Panchakarma cleansing treatments are also done seasonally because the change of the season automatically increases certain doshas. For example, in the fall, pitta energy is very high, so Ayurveda recommends undergoing purging. In early spring, we do emesis to remove mucus and phlegm. When it rains and the temperature comes down significantly, we have people undergo a course of enemas to control vata.
Virechana is an orally administered, herb-induced purgative treatment that moves acidic secretions and impurities (ama) from the pitta regions (mainly the blood, liver, gall-bladder and small intestines) to the rectum. There are many herbs that may be used for this treatment but castor oil is often the purgative of choice as it is relatively mild and produces the desired effect in most healthy adults. Any physical or mental activity, which would draw energy away from the gastrointestinal tract, is contraindicated during this process as this severely limits its cleansing effects.
After undergoing Panchakarma treatments it is imperative that we graduate slowly back to a ’normal’ lifestyle; hopefully with some healthy additions. This ensures that the delicate state of the nervous system at this time is not over-stimulated, the tissues are able to re-build themselves properly and energy levels rise sufficiently to cope with the increase in metabolism necessary for everyday activities. Failing to do this can lead to a drain in energy levels and an increased strain on the immune system — and we end up feeling worse than we did before.
Small linen bags filled with specially-prepared herbal mixtures are applied locally to relieve pain. An additional major role in this therapy is played by the highly effective Maharishi Ayurveda herbal oils which are specially selected by the doctor for the parts of the body that are painful. The effect of the herbal extracts is to relieve the pain, and to relax and build up the affected area.
If there are less than three or four bowel movements this indicates that ama was not fully eliminated from the small intestine and virechana therapy needs repeating. If the cleansing is incomplete there may sometimes be feelings of bloating or hardness in the abdomen, itching on the skin, a metallic taste in the mouth, or nausea in the stomach due to the retention of gas, feces, toxins and waste products in the small intestines. Ginger tea will help reduce these sensations as will a warm hot-water bottle over the abdomen. Once the bowel movements become completely liquid they may contain some mucus. This indicates that the small intestine has been emptied and mucus from the stomach and the Kapha areas of the body is starting to come out. Once all the ama, waste material and toxins have been expelled from the small intestine the purging process ceases and the urge to evacuate naturally subsides. The body now feels stronger, clearer and revitalized.
The final preparation of rice and lentils is called Kichari and this diet is adhered to throughout the whole course of Panchakarma treatments. Kichari is very nourishing, easy to digest, provides complete and balanced nutrition, and is suitable for all types of the constitution as it balances all three doshas. It strengthens all seven tissues (dhatus) and aids the detoxification process. It is therefore also recommended during any period of illness, detoxification or rejuvenation process. The length of time spent on this diet depends on the digestive capacity and is usually determined by the inherent Ayurvedic constitution.
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