Panchakarma: the Ultimate in Mind-Body Healing

Panchakarma is one of the specialties of Ayurveda. Literally translated as “five actions”, Panchakarma is series of integrated procedures that, together, dislodge impurities from the tissues and cells and flush them from the body. This sequence of massage, heat treatments and internal cleansing helps to balance the doshas and allows for a more normalized flow of nutrients, blood, hormones, etc. Developed thousands of years ago to give long life to the the rulers of India, Panchakarma is the cornerstone of rejuvenation programs at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa.

The ultimate goal of all Ayurveda modalities is to restore balance to the level of biological intelligence in the body and to remove blockages and impurities that block free flow of communication and circulation. This allows perfect coherence of the body’s innate healing mechanisms.

Ayurveda believes that the functioning of the body breaks down as impurities and toxins (caused by diet and poor digestion, stress, environmental toxins and other factors) accumulate in the cells and tissues. Over time these impurities begin to obstruct various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, capillaries, cellular pores, etc), limiting the flow of biological intelligence.

Panchakarma provides the ultimate mind-body healing experience. By removing the build up of impurities, it helps to restore the connection of any weak or diseased area of the body with the mechanisms of biological intelligence responsible for healing. Sounds intense? It is surprisingly luxurious and gentle, especially considering the profound results that this ancient detoxification treatment provides.

Studies on the effects of Panchakarma have shown reductions in cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease. Many doctors recommend PK to their patients as a follow-up to chemotherapy, once the patient has regained his or her strength. (The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa recommends allowing 6 months from the end of one’s chemotherapy treatments or radiation treatments before undergoing any Ayurvedic massages and therapies.) Guests have also reported relief from fatigue, depression, digestive disorders, and stress.

A study published in the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine showed that a 5-day course of Panchakarma treatment decreased blood levels of fat-soluble toxins (such as DDE, PCBs and dioxins) by 50%. Western medicine offers no means of removing these harmful chemicals, which are associated with hormone disruption and immune system suppression.

Panchakarma treatments can be taken for as few as 3 and as many as 30 consecutive days. Participants always begin with a consultation with an Ayurvedic expert who then creates a customized program based on their individual levels of balance and imbalance.

Panchakarma uses three types of therapies:

1) The first group stimulates the release of toxins from the cells using various types of massage, many of which involve herbalized oil.

2) The second group uses heat to dilate the channels of the body, allowing the impurities that were loosened through oil massage to be drawn into the intestinal tracts.

3) The sequence ends with a gentle internal cleansing treatments consisting of either warm herbalized oil or water-based decoctions.1. Shiro#3

This sequence of treatment occurs every day. As an example, one day may start with an herbalized sesame oil massage followed by an herbalized steam treatment, ending with gentle elimination therapy. Another day may begin with a massage with warm rice and milk packs, followed by Shirodhara, the pouring of warm oil over the forehead, followed by elimination therapy. Treatments will vary from day to day, depending on one’s needs.

Never had detoxing felt so good! Sometimes it is hard to remember that behind the pampering there is a powerful restructuring of the physiology taking place. And even though I’m ready to take on the world after my treatments, I’ve found it’s better to take it slow for a week or so after you return home, so the body has a chance to integrate all the changes.

For me, my yearly treatment is my opportunity to reset my diet and my daily habits. To make the most of your Panchakarma treatments, a low-fat, vegetarian diet is recommended starting one week before, and continuing through treatments. If I’ve gotten into any bad habits during the year (sugar, snacks, late nights on the computer) I emerge from my treatments with a new resolve. And the new state of balance in my physiology naturally helps to support that resolve.

I’ve managed to have Panchakarma treatments once a year for the last 25 years. It is like spring-cleaning for one’s house. I can’t imagine going without.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Barley Soup: the Perfect Kapha Evening Meal

Barley is a wonderful grain to begin working into your diet during the late winter months. As we transition from the cold, dry Vata days of early winter to the cold, wet Kapha days of late winter and early spring, our attention should be on shifting our diet to Kapha-reducing foods. Favoring astringent, spicy and bitter tastes will help with weight loss and allow our physiologies feel lighter and more energetic and will help keep away colds and allergies.

Barley is the best grain for balancing Kapha dosha. It improves sluggish digestion, protects against diabetes and strokes , is diuretic in nature, and works as a natural regulator of excessive fat accumulation.

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Here a recipe for barley soup that is perfect for a chilly, damp Kapha evening.

Hearty Barley Soup

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon rosemary

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 celery stalk with leaves, sliced

1 carrot, grated

1 tablespoon butter

5 cups stock or water

1/4 cup barley

1 turnip, cut into small pieces

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste.

Salute the parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, celery and carrot in the butter slowly for 10 minutes. Add to the stock. Add the barley, turnip and bayleaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This recipe makes about 6 cups.

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Taming Vata with Basti Treatments

According to Ayurveda, the traditional detoxification therapy of Panchakarma helps to remove deep-seated toxins from the body and mind. The treatments pull toxins and impurities from the tissues and back into the blood stream, and eventually into the gastrointestinal tract. Most people who undergo Panchakarma are prescribed “basti” treatments. Basti is an Ayurvedic treatment in which medicated oils and herbal preparations are introduced into the rectum to flush toxins from the intestinal tract. Bastis are often referred to as “enemas” but actually offer more healing benefits than simply evacuating the colon. The medicinal effects of herbs given rectally are able to penetrate the deeper tissues of the physiology, including the bones.

Bastis are extremely important contributors to the revitalizing and therapeutic value of Panchakarma.

