If you’re anything like the average person, chances are you could probably use a massage. Did you know that searching “body massage spa near me” can be the first step in a larger-picture body purification process? Enter panchakarma, the name for toxin removal practices used in ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine. If you’re curious about alternative medicine or simply want to know how to take your full body massage to the next level, this article is for you!
Body Massage Spa Near Me
What Is Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic medicine is a 3,000-year-old traditional medical practice originating in India which is based on achieving a healthy balance of humors in the body called doshas. In this school of medicine, disease is thought to be the result of an imbalance of doshas, which are composed of five elements: air, water, earth, fire, and ether. (Want to learn more about Ayurvedic medicine and the three doshas? Check out our recent article on the topic!)
What Is Panchakarma?
Panchakarma is the umbrella term for five different methods of ridding the body of unwanted toxins and wastes. The word comes from the Sanskrit word for five (“pancha”) and the word for procedure (“karma.”)
What Comes Before Panchakarma?
Before the body undergoes its Ayurvedic purification process, it must go through purvakarma, the pre-purification step which is thought to loosen toxins in the body and send them to areas where they can easily be expelled, like the gastrointestinal tract.
The first step in purvakarma is one you are likely already familiar with: a whole-body oil massage referred to in Sanskrit as “snehan.” This step loosens toxins from the tissues while encouraging the nervous system to relax, and is typically prescribed for three to seven days before panchakarma.
The second step in purvakarma is known as “svedana” or “swedan” in the form of induced sweating. This is typically achieved through a steam room; sometimes herbal supplements are used to encourage the process. The thinking behind purvakarma is that one is preparing their doshas for purification through one of the five karmas.
What Are the Five Karmas?
While panchakarma practices are generally thought of as a type of powerful, holistic cleanse, there are five different procedural approaches (or karmas) to Ayurvedic toxin removal:
- Basti: Colon
One of the three doshas in Ayurvedic medicine is Vata, the dosha composed of air and ether. This dosha is considered the primary root cause of most disease and it affects natural processes of human elimination. It is thought that the lining of the colon is connected to bone tissues, and thus any rectally applied medication or enema is thought to absorb into the bones.
- Nasya: Nasal Passages
Considered the portal to your consciousness, the nose plays an important role in panchakarma. Issues of the throat, head, nose, and sinuses are thought to be treated through nasya, which is said to open up emotional blockages as well. This practice is used to treat ailments ranging from sinus problems to migraines, memory problems, or intellectual issues resulting from “deranged prana.” Prana, or “life force,” is inhaled into the body through the nose in the form of breath and dictates cognitive function and mental health.
To perform the nasya, the practitioner’s little finger is traditionally dipped in ghee and inserted into the patient’s nose, slowly massaging in clockwise and then counterclockwise directions. This is thought to loosen mucous, improve breathing patterns, and activate emotions.
- Rakta Moksha: Blood
In Ayurvedic medicine, the blood becomes a collecting place for toxins that have built up in the gastrointestinal tract; these are credited with causing everything from circulatory issues to persistent infections, scabies, hives, or acne. It is thought that skin irritations and maladies are best treated through blood purification and oral medicine, due to an “enlarged” spleen or liver. In fact, the dosha called Pitta is closely tied to blood purity and health, and it is thought that bloodletting and leaches may be an effective treatment for Pitta-genic ailments. It is thought that substances like alcohol and marijuana and foods like sugar, salt, sour foods, or fermented foods increase blood toxicity as well.
For those who are interested in blood purification in a means other than bloodletting, several purification processes exist involving gems, color water therapy, or herbal remedies.
- Vamana: Lungs/Stomach
Thought to relieve congestion of the lungs as well as a kind of emotional congestion, vamana is the process of therapeutic vomiting. This is thought to be beneficial for those experiencing chronic colds, asthma, bronchitis, chronic indigestion, lymphatic problems, and even diabetes. After vomiting, patients are encouraged to relax while fasting, possibly smoking herbal cigarettes, and see to it that all natural urges (coughing, sneezing, urinating, etc) are expressed without restriction.
- Virechan: Gastrointestinal Tract
Also known as “purgation therapy,” this karma often involves a therapeutic laxative to rid the body of accumulated bile resulting from an imbalance of Pitta. This is thought to improve the health of the liver, small intestine, and gall bladder while reducing nausea, chronic fever, jaundice, and vomiting. To be most effective, patients who undergo virechan should avoid foods that would further unbalance their Pitta dosha like red meat, some dairy products, or most nuts.
Benefits of Panchakarma
Ayurveda is all about achieving healthy mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical balance. When we move through life, toxins known as “ama” accumulate as a result of foods we eat or lifestyle choices we make, environmental pollution, stress, and other emotional “toxins.” This often manifests emotionally in the form of irritability, impulsiveness, or malaise, and is attributed to physical symptoms like cholesterol build-up, joint pain, and excessive mucous.
Panchakarma aims to eliminate ama through the five karmas, but also looks holistically at digestion, circulatory and respiratory systems, doshas, age, and environmental factors to assess the best karma suited for the individual’s needs. If done correctly, panchakarma should normalize blood pressure, eliminate free radicals, and regulate triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
In addition to physical benefits, panchakarma also enables patients to better monitor their stress levels. It is thought to slow aging, increase youthfulness, and reduce the risk of serious disease like cancer, heart disease, or stroke.
Who Can Do Panchakarma?
While most people can benefit from panchakarma’s stress-reducing techniques, there are certain populations that should avoid the five karmas. Elderly people, pregnant women, and children are not good candidates for panchakarma.
Make sure your panchakarma practitioner is accredited and experienced, like the Ayurvedic specialists at The Horse Shoe Farm. Panchakarma can be dangerous and even fatal if administered incorrectly—but if done by an experienced panchakarma practitioner, it can yield benefits to patients experiencing the following:
- Bad breath or a thick coating on the tongue
- Poor memory or “foggy” cognitive function
- Joint and body aches
- Fatigue, particularly after eating
- Elimination issues
What Comes After Panchakarma?
After undergoing the panchakarma, it is tradition to enter the “paschaat karma,” or the post-treatment diet plan. The thinking behind this karma is to restore the body’s healthy functions of elimination and absorption to their best state.
Body Massage Spa Near Me
What all five karmas have in common is the pre-purification period referred to as purvakarma. This full body massage and sweating process activates the doshas and prepares the body for the five karmas.
The next time you get a full body massage, consider applying panchakarma practices in tandem with the tissue and nervous system nourishment. Looking for “body massage near me” is half of the battle—next time you’re looking, search for accredited institutions that practice panchakarma as well, such as wellness centers like The Horse Shoe Farm.
Interested in speaking to a professional about panchakarma opportunities? Click here!