Purvakarma: Pre-purification Measures
Five Basic Shodanas: Cleansing Methods
- Vamana: therapeutic vomiting or emesis
- Virechan: purgation
- Basti: enema
- Nasya: elimination of toxins through the nose
- Rakta Moksha: detoxification of the blood
Vamana: Emesis Therapy
When there is congestion in the lungs causing repeated attacks of bronchitis, colds, cough or asthma, the Ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting, vamana, to eliminate the kapha causing the excess mucus. Often times this also releases repressed emotions that have been held in the kapha areas of the lungs and stomach along with the accumulated dosha. Once the mucus is released, the patient will feel instantly relieved. It is likely that congestion, wheezing and breathlessness will disappear and that the sinuses will become clear. Therapeutic vomiting is also indicated in chronic asthma, diabetes, chronic cold, lymphatic congestion, chronic indigestion and edema. After vamana, resting, fasting, smoking certain herbal cigarettes, and not suppressing natural urges (i.e., urination, defecation, gas, sneezing, coughing) is recommended. If vamana is administered properly, the person should feel relaxation in the lungs, will be able to breathe freely, will have lightness in the chest, clear thinking, a clear voice, a good appetite, and all symptoms of congestion disappear.
Virechan: Purgation Therapy
When excess bile, pitta, is secreted and accumulated in the gall bladder, liver and small intestine, it tends to result in rashes, skin inflammation, acne, chronic attacks of fever, biliary vomiting, nausea and jaundice. Ayurvedic literature suggests in these conditions the administration of therapeutic purgation or a therapeutic laxative. Purgatives help relieve the excess pitta causing the bile disturbance in the body. In fact, purgatives can completely cure the problem of excess pitta. When purgatives are used, the patient should not eat foods that will aggravate the predominant humor or cause the three humors to become unbalanced.
Basti: Enema Therapy
Vata is a very active principle in pathogenesis (disease). If we can control vata through the use of basti, we have gone a long way in going to the root cause of the vast majority of diseases. Vata is the main etiological (causal) factor in the manifestation of diseases. It is the motive force behind the elimination and retention of feces, urine, bile and other excreta. Vata is mainly located in the large intestine, but bone tissue (asthi dhatu) is also a site for vata. Hence the medication administered rectally effects asthi dhatu. The mucus membrane of the colon is related to the outer covering of the bones (periosteum), which nourishes the bones. Therefore, any medication given rectally goes into the deeper tissues, like bones, and corrects vata disorders.
Nasya: Nasal Administration
The nose is the doorway to the brain and it is also the doorway to consciousness. The nasal administration of medication is called nasya. An excess of bodily humors accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated by means of the nearest possible opening, the nose. Prana, life force as nerve energy, enters the body through the breath taken in through the nose. Prana is in the brain and maintains sensory and motor functions. Prana also governs mental activities, memory, concentration and intellectual activities. Deranged prana creates defective functioning of all these activities and produces headaches, convulsions, loss of memory and reduced sensory perception. Thus nasal administration, nasya, is indicated for prana disorders, sinus congestion, migraine headaches, convulsions and certain eye and ear problems. Breathing also can be improved through nasal massage. For this treatment, the little finger is dipped into ghee and inserted into the nose. The inner walls of the nose are slowly massaged, going as deeply as possible. This treatment will help to open the emotions. (Nose tissue is tender and for this application the fingernail must be kept short to avoid injuring the delicate mucus membranes.) Since most people have a deviated nasal septum, one side of the nose will be easier to penetrate and massage than the other. The finger should not be inserted forcibly. The massage should proceed by slow penetration, the finger moving first in a clockwise and then counter-clockwise direction. By this means, the emotions that are blocked in the respiratory tract will be released. One may use this treatment each morning and evening. In this way, breathing patterns will change as the emotions are released and the eyesight also will improve.
Rakta Moksha: Traditional Ayurvedic Method for Purification and Cleansing of the Blood
Toxins present in the gastrointestinal tract are absorbed into the blood and circulated throughout the body. This condition is called toxemia, which is the basic cause of repeated infections, hypertension and certain other circulatory conditions. This includes repeated attacks of skin disorders such as urticaria, rashes, herpes, eczema, acne, scabies, leukoderma, chronic itching or hives. In such conditions, along with internal medication, elimination of the toxins and purification of the blood is necessary. Rakta moksha is also indicated for cases of enlarged liver, spleen and gout. Pitta is produced from the disintegrated red blood cells in the liver. So pitta and blood have a very close relationship. An increase in pitta may go into the blood causing toxicity, and thus many pitta-genic disorders. Extracting a small amount of blood from a vein relieves the tension created by the pitta-genic toxins in the blood. Leeches have been used as an alternative to bloodletting. Bloodletting also stimulates the spleen to produce anti-toxic substances that help to stimulate the immune system. Toxins are neutralized, enabling radical cures in many blood-borne disorders. Certain substances such as sugar, salt, yogurt, sour-tasting foods and alcohol are toxic to the blood. In certain blood disorders these substances should be avoided to keep the blood pure. For rakta moksha treatment other than bloodletting, there are blood-purifying practices involving herbs, gem therapy or color water therapy. For any rakta moksha treatment or related alternative treatment, it is beneficial to refrain from yogurt, salt, sugar, alcohol, marijuana, sour and fermented foods.
Lifestyle and Diet: The Key to Health and Wellness
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. A mono-diet of kitchari 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 sometime 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. Kitchari will provide adequate nourishment, is very easy to digest, nourishes all the tissues of the body, is excellent for de-aging of cells and assists in the detoxification and cleansing process. Kitchari 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 aftertaste. Together they create a balanced food; an excellent protein combination that 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 with information from an article or a book. 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.