Is Pancha Karma for Me
Pancha Karma- Ayurvedic Cleansing and Rejuvenation
When most people think of Ayurveda a few things come to mind. One is diet and cleansing. The process of Ayurvedic cleanses are either viewed as spa services or really strict diet and internal cleansing. The truth lies somewhere between these myths but can be commonly confused when what we see online is luxurious body therapies or a diet of rice and mung beans. And it naturally begs the question, “Is Pancha Karma for me?”.
Pancha Karma, or the 5 Actions (Pancha means five, Karma means action) form the key to eliminate impurities from the body. This jump starts the system for long term digestive and whole body health. What many people are missing in the understanding of these practices are the totality of the cleansing outline.
From experience we have seen Ayurvedic Cleanses move beyond only body focus. For some the simplicity of the practice along with the recommendations of silence and gentle intake through the 5 Senses creates space to maximize mind, body and soul healing that many describe as life changing.
Pancha Karma isn’t just a process of cleansing my body. It’s an experience of a total reset, if you open yourself up to that potential. My mind, my energy, my awareness, and all of my senses got to take a rest, power down, and slowly restart. This level of pause is so profound, so variable each time depending on who I am as I enter the portal, that it always challenges me exactly where I need it and leaves me with a subtle, potent clarity. Each time I cleanse, I capture a feeling of aliveness and nourishment that I then take with me as I move forward into my life.
– Maha Vidya Pancha Karma Client Audrey Tesserot
Is Pancha Karma for Me?
Dosha, which is often understood as constitution is a concept often misunderstood. Dosha actually means impurity. It refers to the accumulation of qualities in nature being reflected in our physical body or mind that manifest into imbalance and eventually disease. The idea that Ayurveda targets the root of imbalance is in the understanding that like increases like. This gradually builds dosha (impurities) in various bodily systems which we often confuse as our constitution (Prakruti).
Let’s break this down.
At the moment of our conception we are formed from a unique balance of the 5 Elements (earth, air, fire, water, ether). These can be broken down further into the 20 Attributes of Nature or 10 Pairs of Opposites.
These qualities are represented in our system as lightness or heaviness, roughness or smoothness etc. These qualities make us who we are (our Prakruti or constitution). They also relate to our unique potential for imbalance (our Vikruti or accumulation of qualities that push us further from our natural state of being). The cleansing practices of Pancha Karma target the shelter of dosha (impurites) in the GI tract. It removes them from the source allowing us to increase our digestive health so our body can build healthy, balanced and strong tissues. This supports greater immunity, better sleep, mental stability and overall longevity.
The 5 Karmas in Pancha Karma
The actions that support this cleansing or clearing of dosha at their seat in the digestive system include:
- Basti (enemas that target removal of Vata dosha at its seat in the colon. Commonly are prepared with herbal oils or teas)
- Virechana (purgation that targets removal of Pitta dosha at its seat in the intestines through downward laxative action)
- Vamana (vomiting therapy that targets removal of Kapha dosha at its seat in the stomach through upward action)
- Rakta Moksha (blood letting that is not a common practice in the United States to remove excess heat or impurities)
- Nasya (application of herbs or oils to the nasal cavity clearing impurities from the head)
Cleanse programs vary for the individual based on the current status of dosha along with considerations of overall health, strength, digestive capacity, age and any underlying health conditions that are all evaluated by your Ayurvedic Practitioner to ensure safety. This isn’t all though!
Pancha Karma- The 3 Step Process
Beyond the individualized approach, one of the gems that makes Pancha Karma successful and life changing compared to other cleanse programs is the step by step preparation and follow up practices. These create a clean slate for digestion while continuing to overall health and gradual rejuvenation to the body. It is a cleanse that will be felt for months to come. This is not a crash diet, weekend program or quick fix. It is a profound way to truly support your body, mind and spirit. To create a life of radiant health and consciousness around your experience in creation.
Step 1- Purva Karma- Preparation
Purva means preparatory, the period of time leading up to an action. This phase prepares the body for removal of dosha. There are a few steps in this process and for those that share Ayurvedic home or mini-cleanses this is often the entire cleanse shared. During this part of the process ama (undigested toxins or accumulated stickiness in the system) must be completely removed before participating in Pancha Karma. If this step is neglected it can create further imbalance. These toxins can be moved deeper into the tissues instead of eliminated. Completed with digestive spices, simplified dietary outlines, and internal and external oleation to open the channels of the body allowing ama to release and move its way to the gut for complete elimination during Pancha Karma.
During this step you may be encouraged to participate in abhyanga (oil massage), shirodhara (oil, milk or herbal stream on the third eye) or other lesser known oil therapies. Svedana (steam therapy) and other applications of herbs, oils, milks and fats externally to support the dilation of the channels. Sometimes this can be confused with spa services because they appear and are delightful! However they act as powerful catalysts in the cleansing process and are specialized in application to the individual and their unique needs on the healing journey. The purpose of both internal and external oiling is to ripen the tissues, soften Ama and start moving it out before your deeper cleansing program.
