Panchakarma is a highly restorative and detoxifying therapeutic treatment used in Ayurvedic medicine. Deriving from the Sanskrit language, pancha meaning “five” and karma meaning “actions,” Panchakarma is a healing treatment that uses a variety of procedures to cleanse the body, revitalize the immune system and re-establish mental and physical balance. It is a completely unique experience for each person and is individualized based on the individual’s particular needs. This is influenced by their doshic constitutional make-up and imbalances as well as the state of their immune and digestive systems.
In Ayurveda, habitually destructive choices in diet and lifestyle lead to a build-up of what is referred to as “ama,” a harmful and toxic matter that in turn leads to disease. When the body’s natural ability to cleanse and purify itself is compromised due to repetitive abuse and neglect of one’s health and nutrition, it is believed that Panchakarma treatments are able to remove blockages of ama and restore the body back to its natural order and functioning. Although found to be powerfully beneficial in cases of extreme imbalances and dis-ease, it is encouraged for most everyone as a detoxification and process of renewal.
These treatments are generally done with the turning of the seasons, as the coming of each season is believed to reflect naturally occurring changes that both the planet, on a macrocosmic level, and our bodies, on a microcosmic level, are making in synchronicity. A team of medical experts from Nature Communications, a nature research journal, found that in winter, for example, our bodies instinctively begin to produce a significantly higher number of “immune responders” in our bloodstream. Simultaneously, the Earth is providing a surplus of fat-storing, high-in-protein foods such as nuts and grains. Our bodies, at this time are more inclined to store nutrients and vitamins to sustain our health through the winter. In spring, our system courses with hormones to burn off our winter fat, build muscle and retain water. In unison, what springs (quite literally) up during this season change? Leafy greens and fruits! When in balance, our body functions in perfect harmony with the world in which we live. Out of balance, our ability to self-regulate becomes quite a challenge.
Panchakarma induces an exceptionally deep state of relaxation in which the body is able to release, both physically and emotionally, toxins that have accumulated in the bloodstream and tissues. This healing method utilizes the body’s natural systems of elimination to cleanse and purify with specially prepared oils for massage and bathing, herbal enemas and nasal treatments. Depending on the individual, a selection of the various therapies will be chosen in conjunction with their health care provider and with consideration of what will be most beneficial to them.
Abhyanga, for example, is a massage given to encourage lymphatic and arterial circulation, and allows for the enhanced accessibility of nutrients to reach cells as well as for the removal of sluggish waste. Shirodhara is the rhythmical, soothing pouring of warm oil to the forehead, which is said to “synchronize brain waves and promote a sense of calmness in the mind, body and spirit.”
As an ancient method of holistically therapeutic and essential detoxification, Panchakarma is a treatment meant to rejuvenate and heal from the inside out: mentally, physically and spiritually.