By Namrata Gulati
August is a good month for panchakarma, the deep cleansing treatments that form the heart of ayurveda. Heal yourself of ailments by dextoxifying your system
On one of my regular check-ups, the doctor told me that my liver had toxins. Soon after, I decided to go for detoxification at Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, Delhi, one of the oldest recognised ayurvedic centres in the country,” says Mr Aditya Ahluwalia, the tall and calm chairman of Life Positive.
“The place was quiet and filled with the fragrance of essential oils, which had a calming effect on me. The doctors and staff were not only knowledgeable but friendly as well. Although not luxurious, Arya Vaidya Sala provided basic amenities to its visitors, and strictly maintained hygiene and cleanliness.
“Before the process of detoxification or panchakarma therapy began, they identified my dosha and accordingly, ayurvedic medicines were prescribed to me on a daily basis. I was also subject to nasya and enema therapy to heal me of cold and indigestion respectively. Thanks to the regular massages and oil steams, I was at peace, both mentally and spiritually, as I got plenty of time to indulge in meditation.
“After I returned from the Arya Vaidya Sala, my doctor told me that all the toxins from my liver had been released. I would definitely like to visit the Vaidya Sala again as the experience was extremely relaxing and de-stressing.”
Panchakarma, an essential part of ayurveda, is today a term familiar to almost every health seeker on the globe for it specialises in internal cleanliness. Its methods and procedures, fine-tuned through over 5000 years of existence, are oriented to freeing us of all the toxins that unconscious living and eating habits may have produced in us. And considering that we live today in physical and mental conditions that can only be described as severely toxic, panchakarma offers us a second chance at health by freeing us of the effects of pollution, stress, pesticide-ridden food and all the other realities of modern life.
August, in particular, is considered to be ideal for panchakarma therapies. In ayurveda, mid-June to mid-August is referred to as Varsha Rithu or the monsoon period. Astanga Samgraha, one of the classical Ayurveda texts, says that panchakarma therapy must be taken to remove the waste materials accumulated in the different seasons for prevention of diseases caused by seasonal changes. The month of August, because of its cool weather, is the best for panchakarma therapy. The oil treatment in particular is recommended during July and August. This is to alleviate the vata accumulated in the body during summer, and aggravated in the rainy season.
Among other benefits, panchakarma performs the functions of balancing the state of body, mind and consciousness through balancing the doshas (vata, pitta and kapha), strengthening the immune system, reducing stress and slowing down the aging process As the name suggests, panchakarma is comprised of five therapeutic measures undertaken for the purification of the body, and ayurveda considers it necessary before the start of any other therapy.
The pre-purification measures for panchakarma are known as purvakarmas. The purvakarmas, namely snehana and swedan, enable the accumulated and congealed morbid matter in the periphery to soften, open up or re-canalise the channels (srotas) and stabilise vata, resulting in the return of doshas from the periphery to the alimentary tract.
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 is sudation or sweating and is given every day immediately following the snehana. A herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further loosen the toxins from the individual. Swedana liquefies the toxins and increases their flow into the gastro-intestinal tract.
The primary measures of panchakarma are called pradhanakarma and include vamana or emesis therapy and virechana or purgation therapy.
Vamana: When there is congestion in the lungs causing bronchitis, colds, cough or asthma, the ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting to eliminate the kapha which causes mucus.
Virechana: 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, vomiting, nausea and jaundice. Ayurvedic literature suggests in these conditions, the administration of therapeutic purgation or a therapeutic laxative. Nasya: Nasya involves administration of medicated oil through the nose to cleanse accumulated kapha toxins from the head and neck region. Based on the medical condition of a person, it can be given up to 30 days. Nasya benefits include trigeminal neuralgia, Bell’s palsy, improves memory and eyesight, insomnia, elimination of excess mucus, hyperpigmentation in the face, premature greying of hair, clarity to voice, headaches of various origins, hemiplegia, loss of smell and taste, frozen shoulder, migraine, stiffness of the neck, nasal allergies, nasal polyp, neurological dysfunctions, paraplegia, sinusitis. Basti: 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, distension, 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 into two main types – anuvasana basti – medicated oil enemas and niruha basti – medicated enema of decoctions and medicated oils.
Raktamoksha: Blood-letting is used to eliminate toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastro-intestinal tract. This process purifies the blood. It is used for repeated attacks of skin disorders such as urticaria, rash, eczema, acne, scabies, leucoderma, chronic itching and hives. It is also often effective for enlarged liver and spleen, hemochromatosis, and for gout. If administered properly, it stimulates the antitoxic substances in the bloodstream, thus developing the immune mechanism in the blood system.
Other therapies that would fall under the name of panchakarma:
Shirodhara: for anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia
Kati basti: for backaches
Janu basti: heals arthritis of the knee joint
Pinda sweda: for neurological ailments
Shiro basti: tackles hair loss, diseases of skull
Uttara basti: takes care of genitourinary diseases
A traditional panacea
Rajdeva, a retired teacher, explains why he does not need to see the doctor even at the age of 80, “A few years ago, I had joint pain, backaches and other minor diseases. To cope with all these problems, I resorted to allopathic medicine. But instead of getting better, my health worsened because of the side-effects of the medicines I was taking. It was then that a few friends told me about the benefits of ayurveda. From then on, I have never had to visit my doctor. My blood pressure, sugar level, everything is absolutely normal. My eyesight is perfectly normal too.” He adds, “I have been following an ayurvedic lifestyle since the year 1976 as I firmly believe that prevention is better than cure.”
Ayurveda perceives man as an integral part of nature, and treats his body, mind and spirit together; its approach to his well-being is philosophical in principle and holistic in technique. Every state of ailment is conceived as a psychosomatic manifestation and its eradication procedure is functional and integrative rather than symptomatic or factorial.Along with medication, Ayurveda insists on good habits and dietary control for speedy recovery. Thus it becomes a comprehensive health care system with a holistic approach.Dr Ramesh, the superintendent at Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, in Delhi, says, “Ayurveda is a way of life aiming at the achievement of the ultimate goals of life, viz. dharma, artha, kama and moksha. It is not merely a disease care system.” Dr Ramesh adds, “Modern medicines are advanced and effective. Antibiotics are a remarkable development of scientific research. Yet, modern lifestyle, environmental pollution, mounting stress and strain, alienation of man from nature and overdependence on drug therapy are contributory for the emergence of new health hazards such as chronic lifestyle disorders and debilitating disorders like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, allergic disorders, musculoskeletal degenerative disorders like inter vertebral disc diseases, spondylitis and muscular dystrophy in children, various neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron diseases, multiple sclerosis. These do not have curative treatments. But the quality of life of these patients can be improved with ayurvedic treatments like panchakarma therapy and other adjuvant therapies and oral medicines.”
Dr Gita Ramesh, founder of Kairali Ayurvedic C entre, Delhi, elaborates, “Ayurveda believes that prevention is better than cure. For a healthy body, mind and spirit, ayurveda should be adopted as a lifestyle rather than as a treatment.
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