A lot of people seem to think of “Panchkarma” as one of those body massages that help you rejuvenate after gruelling hours at work. They couldn't be more wrong. Panchakarma is not what you get after checking into a spa or a parlour. Massages may be a part of it, but Panchakarma is certainly a lot more than that.
First things first
Panchkarma is an Ayurvedic medical procedure that is to be administered only by trained Ayurvedic doctors or by those who hold a Diploma in Panchkarma.
“If the nameplate of the doctor reads “Panchkarma Chikitsa” then you are at the right place. Please learn to differentiate between relaxation therapies at spas and Panchakarma treatment,” says Vaidya Leena Jagdale.
...Cleansing your body. The five basic Panchkarma procedures are: vaman, virechan, basti, rakta mokshan and nasya. Vaman cures the disease though puking or vomiting, virechan through purgation (done with the help of laxatives), basti means enema (which is done by releasing oil through anal passage), while rakta mokshan means blood letting with the help of leeches and nasya means administering medicines through nostrils. Before going for either vaman or virechan, it's extremely important to follow the snehan or svedan procedure. Snehan means gentle oil massage, followed by svedan which refers to steam bath. The combined procedure opens up the pores and help in absorption of oil.
For those undergoing nasya treatment, the massage can be limited to forehead instead of the entire body.
“The procedure/s is/are administered to those who want to maintain their fitness levels and to those who are suffering from a certain dosh or disease,” Leena says. The treatment depends on the disease of the patient and his body constitution – which is divided into Kaafa, Vaata and Pitta in Ayurveda (see box).
For instance, vaman is given to those with Kaafa prakruti and those suffering from sinusitis. Virechan helps people with Pitta prakruti and those troubled by irritable bowel syndrome. Basti (Vaata prakruti) is given to those who are suffering from joint pains and fatigue/exhaustion. People suffering from skin diseases are treated by rakta mokshan and nasya gives relief to patients of migraine,” says Leena.
Shirodhara, which is popularised through spas and Ayurvedic centres these days, is also an important sub-type of Panchakarma and includes the gentle pouring of oil on the forehead. It helps people with sleep disorders, scalp or hair problems and also psychiatric patients.
How long and how much?
The administration of Panchkarama, its quantity and duration depends on individual body constitution, the climate and the disease being treated. “While these procedures can be administered throughout the year, ideally vaman should be treated in March, basti in June-July and vaman in October,” explains Leena.
There are also specific periods in the day when the treatment should be ideally administered. “Basti should be done between 5-7 am and 5-7 pm, vaman, between 7-10 am and virechan between 10am and 2 pm,” she adds.
The duration of the treatment could vary from patient to patient and also from procedure to procedure. “A vaman or virechan treament will take minimum of 7 days to maximum of 15 days. Raktamokshan or nasya can be completed in one day. The treatment is followed by dietary restrictions for about a week or more. If the treatment is not administered correctly, then there are chances that the patient's vomiting or loose motions don't stop after a specific period. Hence it's best advised that you consult and get treated by your doctor,” cautions Leena.
She also explains that those who are seeking to complete the Panchkarma treatment while meeting their work commitments should abandon the thought.
“It's a time-consuming procedures, so put in at least a fortnight's leave before going in for Panchkarma. It's also a very expensive treatment,” she concludes.
In Ayurved, there are three types of Prakruti (body constitutions)- Kaafa, pitta and vaat. Prakruti means pre-dominance of a particular dosha (physiological and emotional traits)
in normal circumstances. When a person falls ill or suffers from a disease, then one can find abnormal dominance of that particular prakruti.
People with Kaafa prakruti prefer summers, their consumption of food is less, but they look bulky. Those with Pitta constitution have immense body heat. They can't bear summers. They are unable to control their hunger.
People with pre-dominant Vaata symptoms are said to have a bony structure, and their eating and sleeping patterns are erratic. They have thin, listless hair and bad teeth.