This morning, I was completely inspired by an article in the latest Yoga Journal Magazine. It was about a woman's experience doing a panchakarma cleanse, a very intense detoxification practice that takes several days to complete, at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina.
The writer quotes Beth Sanchez, Yoga teacher who has done more than 15 panchakarma cleanses in her lifetime, "What always wows me post-panchakarma is how it empowers me to really choose, rather than be pushed around by habit, craving, addiction or convenience."
This totally blew me away. How many times have I said I am going to do something, only to be easily deterred by habit, craving, addiction or convenience. Uhg! Too many times to count! This is why I am taking it upon myself to do more research, and also educate others, on this subject.
We all deserve more support in doing things that are good for us. Most importantly, we need to support ourselves through this process. Detoxing means letting go of what is not augmenting your well being. It means changing, becoming a new person.
From what I have read so far Panchakarma helps us find that support within ourselves. The courage to let go, to change, to heal. I hope you are as excited as I am to explore this subject!
What is Panchakarma?
One source described it as,
Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word that means “five actions” or “five treatments”. This is a process used to clean the body of toxic materials left by disease and poor nutrition. Normally the body has the innate ability to efficiently process and remove these waste materials, including the vitiated doshas. However due to one’s repeated dietary indiscretions, poor exercise patterns, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition the digestive enzymes, metabolic co-factors, hormones, and agnis which regulate the body’s internal homeostasis become disorganized. This can lead to the accumulation and spread of toxins throughout the physiology resulting in disease.
Panchakarma is a treatment that comes from the field of Ayurvedic Medicine. Ayurveda is a healing system that dates back 5,000 years to the ancient Sanskrit texts, the Vedas. It can be translated to “knowledge of life,” and it examines physical constitution, emotional nature, and spiritual outlook. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association has database you can search to find an Ayurvedic doctor in your region. If traditional medicine hasn't worked for you, consider trying an Ayurvedic approach before going a more extreme route, like an irreversible surgery.
Not for the Faint of Heart
It seems that not just anyone can handle Panchakarma. Panchakarma could do more harm than good to those who are debilitated or frail in some way. One must have a fairly strong constitution before embarking on this journey.
Traditionally, it lasts up to 21 days. Some of the treatments are mild, even luxurious. Abhyanga is an oil massage that feels like exreme pampering. Shirodhara is a treament in which warm oil is steadily dripped on the forehead. There is also Ayurvedic acupressure and a specialized diet included in the cleanse.
Virechana, on the other hand, is not so pleasant. This part of the Panchakrma cleanse involves practices to help you let go of toxins, and any energetic blocks you are holding on to. Elimination can happen in many ways, for example, defecation and vomiting to name some of the more exciting ones! (Yuck!)
Not Ready for the BIG CLEANSE? Start Small.
You don't have to run away to a spa in the north east to find some relief from your daily troubles. You can start with any small changes to your diet or exercise routines. Remove caffeine, sugar or alcohol for a few weeks and observe the changes in your mood, mind and physical body (tip: ease into it much the way you would breathe through Pigeon Pose!).
Start doing more Yoga. I know, just like a Yoga teacher to push Yoga on you! But damnit, if it doesn't help you start feeling more energized, healthier and in balance with yourself! Even 10 minutes everyday can have a HUGE impact on your experience of reality. You can start by attending a local class and finding some support, or researching Yoga online (tip: search for Yoga practices to help with certain conditions such as weight loss, constipation, lower back pain, or any chronic or acute issues you may be experiencing.)
If you want to start some form of detox it is best to find at least one other person to support you. You can partner with a friend or family member and do the cleanse together. You can start or join a fitness group dedicated to some kind of cleanse practice. You can hire a coach or private Yoga instructor to help guide you through the process. The point is, don't do it alone. It is far too easy to give up or lose focus when you are doing it solo. Don't be afraid to ask for help or make an investment in your health.