Ayurveda is gently flowering in the wake of the yoga boom and is quickly becoming more and more popular. Seasonal Ayurvedic cleansing or panchakarma is merging into the culture and yogis and yoginis want in and that’s no wonder.
Panchakarma just makes sense. There’s no deprivation of food. What you do eat (a mono-diet of kitchari) is fully cooked and balanced with vegetables, protein, grain and spices. Hot tea, warm ghee, oil massage and gentle purgation methods soothe the body and mind and cleanse the body’s channels. It’s an ideal, sensible and safe way to cleanse when done properly.
Panchakarma is growing in popularity and it’s methods are being adopted by professionals and interested cleansers not trained in the process. Panchakarma is highly sophisticated and powerful. It should not be attempted on one’s own, under the advice of a friend that has not been trained in the process or with a professional that has not received the appropriate training.
But don’t just take our word for it. We consulted 9 Ayurvedic Practitioners on this important topic. Please enjoy their insight and knowledge, and join in on the conversation.
You should always cleanse with an expert because a true cleanse entails purification at every level. As the body is trying to get rid of ama, toxins and other impurities, it often experiences a “healing crises”. This might include acute headaches, cramps, skin rashes and emotional meltdown. If this is not properly handled in a safe and secure manner it might result in worsening of the initial symptoms. The practitioner must be well versed in understanding and respecting the common detox symptoms.
The common Ayurvedic approach is not to suppress these symptoms but facilitate the release of of these impurities in an effective manner. The “Issues in the Tissues” can result in emotional detox, which needs to be addressed by counseling, journaling and meditation. A true cleanse done with an expert will develop trust and faith in the therapies, which often results in greater benefits.
Dr. Suhas G.Kshirsagar BAMS, MD (Ayurveda, India)
Director, Ayurvedic Healing
The concept of each one of us being unique is at the center of Ayurveda’s approach to health, wellness and therapeutics. From choosing the right dental care practice or skin care routine, to the complex therapeutic process of panchakarma, there is no one size that fits all. The beautiful metaphysical concept of the five elements and the three doshas, guides the Ayurveda expert to develop the most effective, least ‘disturbing’ and the best aligned prevention and treatment protocols for the client. For all the aforesaid reasons, a mass detox program is not in the best interest of the client. Often times, it may even do harm while doing no good. In my practice, I only offer personalized detox plans, taking into account the body type (prakruti), disease conditions (vikruti), physical and mental strength and age of the person, besides other factors.
Pratibha Shah, BAMS, Masters in Ayurveda, MPH
Wholistic Health Alliance
I have met many clients and friends who have done online cleanses, without guidance, or at least support, who have come away with deeper imbalances – these people being mostly Vata or Vata-Pitta types, who are more sensitive to purging and lightening practices. Alternately though, I have heard from many teachers who express a lot of fear around the fact that Ayurvedic cleansing has become so wide-spread and perhaps unregulated in some way. I do not mean to bring fear into the process, because I do believe cleansing is so important and beneficial (and real!) I simply hope to cultivate an air of respect for the process, and that there is science behind the process, and it’s fun to learn about when you have some guidance!
Adena Rose Bright, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Panchakarma Therapist
Adena Rose Ayurveda
Ayurvedic cleansing can be gentle, and incredibly effective at the same time. A cleanse that is too radical can result in long-standing nervous energy, or Vataimbalance. I generally see a tendency for participants to desire a strong experience- a “no pain, no gain” attitude. This is not the Ayurvedic way of bringing the being into balance, and to undertake cleansing with improper intention and attitude can do more harm than good.
Kate O’Donnell, Certified Ayurvedic Consultant and Yoga Specialist
Believe it or not there are only a few cleansing techniques that are backed by science. Because of the wave of OTC cleansing programs, the scientific community is trying to discredit the entire concept of cleansing. The Ayurvedic approach to cleansing is one of the few methods backed by good science, but even then unless the cleanse is designed properly it can offer little in the name of long term benefits. For example, the body will store toxins when aspects of digestion break down. Cleansing without fixing the digestive issue will pull the toxins back into the blood stream only to be re-deposited into another fat cell. Understanding how to prepare the body to cleanse and how to gauge the intensity of a cleanse is critical and cannot be accomplished unless the cleanse is designed by an expert. Please read my article citing the research on cleansing techniques backed by science.
