I don’t know about you, but when I finish a project my goal is to relax to the best of my ability. That could be through chilling out at my favorite hangout, traveling off the beaten track or some sort of spa treatment. However, I think I may have found the holy grail of relaxation…it’s called Panchakarma treatment.
This treatment goes beyond relaxation though, it centers on detoxification and rejuvenation.
I discovered Panchakarma purely by accident during my business trip to India. I had always planned to do the yoga and meditation (what India is famous for after all) after my trip but only found out about the Panchakarma aspect after talking to colleagues.
And I’m glad I did.
What Exactly is Panchakarma Treatment?
It’s an ayurvedic way of holistic healing through a gentle servicing of the whole body, by using a variety of herbs and oils.
After a 60 hour/ 6-day week project for nearly a year, it’s just what the (Ayurvedic) doctor ordered.
There are some real benefits for taking this specialized treatment:
- Improvement of functions of sense organs, mind and intellect
- Remission of disease, perputation of good health and slow process of ageing
- Ensures normal body weight and figure
- Improves skin and body complexion
- Increases gastric fire for better digestion
- Ensures, co-ordination of mind, body and soul
My daily routine looks something like this:
I’ll break down the routine later in the post.
Where Exactly is This Panchakarma Treatment Centre?
Most of these treatment centers are nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, not too far from the sacred river Ganga. The one I went to in particular was in Parmarth Niketan Ashram, in Rishikesh (the gateway to the Himalayas).
It’s in the Uttarakhand state, which is the 27th state of India. It’s the holiest of Hindu pilgrimage spots, hence is a popular wellness destination.
If you wanted to sample one of these treatments, you could fly into Chandigarh, Dehradun (Jolly Grant Airport) or Delhi. From there, you could arrange a driver, train or bus.
They do 1, 2, 3 and 4-week packages. I’ve taken the 1-week package.
When Should You Go to Rishikesh?
Ideally around March, as it’s not too warm. Here’s a list of the 4 seasons:
- Summer (from March to May)
- Rainy season (June to September)
- Autumn season (from October to November)
- Winter season (from December to February)
For more insight on the seasons in India, go here.
Panchakarma Treatment Routine
I arrived in the evening, just in time for my Ayurveda session. This consisted of Abhayanga, which is a type of body massage. Each Abhayanga session always starts with a neck and head massage and progresses to the rest of the body. This lasts about an hour.
Followed by the Shiro Dhara, which is the famous head oil treatment. It was the first time receiving such a treatment and I was really impressed. Such a strange sensation, as it almost didn’t feel like oil. It was extremely soothing and lulled me into a deep sleep.
From the background and through the fly screens, you could hear the chitter chatter of the crowded streets and some chanting. But that just added to the ambiance.
I felt like a zombie at his stage and was fully relaxed.
But there was one more treatment to go. The Swedan, or what is known as the old fashioned steam box. The steam removed the oils naturally from the body and cleansed the pores.
Breakfast consisted of poha, jaggery (raw sugar, kind of like honey) and coriander chile sauce.
Polished off with a ginger tea and bottle of water.
I met a young family from Uttar Pradesh at breakfast, who were curious about my presence. They were hungry for knowledge, as in what subjects to study at University, what I thought of their culture etc. I was more than happy to lend a hand.
I went through the same Ayurveda treatments as the day before and came out even more relaxed.
From Day 2, I started drinking Ghrit Pan after my Ayurveda sessions. This was tea with Ghee. What’s Ghee? It’s a buttery like substance that’s used in Indian dishes. But in this instance, it was used to prep my insides. Lubricate them if you like, for the cleansing of the liver and colon (Day 4).
No change in the Ayurveda session today.
Re the steam box, I did a bit more digging on how this thing actually operates.
There were no fancy switches or automated controls. Just a gas canister with gate valve, which fueled a pilot light on a burner. Which in turn heated the water to create steam. The steam was transported along an old silicone hose which fed a copper pipe with sparge holes, which ran along the base of the steam box. Voila!
That’s the engineer coming out in me now.
Part of the treatment is to become one with nature and the environment. I headed down to the river Ganga most mornings to practice yoga or watch the world go by. I even took a dip myself.
