Tag Archive for: pancha karma

Axis Yoga Teacher Training students have the opportunity to apply their Ayurvedic lessons to their own lives. Many students, like this one, decide to complete the Pancha Karma cleanse to experience its effects on the body, mind and consciousness. While it is not a simple cleanse, students generally have a positive report on their overall experience. This student describes many challenges as well as the benefits ultimately received.

My Ayurveda experiment was to go through a Pancha Karma.  I had decided that I needed to do some sort of cleanse to clear out the results of a stressful move and transition, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into with the Pancha Karma.  A very difficult cleanse for me, I went through a lot of ups and downs on a number of levels.  I came out feeling better, though with an awareness that I’m still just on the path and not at the destination.

I had gone through a lot of stress and change over the past year and my body had been craving a clean up from the abuses that stress had put on it.  I put my house on the market last spring and decided to move east to be closer to family.  Selling my house, downsizing, and preparing to move out of my community with a full Massage Therapy practice in two locations and a part time job coaching gymnastics was quite a bit to shove into a couple of months.  Looking back on it, I can’t even remember what I was regularly eating during that point in time as it was so hectic.  I wanted to cut out the junk intake and nourish my body so that it could recover.  I was also having some aches pains in my lower right abdominal area.  I had a major injury there several years ago and while I know that the psoas was certainly affected by it, I have been unsure if the ileocecal valve had been as well.  The dull ache has been an additional source of stress.  One of my instructors at the massage school I attended is a Naturopathic Doctor and Applied Kinesiologist, he had recommended doing a cleanse cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, and any crunchy or sharp foods like seeds, nuts, etc. to allow the valve to fully heal up and see if that was really the source of the problem.  I had never done a cleanse before and I felt like being assigned one was probably the push that I needed to go ahead and get started with it.  I wanted to do a general cleanse, the way that translated was that I should do a full Pancha Karma.

The Pancha Karma is a very regimented cleanse.  The first several days were spent eating to my dosha, which in my case meant eating a pitta pacifying diet.  Just coming off the heat of the summer, I felt like this was probably a good thing to tone down a bit.  Along with this, the following rules to keep the diet clean were given, saying no to: sugar, gluten, dairy, meat, and any processed foods (including anything in a package or can).  That alone was pretty difficult for me, not to mention that I really enjoy my morning coffee ritual.  As if this wasn’t already difficult, considering which grains, vegetables, and fruits were ok within the restrictive diet added a whole other element.

After the restricted pitta diet other practices came in such as the intake of ghee, self massage, sweating, and eating kitchari.  Every morning for 5 days the day started with a shot of warmed ghee.  This was so hard to choke down, and even harder to burp up throughout the day.  Learning that I should do asanas before I took the ghee helped me to feel a little better through the day, I learned this for the last couple of days and it would’ve been really helpful to know right away just to keep feelings of being sick down a bit and motivation up a bit.  The self massage was a beautiful way to nurture myself and give some love back to the body.  The sweating was difficult with the ghee trying to make its way back up.  The kitchari, ahhhh the kitchari, sometimes it tasted good but mainly I was so tired of eating it that I don’t think I was getting close to the amount of necessary calories.

How strict was I in this cleanse?  I always followed the restriction rules and avoided anything processed, and I had a vegan diet free of coffee and sugar.  There were a few meals that I branched out and had just vegetables or quinoa and vegetables, as there were a number of times I didn’t have access to my home or cooking kitchari.  I drank chai in the mornings that I know had some caffeine in it.  I missed an abhyanga and sweat, and I didn’t take the herbal teas I was supposed to during it, though I did substitute by making some of my own infusions/decoctions from the herbs that I had.  Overall, I stuck pretty close to the cleanse and would be happy to not eat any kitchari for a long, long time.

Looking back on this experiment, I’m not sure that I would do it again though I’m glad that I went through it.  I noticed a lot of things while going through this process.  I felt like the ghee really got gunked up in my arteries.  I noticed that when I flossed and some blood came out it was reddish/orange in color with a yellow oily substance surrounding it.  I have never noticed this at any point of my life, year or season, and while the reason given was that  I had too much pitta, I really feel that I just had too much ghee in my circulatory system, especially since overall I was feeling a calming of pitta during that time.  I felt my areas of chronic injury really get aching again.  Luckily I knew to recognize it as a healing crisis and I could tell that it was my body’s way of releasing parts of the injury and my body’s way of retracing it to let it go, though it was fairly painful.  The dull ache was gone in my abdomen and was replaced with a distinct muscular pain in the psoas area.  Though after getting massage work on it, I’m still unsure if it’s a problem with one or both areas.  I had substantial headaches every day, which I’m guessing could have been my withdrawal of sugar, coffee, or who knows what other food item.  My balance was almost non-existent towards the end of the cleanse, I felt malnourished, and really tired.

My emotions were a bit on a roller coaster.  I went out to eat breakfast because I was staying at a lower elevation over the weekend so that I didn’t have to do some much driving.  I ordered oatmeal at a vegan restaurant and they brought me ground up nuts and seeds.  I ate part of it so that I would have something in my stomach but felt like sobbing because I let myself down on the nuts and seeds end.  The sorrow that I felt over eating nuts, was not one that I’m accustomed to.  I had some mornings where I woke up glowing, and some afternoons where I was tired and cranky.  I spent a lot of time alone for a few reasons, one being that I just moved here and don’t know that many people, though a big realization was that doing something like this can be very isolating.  Most social situations were out since I didn’t know if I had the willpower to turn down anything that wasn’t kitchari, water, or herbal tea.  I started going around to social things at the end just to have some company, though it still felt socially awkward to deny people when they would kindly offer me something to eat or drink.

In conclusion, I feel like the Pancha Karma helped to get the stagnant energy within me unstuck, and it got it moving.  Doing this cleanse put me into my body, which includes really feeling all of those chronic injuries again.  I’m trying to be mindful of taking care of them and myself and have been scheduling deep tissue restructural work to clear out some of those patterns of holding.  By not being able to eat in my normal way it gave me a great awareness of what it is I’m putting into my body and a heightened sensitivity to the way that those things affect me immediately and over time.  Another side effect that came about between moving to a quieter space and doing this cleanse is that my body naturally began getting tired and wanting to go to bed around 10 or 10:30 and naturally wanted to wake up to see the sun coming up over the mountains.  I feel that doing this cleanse was not only good for my general physical health, I feel that it really heightened my awareness which makes me want to continue to keep cleansing, of some variety, as a part of my general yearly health routine.