Panchakarma Billings MT
By Deirdre Shevlin Bell
Ayurveda, India’s ancient healing system, teaches that our body has an “inner intelligence” that predisposes us to be healthy. In our deepest core, ayurveda says, we instinctively act in accordance with nature’s cycles and rhythms, keeping our bodies perfectly balanced and free of disease.
To understand how nature affects us as individuals, we need to understand that three fundamental, basic principles, called doshas, govern everything in the universe. Vata, the dosha associated with space and air, controls everything related to movement and flow in the body—circulation, movement of food, and the nervous system. Pitta, associated with fire and water, governs digestion and metabolism. Kapha, seen in water and earth, takes care of structure and lubrication in the body.
The doshas govern nature much as they do bodily functions. For instance, a particular dosha dominates each season—kapha governs spring, pitta summer, and vata fall and winter. Since our physiologies are so connected with nature, we tend to accumulate the dosha of the season. With a perfectly functioning physiology we would just eliminate the excess dosha as we move from season to season. But most of us are a less than perfect for any number of reasons—poor diet, too much stress, exposure to toxins—and we end up with dosha buildup. When our doshas become out of balance, our body’s ability to purify itself weakens and we experience an accumulation of toxins, referred to in ayurveda as ama.
That’s why many ayurvedic doctors, including Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, former medical director at The Raj, an ayurvedic medical spa at the Maharishi’s Vedic University in Iowa, recommend undergoing an ayurvedic cleanse, called panchakarma, seasonally to help the body purify itself and restore balance. In September, as summer turns to fall, we tend to have an excess of pitta in the body. “After the summer, the hot weather has certain effects,” Lonsdorf says. “Things that promote inflammation tend to accumulate in the summer: skin irritation, rashes, irritable temper, pitta, and so forth. There’s a buildup of that dosha in the body, and to really prevent that from accumulating over the years, one does this purification and pacification to rebalance the body.”
Panchakarma (PK for short) bears little resemblance to what most of us think of when we think seasonal cleanse. “What’s really different is that cleansing in other systems is simply cleansing and can be harsh,” Lonsdorf says. “It’s austere and is not balancing the doshas at the same time. The oils used in PK prevent the body from drying out, whereas if you do coffee enemas or fiber to cleanse the bowel, it can be very vata aggravating. After PK, people are not just cleansed, they’re more balanced.”
Another important difference between PK and other cleanses is PK’s highly individualized approach. You can’t buy a book on PK and do it at home—you need to visit an ayurvedic physician, who will desig...
Author: Deirdre Shevlin Bell
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