My experience of a panchakarma India For the last 5 years, I’ve been hearing about panchakarma, a word that remained quite vague for me. An Ayurvedic spa, a deep detox? Different experiences and readings gave me a better idea, but it still wasn’t completely clear.

I kept it in mind knowing that one day, I would be ready for it, and that I would do it in India. That time came this winter.

I chose my center really carefully and under recommendations, and it was a really good place to be. Vaidyagrama is center where I spent this past January. Before talking about my experience, I would like to explain the theory of panchakarma. And then, as always in Ayurveda, special cases apply.

Pancha means five and Karma means actions. So there are five actions to purify. This is a deep process, not to be confused with a cure or detoxification. The process should be done on a minimum of 21 days, the time it takes for all our cells to regenerate and transform themselves completely.

The five actions of panchakarma are the five final purification actions just after a preparation and before a recovery phase. These 5 actions are not all done during a panchakarma, only one is chosen according to personal specific needs.

• Vamanam: Purging by vomiting. Mainly used for Kapha condition (asthma, respiratory problems, skin problems)
• Virecanam: Purging the small intestine through the colon. To pacify Pitta (digestive problem, agni)

These two processes are the most commonly used because they are the 2 most common unbalances.

• Basthi: Enema with plant decoctions. This process is more than an enema or colonic irrigation. This is a powerful therapy to balance Vata.
• Nasyam: Purgation through the nose. To eliminate the doshas of the head.
• Raktha Mokshanam: Bleeding. This process is rarely used.

The main goal of these therapies is to remove excess or imbalanced dosha in the body and the mind.

There are two preparatory phase to these five therapies:

• Snehana: ‘Internal oleation’ consists of drinking ghee in increased quantity up to saturation. Clarified butter is known to have the ability to go into the cells to drain toxins.

• Swedana: steam therapy to bring the previously released toxins into the gastroinstestinal tract.

To recap, panchakarma is a detoxification therapy to re-balance and remove excess doshas in the body and the mind. There is a preparatory phase that drains toxins and brings them back into the gastrointestinal tract, a phase of elimination of toxins through purgation (by one of the 5 possible actions) and a recovery phase.

That's what I knew before leaving. My experience has allowed me to live this process. I stayed in the center for 33 days exactly, a good amount of time, which gave me time to integrate and rest.

The biggest challenge of such an experience was to learn how to rest. It is imperative to let the body and mind rest in a process as deep as this one. The senses should stay calm, so this means that the food served at the center (in fact a hospital) is not spicy and very simple so that it is easy to digest (basically rice, lentils and vegetables). Sun exposure is not permitted, walking must be minimized and you cannot leave the center.

As the pace was slowing down, the concept of linear time changed to more elastic and circular.

Not accustomed to so much rest, the mind starts to get bored. We are so used to 'doing' something all the time: read, write, watch, walk, run, work, etc. when on the contrary rest involves doing nothing. Being: that was my biggest challenge of this experience.

The typical course of a day:

• 6am: Wake up, take medications, rest or singing / prayer
• 8am: Breakfast (all meals were served in the room)
• In the morning: daily visit of the doctor for follow-up
• Morning or afternoon: A treatment (massage)
• 12:30pm: Lunch
In the afternoon: Satsang, presentation, conference or cooking classes, medicinal garden tour
• 5pm: Medication
• 6pm: Chants / prayers
• 7pm: Supper

Days went one after the other without looking the same. The process was difficult for me when I was there. The physical discomforts were numerous and my mind had often questioned the process and my ability to 'succeed'. It is unbelievable but even in this environment I realized that I had in mind an expectation of results and performance.

Panchakarma in my experience does not stop after the month I spent there. Like everything in Ayurveda, the principle of daily routine and lifestyle is important in general well-being and health. I left the center 3 weeks ago and from now on I am taking medication (decoctions, oil, suitable diet) for the next 3 months. The process has started and I’m observing my body transforming and my mind playing tricks on me.

I am extremely grateful to have been able to live this experience and understand the profound wisdom of Ayurveda a little bit more every day.

I would recommend Vaidyagrama to anyone who is looking for a serious experience of panchakarma but also a really humane and authentic one.

I’m also available to anyone who wants more information or has questions.

Eléonore, trained in the Iyengar yoga tradition, has been teaching yoga since 2008. Later, she completed an advanced 500h training in Kripalu yoga, in the United States. She has been practicing Thai Yoga Massage since 2009 in Montreal and is a teacher at Lotus Palm. Her passion for knowledge of the human body and a better art of living brought her to anchor her education in Ayurveda. She completed her 250h training at the Kripalu Institute and continues her education regularly. She currently teaches workshops to adapt your yoga practice according to Ayurveda.

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