If you are completing this step in the process at home, preparing to meet with your Pancha Karma Specialist they may guide you to see a body worker or even give yourself treatments at home!
*It is important to work with an Ayurvedic Practitioner trained in Pancha Karma for safety and completion of the entire process*
Step 2- Pancha Karma– Cleansing
Now it’s time for the karmas (actions) to remove dosha (impurity) from the central gastric fire (GI tract). You have prepared the body to ripen for this process which can make it easy! The duration of PK varies depending on the needs of the individual. Pancha Karma is not something that can be rushed. While short cleanses can be incredibly beneficial for the body, we do encourage you to consider clearing out time for this process. Consider it not only a financial but a time investment to support your health and longevity for years to come. The most common feedback we receive in our Pancha Karma Center is that the process is life-changing!
Successful experiences can be felt for months or years to come, and make future programs simpler, swifter and more easeful.
During this part of the process your practitioner may guide you through some of the 5 Actions (Pancha Karma) specifically suggested for your pre-birth constitution, your state of current health and any imbalances that have arised. Based on your approach to the program with time and dedication they take all aspects into consideration in program design to support health and success.
Your guide may also offer Ayurvedic therapies like oil massage, herbal powder rubs, flower and herb steams, specific oil therapies, marma treatments and other targeted treatments specific for the goals outlined in your personalized plan. This is not created from a space of desire (wanting a massage) but from an understanding from your practitioner when and why these practices may be utilized to create the effect supportive for both the body and mind over the course of the program. The result is a deeply nourishing experience that moves along with you as you ebb and flow with clarity, energy and calm that is monitored and honored through creating greater peace and healing within the body in the most effective way possible.
Step 3- Praschat Karma- Post Care
Hands down the most challenging part of the process, and it could be considered the most important. Prashchat means coming after. This is the part after you have opened the channels, cleansed the unwanted material, eliminated dosha and now have a ripe and ready digestive system that is a clean slate, almost like a babies. You know how with infants you give them new foods slowly, one at time adding depth to both texture, flavor and food groups. The post Pancha Karma process is exactly the same. It’s easy to overestimate what the digestive fire (agni) can take in at this time and more frequently than not once clients are on their own they over do flavor, quantity or layers of food that create a set back that can take time to recover from.
We mention this so that if you consider Pancha Karma in the future you don’t plan a vacation, to attend a wedding, family event or large holiday meal immediately after completion unless you plan to cook for yourself in the process. It is a delicate balance that is often fun to appreciate. It is a time that you can really taste the sweetness of a fruit, perhaps the sourness of a lime, or how strong you used to salt your food. Everything in the process is heightened which can be exciting and feel like new.
Is Pancha Karma for Everyone?
Yes! Well, almost everyone. If we consider what we discussed so far the ONLY way to remove dosha (impurities) is through Pancha Karma. This means that for most clients it is the first line of treatment, cutting out the root of imbalance and paving the pathway for optimum health. Of course there are some considerations for those suffering from chronic illness, the very young and very old, or those too weak to participate in treatment.
Signs it’s time for Pancha Karma
- digestive imbalance
- chronic loose stools
- sluggish elimination
- chronic fatigue
- aches and pains
- chronic stress
- lowered immunity
What to Expect During Pancha Karma
Let’s say you planned to join us for in person Pancha Karma Program. The first step would be properly planning your time. Create a buffer before and after for proper completion of pre- and post-care. You would fill out our in-take paperwork and we would plan a call to outline your personal goals and details for the program.
Guests stay at private accommodations here in Puerto Rico. Some like to rent a car for freedom of movement while some like to gently dive in with ultimate relaxation and down time for healing. Meals are delivered to you daily with attention to details and digestive care. Body therapies, Ayurvedic Counseling, Sense Therapy and time for meditation and gentle movement are shared. Pancha Karma is like the ultimate exhale. Taking a deep dive into YOU while you minimize stimulation and external focus. For that reason it is advised to take care of all lingering bills, conversations and work before your visit. Cell phones should be turned off. Social media is on a break and electronic use takes the back burner. This allows the body and mind to have the complete reset that is needed for most of us at least once in our lifetime!
Benefits of Pancha Karma
- Healthy Digestion
- Healthy Elimination
- Boundless Energy
- Clarity of Mind
- Balanced Emotions
- Heightened Immunity
- Healthy Joints and Body Tissues
- Reproductive Health
- Maintenance of Healthy Body Weight
- Health for the Year to Come
Pancha Karma in Puerto Rico
Join us for this life changing experience of in-person Pancha Karma or a Distance Home Cleanse! Our Pancha Karma Programs in Puerto Rico offer a unique setting using the elements of nature to facilitate the process. Maha Vidya Caribbean School of Ayurveda offers short cleanse programs as well as longer more intensive Pancha Karma supported visits that can extend through Purva and Praschat Karma or we can guide you through some parts at home. Each Pancha Karma program is as special and individualized as the people we see! For more information about what would be recommended for you, your lifestyle and time frame reach out. We would love to hear from you.