Archive for Panchakarma Videos
Panchakarma is the primary cleansing therapy in ayurvedic medicine. It has been practiced for over 5,000 years and has lineage variances across India, which influences some of its defining features. It is one of the most complex and specific forms of detoxification in natural medicine. The name “panchakarma” comes from two Sanskrit words: panch, meaning “five” and karma, meaning “action.” The five actions are: vamana, virechana, basti, rakta moksha, and nasya. They remove excess doshas from the body and eliminate ama (toxins).
Ama are the toxic residue of poor digestion. Digestion refers not only to the food we eat, but also to how we assimilate our emotions and environmental exposures. It is the process of utilizing nutrients and eliminating waste. Anything that compromises our immune system, interrupts normal detoxification, and increases oxidative stress and free radicals can impede digestive function and has the potential to instigate toxicity in the body. The poor digestion of emotions, food types, and environmental pollutants potentiate an opportunity for disease manifestation. If our physical body, emotional well being, and mental acuity are operating at their peak, then we can live healthfully during any circumstance.
Ongoing detoxification is especially imperative today, because of increased accessibility to modern conveniences and their polluting by-products. We can skillfully maximize our immunity and disease-fighting potential through the diversity of plant medicines. The need to detoxify intensely will be reduced, and disease will be remediated before it begins. Panchakarma is successful at both detoxification and rejuvenation by employing a three-part process: preparing the body for elimination, the five actions, and rebuilding the body. During the preparation phase, the excess is drawn to its main site of origin in the intestinal tract. During the five actions, the excess is powerfully expelled from its main site. This leaves the body in a depleted, vulnerable, and weakened state. The third phase, rasayana or rejuvenation, rebuilds the body from depletion into totality. It is best to engage in panchakarma at least once a year, or once every other year.
All of ayurveda’s internal treatments (cikitsa) can be separated into two main categories: brimhana, ‘to make heavy,’ and langhana, ‘to make light.’ Brimhana refers to the rasayana (anti-aging) and vajikarana (aphrodisiac) therapies, which facilitate tissue growth, repair, and rejuvenation. Brimhana therapies are used for those weakened by illness or old age. The brimhana therapies nourish the body. Langhana refers to the detoxification procedures in ayurveda. They lighten the body and remove toxins and excesses. There are two main categories of langhana therapy: shamana, ‘palliative,’ and shodhana ‘purification.’ Shamana refers to the lifestyle practices that provide ongoing detoxification and mitigate symptoms for many individuals. Shodhana refers to the strong eliminations that are part of panchakarma.
Palliative measures are called “shamana” in ayurveda. The word shamana is sometimes used interchangeably with lifestyle, since both are detoxifying in nature. Generally, palliation refers to reducing excess through detoxification practices, such as diet, herbs, spices, sweating, massage, fasting, and vigorous exercise.[i] Palliatives can be used on an ongoing basis as part of a lifestyle, at the junction of every season, and during times of illness. They are also used to prepare the body for panchakarma. Most characteristic of palliation is inducing remission or reducing symptoms, where panchakarma removes the root of disease. It is said that if panchakarma is done correctly, a disease will never return after it is eradicated.
Preparation for the five primary actions in panchakarma is called “purvakarma.” Purva means ‘before,’ and karma means ‘action.’ If purvakarma is done incorrectly, detoxification will not occur properly. Instead, toxins are only removed from the superficial layers of the body, and leave the seeds of imbalance to sprout anew. Purvakarma works to draw the excess dosha(s) from effected tissues, and enervate ama (toxins) into the digestive tract, where they can be eliminated through the five primary actions of panchakarma. In order to effectively loosen the toxins in the body, purvakarmas emphasize three palliation practices: pachana (a stimulating diet), snehana (internal and external oleation), and swedana (sweating).
Purvakarma calms the body of symptomatic flares, modulates the immune system, and reduces toxins. For many imbalances and diseases, purvakarma is powerful enough to remediate the issue. Purvakarma programs can last from three days to several months, depending on individual imbalance or disease. If a person is in a weak state, she will require a longer program of purvakarma. The five primary actions of panchakarma are seldom done on anyone who has become emaciated, weak, or brittle. In these cases, the measures of purvakarma are employed for longer periods in order to build the body in preparation for detoxification. Panchakarma is ultimately reserved, for those with strength, doshic excess, and ama.
