Pancha means five and Karma refers to therapy. As these five therapies for bio-purification of the body so they are collectively known as Pancha karma (Penta bio-purification therapy). The five bio-purification measures are Vamana (Emetic Therapy), Virechana (Purgation therapy), Asthapana Basti (Decoction Enema Therapy), Anuvasana Basti (Oily Enema Therapy) and Nasya (Errhine Therapy).
Prior to the performance of bio-purification, it is necessary to make a patient biologically ready to expel the accumulated morbid material and this process is known as Purva Karma (Preparatory Measures). For preparation of the patient only two measures, Snehana (Oleation Therapy) and Svedana (Sudation Therapy) are under taken. However in case a patient is having indigestion or low digestion then a course of digestive (Pachana) drugs is prescribed prior to administration of Snehana. In that case Pachana also becomes as one of the preparatory measures. It is particularly done in case of Vamana and Virechana therapy where high quantities of unctuous substances are administered orally for Snehana. It has little role in Basti and Nasya.
Purvakarma: Pre-purification Measures
Before the actual operation of purification begins, there is a need to prepare the body in prescribed methods to encourage the body to let go of the toxins. The two procedures are snehan and swedan. Snehan is the oil massage. Oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massage which helps the toxins to move towards the gastro-intestinal tract. Oil massage also makes the superficial and deep tissues soft and supple, thus helping to remove stress and to nourish the nervous system. Snehan is given daily for three to seven days, as indicated. Swedan is sudation or sweating and is given every day immediately following the snehan. An herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further loosen the toxins from the individual. Swedan liquifies the toxins and increases the movement of toxins into the gastro-intestinal tract. After three to seven days of snehan and swedan, the doshas become well “ripened.” A particular panchakarma method is then given according to the individual’s constitution and disorder, prakruti and vikruti, respectively.
Five Basic Shodhans: Cleansing Methods
1) Vaman: Therapeutic vomiting or emesis
2) Virechan: Purgation
3) Asthapana Basti: Decoction Enema
4) Anuvasana Basti: Oily Enema
5) Nasya: Elimination of toxins through the nose
During any step of panchakarma therapy traditional Ayurveda recommends certain lifestyle and diet guidelines.
It is advised to get plenty of rest during the panchakarma experience and to avoid strenuous exercise, sexual activity, late nights, loud music, television and other such stimulating experiences. It is also advised to take particular care to keep warm and away from the wind and to observe one’s thoughts and experiences during this time.
Diet during panchakarma
A mono-diet of kichari and ghee is recommended, as well as essential restrictions on cold drinks, cold food, caffeine, white sugar, recreational drugs or alcohol and dairy products–all substances which should not be resumed (if at all) until some time after panchakarma is completed. The reason for this diet is that during the cleansing process the digestive fire (agni) takes a rest. Also, as toxins move back into the gastrointestinal tract the power of digestion is further slowed. Kichari will provide adequate nourishment, nourishes all the tissues of the body, is very easy to digest, is excellent for de-aging of cells and assists in the detoxification and cleansing process. Kichari is a seasoned mixture of rice and mung dal, and is basic to the Ayurvedic way of life. Basmati rice and mung dal both have the qualities of being sweet and cooling with a sweet after taste. Together they create a balanced food, that is an excellent protein combination and is tridoshic.
Panchakarma is a very special Ayurvedic operation requiring proper guidance from a highly trained and skillful Ayurvedic practitioner. This should not be undertaken just from information in this article. One should consult with an Ayurvedic physician, not just someone with a modest amount of training. Panchakarma is done individually for each person with their specific constitution and specific disorder in mind, thus it requires close observation and supervision. It is also done to best advantage, although not always, at the junctional period between two seasons, thus helping a person to prepare their internal environment for the oncoming season.