This treatment may help a patient regain clarity, focus and most of all peacefulness.
The nose is considered a doorway to the brain both in Ayurveda and in yoga. When the flow of air through the nostrils is open and unobstructed, the nervous system naturally finds balance. Nasya is the application of medicated herbal oils through the nostrils. When done at home it is a mini version of the actual treatment you will get during panchakarma. It typically includes a 20 minute massage around the nose and face, with warm oil. Then the herbal oil will be dropped into the nostril and with doctor supervision, the patient is asked to inhale the oil. The process is done to both nostrils and allows you to clear accumulated toxins in the head, sinuses, and neck. The herbs in the oil and the opening of the sinuses may help alleviate headaches, allergies and neck pain, plus it may boost the patient’s ability to focus and gain mental clarity.
Basti is an herbal enema. It is a very important part of panchakarma. It is an enema that uses a specific mixture of oils and herbs to treat your unique constitution. Basti treatments are one of the most powerful in panchakarma. You simply receive the herbal mixtures through the rectum and allow them to stay in the colon until you must evacuate. This treatment balances the three doshas. Bastis focus on relieving the body from the buildup of toxins and prevents them from being spread throughout the body. Basti treatments may help prevent disease, detoxify the GI tract, as well as alleviate systemic inflammation. Patients who are suffering from severe degenerative conditions may benefit the most from this treatment.
These are just a few of the core treatments in panchakarma that your Ayruvedic physician may prescribe. I have recommended panchakarma to many of my patients with chronic neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. I have also had panchakarma treatments myself almost every year for over a decade as both a health maintenance measure as well as a means of reversing health conditions in their early stages. Panchakarma has radically altered the way I have aged and I feel I have regained those 15 years lost to modern civilization!