I’m in bliss from my third day of panchakarma treatments by a wonderful ayurvedic treatment practitioner, Paula Scarborough* As few people have heard of panchakarma, I want to extol its amazing effects.

Panchakarma (the “five actions”) “is a cleansing and rejuvenating program for the body, mind and consciousness” that originated within the ayurvedic practices in India. (For a more thorough description of this, go to the Ayurvedic Institute’s site.) It is traditionally done at the change of seasons, to help the body move out any old energy that accumulated during the past season, that is, too much heat from summer or too much cold from winter.

I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago with my body and mind demanding a break. I had drifted into my habits of living in stress and doing what I do to try not to be stressed (i.e., drinking alcohol, eating sugar, watching T.V.). As I had loved my experience with panchakarma last year, I realized it was time–and the sooner, the better.

So I took the leap, scheduling myself out and beginning the preparation. The main shift is to eat a “monodiet” of kitchari, which is mung beans cooked with basmati rice, with lots of ghee. I’m on my ninth day of this; while it no longer sounds that enticing, I feel quite good: light, open, happy. Plus I’m saving LOTS of time by not cooking and shopping for food. I’m noticing how I entertain myself through eating or plan to eat. No alcohol or sugar has been an easy shift (since I think about eating regular food, this is the last thing on my mind.)

So the blissful part? The treatments with Paula. Four days of treatments, three hours a day. (You can schedule from 1-7 days in a row.) The treatments begin with warm sesame oil poured through my hair and into my ears, with a strenuous scalp and gentle facial massage. Then the rest of my body is massaged quite deeply, to get all the “ama” (the disease-creating junk) out of my cells. That massage goes on and on and creates one big Ahhhhh. Then Paula puts on the steam tent and steams my body for awhile. Finally, it’s on to Shirodhara, which is warm oil poured over my third eye for 25-30 minutes. Each day of the Shirodhara I’ve gone into a deeper state of meditation, with no effort on my part. My busy mind finally quiets into a state of deep tranquility.

There are other treatments that go along with these to finally move all the ama out of the digestive tract (see the link above for a full description). I have so much appreciation for Paula’s huge heart, wisdom, and skill, as well as for this ancient medical system of ayurveda. My body, mind and spirit feel expanded and aware, and ready for winter.

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