Pradhanakarma (the five actions and the home purification procedures)
Panchakarma refers to five specific actions in ayurvedic detoxification. The five actions, also known as pradhanakarma, pull toxins out of digestion that correspond to specific doshic imbalances. Vata’s primary site is the colon; pitta’s primary site is the small intestine; and kapha’s is the stomach.
The primary therapy used in panchakarma to reduce excess kapha dosha is vamana. It relieves excess water and earth from the body via the stomach with therapeutic vomiting. Vamana is used mostly for kapha imbalances, excess mucus conditions, obesity, cholesterol, swelling, water retention, depression, lethargy, bronchitis, and eczema. It can also relieve excess pitta from the stomach. In the home purification procedures, we supplement this procedure in tandem with therapeutic fasting.
Virechana eliminates excess from small intestine using laxatives. The practice is used mostly for pitta type imbalances, such as hormonal dysfunction, fast digestion, acne, heat eruptions on the skin, anger, and stagnant liver. Virechana can also be used for vata and kapha disturbances, because it reorganizes normal function of agni. Virechana is the easiest panchakarma procedure to employ, generally safe for everyone, and can be done on its own apart from cleansing and detoxification.
Basti removes excess from the colon with therapeutic enemas. It is used mostly for vata conditions, such as arthritis, emaciation, anxiety, nervousness, depression, insomnia, brittle bones, constipation, and nervous system disorders. It can also be used to treat pitta and kapha. Basti is the most powerful of all the panchakarma procedures, and can also be used on its own. It is broken into two categories: nourishing or detoxifying. In the home-based purification procedures, we use both nourishing and detoxification bastis.
Rakta Moksha (blood letting)
Rakta moksha cleanses excess from the blood, and is typically used to treat pitta disorders. There are differences of opinion and in practice regarding this therapy. It is not used in some lineages, where practitioners employ a second kind type of basti instead. Sushruta, the renowned Ayurvedic physician and author of some of the classic Ayurvedic texts, was a proponent of rakta moksha. Charaka, who proceeded Sushruta, did not employ rakta moksha. Some practitioners follow Charaka’s methodology, while others follow Sushruta or other leaders in ayurveda. In the home-based purification procedures, we use alteratives, a category of herb that is a blood purifier, and liver detoxification herbs to purify the blood.
Nasya (nasal intake of medication)
Nasya removes excesses from the sinuses to alleviate sinus conditions and improve brain and sensory function. Nasya can reduce symptoms, rejuvenate sinus tissue, and detoxify. Nasya mediums include medicated oils, ghee, smoke, and powdered herbs. In the home-based purification procedures, we use nutritive nasya oils.
Pschatkarma (rebuilding the body)
Traditionally, each of the five eliminations is used over a complete panchakarma procedure that lasts two months or more. Using the three-part process of ayurveda: the body is prepared with the purvakarmas for a certain period; one of the five procedures of panchakarma is employed; and the patient then rests. Eventually, all five of the procedures are performed over a period of time that takes at least 28 days. Panchakarma depletes the body in order to pull out all sources of toxins. The weakened patient is then guided to rasayana, the rejuvenation procedures, in order to reconstruct the tissues in the healthiest way possible. Today, because of current time constraints and financial limitations, few people have the ability to engage in such a lengthy program. Most modern ayurvedic practitioners use a modified program, which highlights and remediates the patient’s greatest concern through the use of one to three of the five panchakarma procedures.
In The Hamsa Program, the panchakarma measures have been safely modified for home use. In this context, the modified cleanse procedures are palliative. Unlike panchakarma, which removes the cause of imbalance from the body at its roots, palliative measures induce remission. The reduction of toxins occurs on the superficial layers and can abate or significantly reduce symptoms— sometimes indefinitely. The seeds of disease, however, can sprout again if old lifestyle habits return. In order to optimize detoxification, increase the rate of healing, and maintain remission, the patient builds the appropriate lifestyle infrastructure.
Home purification practices and lifestyle provide the necessary infrastructure to support clinical panchakarma programs and all other detoxification protocol. They enable the patient and her practitioner to reap the full reward of panchakarma’s capabilities. They arouse awareness, enable us to casually shift patterns in our lives, provide information regarding our internal experience, awaken the inner healer, and develop the necessary perception to curb our own disease tendencies, so that we can doctor ourselves as much as possible.
[i] Panchakarma book