Panchakarma, a therapy for achieving balance in body, mind and consciousness
Ayurveda is more than a system of healing – it is a science and art of living that helps us to achieve health and longevity. It emphasizes on preventative and healing therapies along with various methods of purification and rejuvenation.
Panchakarma is an integral part of Ayurveda which helps achieve a balanced state of body, mind and consciousness through detoxification and rejuvenation.
Panchakarma is a set of five therapies designed mainly for cleansing the body of toxins. In Sanskrit the word panchakarma translate five therapeutic procedures. Pancha refers to five in number and karma refers to therapeutic procedures that bring about homeostasis. Panchakarma therapy is essentially designed to restore the integrity of srotas system in the body in health and disease. The purificatory effect of panchakarma therapy generally takes place at two levels:-
- Transmembrane visceral purification of the body through the main or pradhana karma i.e vamana, virechana, basti , nasya and raktamokshana.
- Transdermal purification of body through bahya parimarjana procedure of snehana, swedana, abhyanga and such other therapies.
Thus the panchakarma therapy and the allied therapeutic practices are essentially biopurificatory procedure aiming to cleanse the channels of the body optimizing the natural body functions.
The part of the efficacy of panchakarma therapy is more popular in present time and it is this dimension which has made this important branch of ayurveda to survive down the ages.
The Five Therapies ‘Pancha’ ‘Karmas’
(Medicine induced emesis): In this treatment, a patient is given internal and external oleation and fomentation therapies for few days. Once the toxins get liquefied and gather in upper cavities of body, the patient is given emetic medicine and decoction. This induces vomiting and helps to eliminate toxins from the body tissues. Vaman therapy is especially recommended primarily for kapha-dominated conditions such as obesity, asthma and hyperacidity.
(Medicine induced purgation): In virechan, purgation or elimination of toxins occurs through the evacuation of the bowels. In this treatment as well, the patient is given internal and external oleation and fomentation therapies. After that, the patient is given a herbal laxative to facilitate evacuation of the bowels that helps in cleansing the body of toxins. Virechan therapy is recommended primarily for pitta-dominated conditions such as herpes zoster, jaundice, colitis, celiac disease etc.
(Medicated enema): Administering medicated substances through enema is Ayurveda’s unique contribution to the medical world. The therapy has enormous benefits, especially in complicated and chronic diseases. As per the nature of disease, herbal decoctions, oils, ghee or milk are administered into the rectum and this has incredible positive effects. This therapy is extremely effective against vata-dominated conditions such as arthritis, piles and constipation.
(Nasal drops): This therapy is effective in clearing and cleansing the head region. At the beginning of the therapy, the head and shoulder regions are given a gentle massage and fomentation. Then, nasal drops are administered in both the nostrils. This brings about the cleaning of the entire head region and relieves various types of headache, migraine, hair problems, sleep disorders, neurological disorders, sinusitis, chronic rhinitis and respiratory diseases.
(Blood-letting): This therapy is good for cleaning of blood and effective against diseases caused due to impure blood. It can be done in a specific area or for the entire body. This therapy is particularly useful in various skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and also in local lesions such as abscesses and pigmentation.
Basic Principles :
The process of Panchakarma generally starts with two sets of therapies: Oleation and Fomentation.
Oleation involves application of oil or oily substance on the body. Ayurveda offers a variety of oils prepared from various herbal and mineral ingredients mainly for external use. Apart from oils and ghee used particularly for internal application. The fatty substance acts as an effective medium, manages to reach the deeper tissues, helps in carrying the medicinal ingredients to every cell of the body and loosen up toxins stuck in the cells.
The therapies that generate sweat are called fomentation therapies. Oleation therapies are generally followed by fomentation therapies. The tissues made soft by oleation therapies become more flexible by subsequent fomentation. Deep-rooted toxins loosened by oleation liquefy due to fomentation and help it to flush out of the body.
Application of the two principles
The principles of oleation and fomentation are applied through certain therapies. Some of these Ayurvedic therapies are:
This is a type of body massage done using an appropriate herbal or medicated oil. It may be done for the entire body or a specific part such as the head, feet or joint etc. Its main purpose is to lubricate the body parts and pacify vata dosha.
This is a specialized therapy aimed to relieve ailments related to the head region. In this therapy, a stream of warm oil is poured on the centre of the forehead through a vessel at a uniform speed. The temperature and speed of the oil stream are kept constant during the therapy that goes on for 30 to 60 minutes.
Pizhichil is an excellent therapy for relieving joint, muscular and neurological problems. In this therapy, the whole body is subjected to streams of lukewarm medicated oil with simultaneous soft massage with rhythmic hand movements. It helps to relieve pain, nourish the nerves and muscles, reduce stress, and induce peace of mind and relaxation.
This massage is done with special bags which contain either medicinal herbs or other nutritious items. The bags are heated in warm oil for few minutes and then are used for massaging the body. It is a great massage to relieve pain, reduce physical and mental stress, and nourish and rejuvenate the body.
When not to go for Panchakarma
Panchakarma therapies should be avoided during fever, injuries and pregnancy. You should always go for Panchakarma therapy after consultation with a trained and qualified Ayurvedic physician who will design a therapy according to the state of your health.
Benefits of Panchakarma
Panchakarma can bring limitless benefits to the individual. It helps in,
- Complete cleansing of the body
- Elimination of toxins
- Opening up of blocked channels
- Improving strength of digestive fire
- Speeding up metabolism
- Reducing weight
- Rejuvenation of tissues
- Relaxing the mind
- Relieving stress
- Boosting immunity
Ability of evacuation, superiority of efficacy and enormity of the procedure of target dosha eradication and multitude of action are the characteristic of pancahkarma procedures.
These panchakarma procedures are carried out in three sequential steps. These steps are named as :
Poorva karma, pradhana karma, paschat karma meaning premilinary procedure, primary procedure, and follow up procedure respectively.