According to Ayurveda, the colon is the principle site of Vata: the aspect of the body that governs movement and circulation. Excess Vata in the colon is considered a toxin that manifests as many symptoms, including arthritis, back pain, gout, headaches, and a variety of nervous system disorders. Basti treatments help eliminate excess Vata and help restore balanced health. Because an imbalance in Vata is said to be responsible for around 60% of diseases and disorders, this specific therapy aids greatly in healing and balancing the physiology.

Not only is Vata dosha responsible for the majority of diseases in the human body, due to its mobile and erratic nature, Vata dosha tends to impact the other two doshas, Kapha and Pitta, causing their disturbance and triggering symptoms. It is for this reason that balancing Vata dosha is foundational to managing almost any disorder, whether it is caused by Vata, Pitta or Kapha.

Because the colon is the principle site of Vata, it should always be treated in a way that does not further aggravate Vata. This is why Ayurveda does not recommend colonics or enemas that are not specifically formulated to pacify Vata.

 

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When a person is prescribed bastis, it is likely that they will receive two kinds of basti, alternating day by day. The first basti is the Matra Basti. This is an oil based basti that soothes and nourishes the colon, gently softening plaque that can build up year after year along the inside of the digestive tract. The following day the elimative basti, the Shodhana Basti, is administered. This treatment allows for the softened plaque to be removed, along with toxins that have been pulled from the tissues during the other Panchakarma treatments. Shodhana Basti will always be followed by a Matra Basti to pacify Vata and restore balance.

This day-to-day alternation of bastis produces optimal results: healing benefits with no harmful side effects.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Heath Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Eating Fresh, Pure Food Really Does Make You Healthier

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In our recommendations to our guests, we always emphasis the Ayurvedic principle of eating freshly cooked, pure foods. During the last month I came across three new studies that highlight the importance of food choices in supporting health.

The first study suggests that the nutrients made available to our cells have a direct impact on the expression of our genes. The second study shows clearly that organically grown fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and grains deliver tangible nutritional benefits. The third study discovered harmful bacteria that appear in ready-chopped and processed foods.

Let’s look at the first study, recently published in the journal Nature Microbiology, that indicates that the food we eat affects us at the genetic level.

We all know that our genes determine many aspects of our life, including metabolism. Now this new information tells us that it also works the other way around; that is, the nutrients made available to our cells might be affect how our genes are expressed.

Researchers discovered that nutrients in food alter how proteins are produced in almost every gene in our body — and this can have a direct impact on our health.

Proteins are the cell’s ‘workers’ and our bodies use them for a range of biological functions. For example, some are used as the building blocks for hair and nails, while others are used by our muscles. Other kinds of proteins carry oxygen around the body and help fight infections

If the production of protein is changed, it can have a huge effect on how our bodies grow, on our immune response and even on our intelligence.

The findings in the new research suggest that the relationship between nature and nurture is far more complicated than has been previously believed. Researchers found that while our DNA governs how metabolism works, the nutrients released from food by these processes can also, in turn, change the way our genes function.

This highlights the importance of the second study, published by the British Journal of Nutrition, which disputes the accusation that organic foods are no more healthful than conventional foods.

After reviewing 343 studies on the topic, researchers in Europe and the United States concluded that organic crops and organic-crop-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants on average than conventionally grown foods. They also found that organic milk and meats contain higher levels of key nutrients that support the heart, brain and immune system. The researchers also highlighted recent mother and child studies linking consumption of organic milk, other dairy products and vegetables to a reduced risk of certain conditions, such as eczema in babies.

At the same time, the researchers confirmed that conventional foods contained greater concentrations of residual pesticides and the toxic metal cadmium. When comparing organic and conventional crops, researchers found that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables were four times more likely to contain pesticide residues.

The third study is from the University of Leicester in England. Scientists found damaging bacterial molecules that are undetectable in fresh foods, but abundant in junk food and processed items. The molecules, called ‘pathogen-associated molecular patterns’ (PAMPs) may increase the risk of conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These molecules can cause our immune systems to over-react in a manner that might be damaging to health. The researchers tested volunteers on a diet low in PAMPs for one week, and discovered it had vastly beneficial effects on their health. Firstly, their white blood cell count was reduced by 11 per cent. A high white blood cell count can indicate problems such as infection, stress, inflammation, trauma, allergy, or other diseases. When the same volunteers were fed food enriched in PAMPs, the beneficial changes were reversed.

While buying organic foods may considerably increase our food budget and while cooking fresh food every day is more time consuming than reaching for leftovers or pre-made sandwiches or vegetables, the benefits are undeniable. If organic foods are not available to you, learn about the” Dirty Dozen” and at least try avoid those foods. And try to include as many fresh fruits and freshly cooked vegetables in your diet as possible. Remember that while raw foods are full of nutrients, unless you have a powerful digestion, you may not be able to pull out the nutrients that your cells — and genes — require for optimum health. You may lose a few nutrients when you cook your vegetables, but if you steam just long enough to make your food “fork friendly”, you will be able to digest and absorb the majority of nutrients.

The Dirty Dozen — has actually expanded to the Dirty 14!

These are vegetables and fruit that, when grown conventionally, have been shown to maintain high levels of pesticide residue.

Apples

Strawberries

Grapes

Celery

Peaches

Spinach

Sweet bell peppers

Nectarines

Cucumbers

Cherry tomatoes

Potatoes

Hot peppers

Kale

Collard Greens

Lettuce

Zuchini

Blue Berries

Through the process of eating, we are recreating our bodies meal by meal. Choice by choice we can decide to move toward health or away from it. It is never too late to begin the journey toward health and vitality. If you have been making the wrong choices, a week of in-residence Panchakarma can help remove accumulated toxins and impurities and get you back on track with cooking lessons and education in Ayurvedic principles. Check out The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa website:

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