Are You In Pain? Why Not Try The Miracle Of Panchakarma?
Maybe you’ve heard of panchakarma, maybe not. Perhaps you know that it is the grand treatment of Ayurveda (the medical discipline of India). Maybe you’ve been curious about what a panchakarma treatment looks like. At any rate, I have a story to tell you about my encounter with panchakarma. In my experience, it is nothing short of miraculous.
Do you know what it’s like to live with pain? Chronic, life-altering, soul-stealing pain? Well, I do. It sucks. I lived with debilitating neck pain every day of my life for five long years. There were times I was so exhausted by the relentlessness of the pain that I actually thought it would be a relief to take my own life. I was that desperate. After trying a myriad of traditional and alternative treatments with absolutely no improvement, I went to India to try panchakarma and a miracle happened.
I checked in to Ayushya Ayurvedic Clinic in Kovalam, Kerala, India at 7 p.m. and by 8:30 I was on the table for my first treatment.
The treatment room has a large wooden massage table, wooden steam cabinet, Shirodhara galanti (I’ll explain that later), a stool, and a small altar.
I am asked to take all my clothes off and sit on the stool. My therapist (a heartbreakingly kind and charming 21-year-old Indian girl) chants a healing prayer and proceeds to pour warm oils into my hair. She massages my scalp, neck and shoulders thoroughly and then asks me to lie face down on the massage table. Now things begin to get more intense.
She begins abhyanga, a massage using long, deep strokes and large amounts of warm oils that have been infused with herbs specific to my body’s needs. Once she has completed abhyanga, she pounds on me very firmly with herb-infused balls.
“Now turn on right side ma’am”, she says. Once on my side, she puts special congestion reducing drops in my ear and begins the abhyanga and herbal ball massage on the left side of my body. I’m asked to turn over and she does all of this to my right side – ear drops, massage, ball pounding. But before I turn to lay on my back, I’m given a 30cc oil enema.
I’m now on my back and she says, “Ma’am exercise” which is my cue to draw my knees into my chest seven times to assist the oil in penetrating the intestines. She puts drops into my nose and eyes. The eye drops sting intensely and she asks, “Too spicey ma’am?” but goes on to begin the process of abhyanga and herbal balls on the front of my body.
At this point I’m feeling quite relaxed but there’s another step that takes me even deeper. It’s called shirodhara. A galanti (copper kettle with a spout) hangs above my head. It contains oils that pour gently, in a thin stream, over my forehead. I lie in a state of relaxation for about 15 minutes while the flow of oil coaxes me into an altered state.
When shirodhara is complete, my angel removes the kettle, massages my face, then helps me off the table and into the steam cabinet where hot steam opens my pores and allows the oil to further penetrate.
After steam I’m ushered into the bathroom. A scrub is applied to my body and then I’m left alone to bathe myself. I wash, dry, wrap my hair in a towel and walk back to my room in a blissful state of being.
What I’ve just described is one treatment which lasts an hour and a half. I receive two treatments each day for 21 days. It sounds luxurious but, I assure you, it’s very intense.
There’s one more thing. Every fifth day I receive maha basti (the big enema). The doctor, himself, comes in to administer this. He begins by gently massaging my lower back, then he inserts the enema. I can’t believe the amount of oil I receive. When the bag is emptied I am asked to turn onto my back. He massages my lower abdomen and asks me to draw my knees in and out several times. Now I must lie on the table, retaining the oil for two long minutes. I can’t help but wonder if anyone has ever just pooped on the table. Finally I get to go to the bathroom to expel the oil and bathe.
Every three or four days I talk with Doctor. He is charming and funny, and reassuringly knowledgeable. We check in about all that my body is experiencing, but there is another kind of checking in we do. Doctor seems to have the ability to look deeply into my emotional history by doing a few things like reading my pulse, looking at my tongue, and talking casually with me. He tells me things about myself that astonish me – things about my childhood that have likely contributed to the ways I choose to live my life today. How does he know these things? He suggests that I contemplate and journal to gain deeper insight.
According to the theories of ayurvedic medicine, the key to balanced health is a strong digestive fire. if the fire is not strong enough to burn away the Ama (internal and environmental toxins) in the body, it will act much like a fire that doesn’t have enough wood to let it roar and burn. It will smolder and cause toxins to circulate throughout the body causing disease processes.
Doctor teaches me that the process of panchakarma softens the body’s old Ama in the form of calcifications and releases years (maybe lifetimes) of scarring and toxicity – both physical and emotional. He explains that this is why I am feeling fragile and fatigued one day, energetic and joyful the next. It’s all a part of the deep process of renewal.
At the end of the 21 days I am feeling much better. My neck is not completely healed but I do feel less pain, have more range of motion and feel emotionally lighter. Doctor sends me home with some herbs and instructions for a few things I will continue. He tells me that I should expect to feel continuous improvement over the next 6 months. I am hopeful.
During the passing weeks at home I continue to feel better. I have a pretty consistent feeling of happiness that I haven’t experienced in 5 years and, by the end of 3 months, I have no neck pain. Wait. What? I have no pain in my neck! My weekly migraines are entirely gone. I can turn my neck freely. I am sleeping again. I have been given my life back.
Panchakarma is not just a treatment for pain. I have met people at the clinic, from all over the world, who have their own stories to tell. I’ve heard stories of recovery from auto immune disease, recovery from addictions, successful treatment of chronic skin diseases. Doctor says panchakarma brings balance to the systems of the body so it can finally heal itself.
It’s a mystery to me how this combination of oils, herbs, ritual, touch and kindness could have been so profoundly healing to me. I don’t fully understand it, but I don’t question it. I live in deep gratitude for panchakarma, for Doctor, and for all the healing angels at the clinic. It was, for me, a complete rejuvenation of my physical and emotional body and the full release of debilitating pain. In my experience, panchakarma was a miracle.
Epilogue: It is now one year since I went to India for panchakarma and I am still pain free.
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