Basics of Panchkarma

Panchakarma is the ancient system of Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapies designed to facilitate the removal of deep rooted stresses and impurities in the physiology. It is recommended on a seasonal basis to maintain and promote well being in healthy people, and when needed, to restore balance in those suffering illness.

Our bodies are governed by their own unique rhythms and the rhythms of the environment such as weather patterns and seasonal changes. They also respond to what we put into them, and the situations and circumstances in which we live and work. Toxicity can come from our food, our relationships, our environment, even from our own thought patterns. Over time, possibly many years, unless we consciously work to lessen those experiences there is a build up of toxicity at all levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Panchakarma is the process by which we can purify and lessen the degenerating influences of those experiences and toxic materials. It has to be said though that receiving or undergoing those therapies or treatments will be more successful and effective if consideration and thought is given to one's life style generally.

Panchakarma works to provide this by using oils to suit a specific body type. By removing those toxins it allows the body to come into balance thus encouraging the body's own rejuvenating and healing ability to do the rest.

Panchakarma therapies consist of a variety of soothing and nourishing procedures aimed at restoring balance and harmony in the body. Panchakarma means five actions. Traditionally a few days of Panchakarma and Ayurvedic therapies are recommended at the change of the season. This helps to eliminate the accumulation of a specific dosha.

Tri Doshas

Doshas are three vital energies that we call body types. Each dosha is a combination of two of the five great elements. Fire, water, earth, space and air. Everything according to Ayurveda is composed of these five great elements. They are everywhere and all things. They are constantly changing and interacting. A change in one of the elements affects all the others. The three doshas (body types) are: Vata, governed by space and air; Pitta governed by fire and water; Kapha governed by water and earth. Vata is the principle of movement. Pitta is the principle of transformation. Kapha the principle of structure, cohesion and lubrication.

Poorva Karma

Poorva Karma, Preparatory Procedures, is designed to prepare the body for elimination of imbalances. It is in two parts Snehana or oleation and Swedna, heat treatment which is also used as an Ayurvedic massage treatment. Ayurveda says pure herbalised oils are able to permeate the cells and tissues and encourage the release of stored toxins.


Carefully controlled vomiting. It is traditionally used to clear impurities in the stomach and excess in Kapha doshas, such as asthma, bronchitis, sinus congestion. The stomach is a major site for Kapha in the physiology and cleansing of this area as it reduces ama (toxins).


Which means purgation. Using laxatives to clear out impurities from the small intestine, a major site for Pitta and, therefore, an effective treatment for removing ama that is associated with Pitta accumulation. It is not recommended that laxatives are taken on a regular basis as they can create laziness in elimination.


The administration of herbalised enemas to cleanse and establish the correct function of the large intestines is ideal for excess of Vata associated ama. Basti is different from enemas and purgation in that it does not deplete the system of digestive juices and can be used to nourish the system as well as purifying it. Basti preserves the body's vitality and prevents an imbalance (a Vata aggravation). Due to emptiness in the organs care should be taken when eating – small meals of solid food before a basti and light meals of hot substances such as Mung Dal soup after the procedure. Again basti given to someone without proper preparation can aggravate the doshas and fail to eliminate ama from the patient, and sometimes cause pain and weakness.


Application of herbalised substances through the nasal passages. This helps to clear impurities from the head. To begin with vigorous head/neck massage, and then herbalised oil gently introduced to each nostril. This helps chronic sinus congestion and rhinitis. Conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and headaches can also be relieved by he appropriate application of a Nasya.

Rakta Mokshana

The blood cleaning therapy. Historically this has involved the removal of small quantities of blood. Now the principles of this purification procedure are used in natural herbal formulas. According to Ayurveda, blood letting can be done to all parts of the body according to our needs. However, Rakta is rarely used now in the West.

Abhyanga Massage

This is a unique herbalised warm oil massage that covers the body head to toe. It is administered by two therapists in synchronicity. The abhyanga is a process of complete oleation. Oil is systematically worked over the body and into the skin so that it is absorbed through the pores of the skin. The oil works its way in to the cells of the body by loosening toxins and purifying.
The oils are prepared individually with herbs to enhance their therapeutic effects. These oils promote secretions, penetrate to the deepest levels and while doing so will encourage:

  1. The tissues to loosen accumulated toxins.
  2. Movement of toxins to the gastrointestinal tract and towards the surface (the skin) so they are eliminated.
  3. Movement of obstructions in energy channels and tissues.
  4. Lubrication and protection of tissues during this process.
  5. Nourishment and relaxation that enhances healing.


In this treatment soothing warm oil is poured in a gentle stream on to the forehead. This is profoundly relaxing as it works to calm and pacify the central nervous system, stilling the mind and senses. This allows stress to be relaxed and so enhance natural healing. Duration of the treatment is about 20 minutes, and it can bring clarity of mind and comprehension.


This is herbalised steam therapy. The heat of the steam helps to relieve tension and allows toxins that have been loosened beneath the skin to be "sweated out".


This is a thorough head, face and neck massage followed by herbalised steam to face, heat packs and herbal drops to nasal passages to clear congestion and improve mental clarity. Oiling the nasal passages helps to promote secretions that remove toxins, provides nourishment to tissues and also has a soothing and calming effect.

Other treatments include

Herbal Dusting

This uses specific herbs being rubbed into the body after any abhyanga or vishes. These are left on the body for 15-20 minutes, then removed using hot towel wraps.

Marma Therapy

This uses essential oils and light massage over specific points (marmas) on the body. This promotes balance at more subtle levels of mind and body.


More by :  Dr. Anuj Rohilla

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