It's Almost As If You Had A Severe Beating (and other adventures in Panchakarma)

Nighttime tray of treatment delights.

Nighttime tray of treatment delights.

I recently got home from 23 days of an Ayurvedic detox program called panchakarma, which focuses on clearing the body of toxins through a complex regimen of body treatments and herbs. 

The Ayurvedic doctors can tell, just by checking our pulses, exactly what each patient needs each day. Some of the treatments were really relaxing (i.e. shirodara and oil baths), and some were intense, or ‘quite full-on’ (as my Australian retreat-mates would say). And by intense, I mean they felt like torture (in particular, for me, the nasal treatment called nasia).

Let me be clear: none of the treatments are actually torture, or even dangerous. But, because each person’s regimen is tailored to their body type and physiology, everyone responds to the treatments differently. 

My beautiful technicians- Rani, Sunita, Jyoti and Shashi.

My beautiful technicians- Rani, Sunita, Jyoti and Shashi.

It was a bit rough. The physical counterpart to Vedic meditation, which purifies our minds of stress, panchakarma’s detox process purifies the body of stress, and it doesn’t always feel gentle; the mind-body connection is strong, and each process affects the other. Given all the meditation I’ve done over the past 5+ years, I thought my system was mostly purified of stress already! Not so much. 

One thing after another challenged me to surrender (please keep in mind, this is mostly first-world problems kind of stuff). Jetlag, a strict panchakarma diet, even stricter dietary limitations for some of the treatments, election results, hormonal shifts, poor air quality in Delhi, managing (and trying to unplug from) my teaching practice from abroad, my deeply ingrained Western medical training, Indian government banking regulations paralyzing the economy during our trip, ants in my bathroom, the treatments themselves… 

Nighttime treatment selfie.

Nighttime treatment selfie.

I told a friend of mine about the journey, and she said, “It’s almost as if you had a severe beating!” She was kinda right! I did love my trip. I met some beautiful people, learned a ton about Ayurveda, and delved into a new approach to health and wellness that I really connect with. Even more, I loved how humbling the whole experience was. I thought I truly understood surrender on my meditation teacher training last winter, but after returning to the comforts of home, away from the energy and challenges of India, it’s easy to forget. Panchakarma quite literally thrust me out of my comfort zone. 

Two weeks later, after being so stripped down by the detox, I am now in rejuvenation mode, and it feels great. The trip answered a lot of questions… and created even more new ones! My Ayurvedawakening is out of its infancy, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.