Dr. John Douillard, DC
Panchakarma has preparation and rejuvenation phases that are critical for the process to be successful. Without proper preparation mentally and physically the treatments will not be effective. If the rejuvenation period is not honored there can be damage from the process. An experienced practitioner gently guides the individual through this transformative process and suggests herbs and oils specific to the individual’s condition.
Myra Lewin, Ayurvedic Practitioner, ERYT
Hale Pule Ayurveda & Yoga
Ayurveda is a science and not only a science but one that directly touches the human health both physical and mental. That’s why when the procedures of cleansing is concerned, one should know the basic patho-physiology and also should be aware of possible reactions, as we know that when there is action there is reaction. If the performer of the treatment doesn’t know about the basics of human anatomy, physiology and management of any mismanagement then how can he manage? Even I strongly condemn the people dealing with humans in the name of herbal medicine without any authentic degree. I strongly recommend any Ayurveda treatment including basic consultation and herbal recommendation, should be performed under a qualified Ayurveda Consultant. Then we can establish true Ayurveda globally. This is why we need to start Ayurveda Schools globally – to provide the full knowledge of Ayurveda to the person who wants to make his/her career in Ayurveda science.
Dr. Gaurang Joshi, BAMS, MD (Ayurveda, India)
Atharva Multi Specialty Ayurveda Hospital, India
The most important reason to cleanse with a pro is to deepen the experience and the results. Cleansing is about the whole you. The parts you can and can’t see. Its a process of examining and letting go of toxic ways of eating, thinking, and being, all of which contribute to keeping us stuck. It’s an experience of surrender that works best when you can be supported by someone who is compassionate and insightful because it isn’t always easy or straightforward.
Chara Caruthers, Ayurvedic Practitioner, RYT
Bliss Body & Soul
Cleansing the body is an integral part of maintaining one’s health. And although it is a fact, that you know your body better than anyone, it is always wise to consult with professionals in the field of medicine before embarking on this journey. Mild cleansing is definitely something you can do regularly, independently. This can be done best by fasting correctly, and allowing your body to digest any ama (toxic, undigested material) on it’s own. You can further assist the process by consuming digestion-boosting herbal teas made from fresh herbs. This method is highly effective in ridding your body of toxins.
However, as an Ayurvedic Physician, my advice is that, if you do want take the route of Panchkarma (5 Ayurvedic cleansing procedures), it is best to consult an Ayurvedic Physician first. With the extensive knowledge we have gained through trial and error, and study of the Vedic Shastras, we as Physicians can guide you about the proper usage of herbs and medicines needed to detox properly. Every plant/herb/mineral/metal has its side-effects if used incorrectly. And unless, you know the side-effects and antidotes of such dravya’s (materials), embarking on a Panchkarma journey without guidance, is a dangerous and life-threatening endeavor. If for example, excessive Virechana (Purgation therapy) is administered, the body can go into shock from losing vital fluids, putting strain on several organs, especially the heart. Similarly, if Vamana karma (therapeutic emesis) is not done sufficiently, the accumulated Ama circulates around the body, resulting in severe skin conditions and/or fever. Hence, it is imperative that one consults with an experienced Ayurvedic Physician to proceed with a cleansing regimen specific to one’s own Prakruti and Vikruti. Apart from this, the level of Sattva (strength and control of the mind) of a person has to be assessed correctly. Ayurveda is a Holistic Science, that deals with not only cleansing the body, but also purifying the mind and awakening the soul. A cleansing procedure should be done to enhance the quality of life on every level…not just the physical part of our existence.
Doctor Isha, BAMS
Yogic Herbal Healthcare