Lots of families jumped in with all their clothes on, to take a bath. A spiritual one.
Today was the first time I never received the head oil treatment, although there was extra time in the old steam box.
After the Ayurveda session, I was given a consultation by the Ayurvedic doctor with respect to the next treatment. It was all about Virechan today.
Virechan aids in cleaning the liver and colon. So, I received my ayurvedic medicine which consists of some strange concoction of hot milk, oil, and herbs. Must admit, it actually tasted ok. Then I had to take some other form of medicine (crushed brown magic pill…name wasn’t revealed).
The magic potion took a few hours to take effect, but I was nearly caught out. I ran back to the guest house. Yes, this special ayurvedic medicine was taking effect.
I was weak as a kitten today. With the 24 hour fasting, no air conditioning in the room (fan was allowed) and 40 deg C heat, I thought I was going to collapse. A warm environment is a good thing for panchakarma treatment apparently. No pain, no gain!
I caught plenty of monkeys at the ashram, causing havoc or just…monkeying around.
It was all about Ubatan today. I was given a mustard seed oil rub which was extremely invigorating. I looked like a poppyseed baguette by the end of it.
After sweating off the mustard seed oil in the steam box, I was then exposed to a whole array of various ayurvedic treatments.
I lay back on the treatment table and Karna was used to cleanse my ears, whilst Nasyam was used to cleanse my nose. They used a particular solution called prandhara for the nose. It literally means flow of life.
They then cleansed my face with a lotion where I perched my head above a steaming hot bowl, with a towel over my head.
The session ended when I was told to inhale the vapor from this flaming, orange powder (Turmeric). It has antioxidant properties and cleaned out the sinuses.
For dinner, the meal consisted of chapati (roti) and Dahl. If you were banking on a juicy steak, then you were bang out of luck. It’s a vegetarian diet only for the week in Ashram (including 7 days after the retreat).
It was all about Netra Tarpm today where the eyes were treated to a thorough cleanse. Nearly all the senses were addressed at this stage.
At the end of each day, you can head down for the Ganga Asti, where you can witness the popular ritual of lights, to honor the holy river. There’s lots of chanting, singing and a great celebration of God.
The ritual is more or less broken into 3 stages:
1. Hawan – This is where herbs are placed on fire, where they are thought to cleanse the soul
2. Monkey God – Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, is one of the most celebrated and worshiped figures in Indian religion. Time is dedicated to worship this great figure
3. Arati Song – This is where hundreds of people sing together, an arati song. A song dedicated for the Mother Ganges, where hundreds of lamps and incense sticks are lit and hundreds of marigolds are set to sail down the river Ganga.
Last day. Today was all about Basti, in layman’s terms…an enema (and a quick sprint to the toilet).
I was given a final consultation by the ayurvedic doctor and advised to take specific Ayurvedic medicine for my well-being. To be specific, a prior annual health check picked up on the fact that my creatinine levels were borderline for my liver.
Hence, Day 4 addressed this and some surplus ayurvedic medicine was purchased to remediate this ailment.
All in all, it was a very worthwhile week and I feel like a new man. It was a time of reflection and a cleansing of the body, mind, and soul.
I ended the week’s retreat with a traditional wet shave, alfresco style. I was given the whole shebang. Moisturizer for the face, aftershave, head and eyeball massage. All for 20 rupees. 24 whole pence! It’s what you call grooming arbitrage. Needless to say, I left a large tip.
Panchakarma Treatment Cost
There are a ton of panchakarma treatment centers in India. This is the one I went to, however, you are very much spoilt for choice with all these other panchakarma facilities.
It cost me $400 for the whole week. That includes accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner and of course panchakarma treatments every day. Excellent value. My experience was a slightly rustic one, but amazing all the same. There are more 5* versions if you that’s your thing.
If you’ve experienced a really heavy project or just lived an exuberant life, then this retreat could be your answer. It’s a time to reflect what’s important in life and a time to start taking care of your body and mind. If you couple the panchakarma with an annual health screening, they will perfectly compliment one another.
Now I would like to hear from you.
Has anyone tried this amazing treatment? Or does anyone have any questions?
Let us know in the comments…