After a ski trip, my joints ached and my body was inflamed. Because inflammation indicates the immune system is amplified, I knew I needed something. I turned to panchakarma because it reduces the toxic burden and restores balance.
It was March 2021, only one more week of ski season. I was excited to travel to Taos mid-week. I stayed in a bed and breakfast after the first day of skiing. I felt a bit rested from the previous day of skiing, so I went up again for a half-day. It was a sunny, calm day, perfect for skiing.
But as I drove home, I noticed insect bites on my neck. They were so swollen that it looked like I had mumps. I never identified the source, but it was unusual for me to have had such an extreme reaction. I had not been outdoors except high on the mountain. I guessed that the bites happened in the room at the bed and breakfast. They healed but it took about ten days.
I noticed other physical problems manifested from that point on. I felt like there was increased heat in my body. Clearly, my body was experiencing an increased level of inflammation. My left thumb had suddenly developed crystals deposits near one of the joints. They were sore when I touched them. I felt heat around my joints.
FAMILY AUTOIMMUNE ISSUES
My family has a history of autoimmune issues. I lost my 18-year-old sister to the complications of scleroderma when I was about 21 years old. My mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis before she passed in 2018.
For that reason, I have been proactive in my self-care when I notice physical and emotional challenges present in my body and brain respectively. Inflammation is a strong indicator of the immune system is amplified. Our body and brain show signs of the heat/inflammation in different ways.
For the body, swelling and heat around joints may be possible or aches and pains in various larger bones such as the sacrum or hips. Even the muscles can have some heat expressed with tenderness to touch. It is possible to have gut issues with increased heartburn or gastric reflux. Here is where diet is most important from an Ayurvedic perspective.
The brain expresses inflammation more with irritability and mood issues, less ability to focus, and more mental fatigue.
Panchakarma reduces the toxic burden, reduces inflammation and helps to restore the body/brain tissues to a healthier baseline. The risk of developing a more chronic version of an autoimmune phenomenon is lessened. Certainly, the pain, discomfort and swelling are all dissipated through process. So is the irritability, moodiness and mental fatigue.
Panchakarma has been most transformative process for me time and time again, which is why I wrote Cleanse Your Body, Reveal Your Soul, which is about my trek to India for an eight-day intensive cleanse. As my health issues mounted, I found myself wishing I could return to India, but COVID-19 cases were surging there. I started thinking about going in December 2021 and hoping travel issues with COVID-19 would be resolved by then.
Yet as summer approached us in Albuquerque, June brought 100-degree weather with no rain in sight. I was increasingly uncomfortable with the heat. I also had accidentally hit my thumb joint where the crystals had lodged, either when I was gardening or playing with my active 6-year-old grandson. Suddenly, it began to swell and clearly was inflamed. This was most unusual for me and I was concerned.
PANCHAKARMA OPTION BECOMES AVAILABLE
I scheduled an appointment to see Sunil Joshi, MD (Ayu), the Ayurvedic physician whom I have seen at his clinic in India and consult in my book. He came to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to supervise panchakarma at his clinic here. It got word that there was a spot available for me to start panchakarma for one full week, I asked if I could take the spot. He assessed me in the same manner as I describe in my book, Cleanse Your Body, Reveal Your Soul. I got the go-ahead to proceed with the detoxification process.
Typically, I have panchakarma about every 12-18 months. Because traveling to India takes me more off the grid, I prefer to go to India, but the pandemic meant that was not possible.
My assessment by Joshi indicated that my pitta dosha was elevated as indicated by the inflammation in my body and the irritability in my mind. Though this is not uncommon for me, my pitta dosha was elevated at a level he had not seen before. Joshi conducted a pulse diagnosis that aided in affirming the issues with the doshas. He also shared that I had considerable eye fatigue from all the computer work I do.
My vata dosha was also increased as I had shared that my sleep quality had sharply reduced. Though I slept up to six-and-a-half to seven hours a night, I was not feeling as rested as I would have liked.
My agni, the digestive fire, was a bit weakened, which impacted the quality of digestion of food but can impact other parts of the body and mind as well.
Joshi had started me on an herbal regimen and on the day of our consult, he made changes to support me for the several days of panchakarma.
To start the eight-day process, I canceled a week of work to be on medical leave. I was grateful that I could take the time off and had the resources to do so.
CHANGES EXPERIENCED DURING THE WEEK
Quickly, I noticed many physical shifts in my body and brain to support the reduction of inflammation. I felt less irritable, calmer internally.
I felt less mental agitation at the completion of first day of my treatment-specific protocol. I did receive shirodhara that day and five more times that week. This can be a very effective way to calm down the active mind.
Other bodywork included the whole-body massage with oil and then gentle steam applied to push the oil more into the body. As my blood pressure was not elevated, I had the steam box for about five minutes or so to further support detoxification.
The inflammation around my left thumb joint calmed down with the application of a poultice of herbs cooked in sesame oil then wrapped in lots of gauze so as to not leak out. It looked like I had cut my thumb, once the bandage was complete. I had this done twice.
In addition, I had one eye treatment which is called netra basti. Warmed, melted ghee was gently placed into each eye after applying a house-made dough around each eye. This holds the oil in place. I opened and closed my eyes often as part of the cleanse. It really helps to detox the eyes but can be intense the first time you do it.
I began to sleep well during that week as my mind had settled down so quickly. I reduced my electronic exposure to very little time except for essential communications. I did not turn on the television at all. I was in bed by 9:30 p.m. and up with the sun.
After my morning meditation, I walked every morning by 7 a.m. or earlier as the days had been so hot by 10 a.m. I used a simple yoga practice and practiced breathwork for about twenty minutes once to twice a day.
Except for breakfast (fruit or oatmeal, depending on my hunger level), the meals were provided by the clinic. Supportive and nourishing, the meals were simple. Vegan with spices of turmeric, coriander and mustard seed cooked in ghee, the basmati rice, vegetables and dal soup calmed my stomach as well.
THE BIG RELEASE
I could feel a difference in my whole being, even before the big release called virechana on day eight.
My mind was calmer as was my body. I experienced less heat in my body. I felt little to no discomfort in my affected joints. I was challenged with mid- to low back pain but had less pain toward the end of the week.
Joshi assessed me again on the seventh day to see if I could proceed with virechana. I had made enough of the necessary changes that week to be able to move forward with the last procedure.
He gave me an herb to take about two hours after my last meal that evening. I slept for about five hours, then I was awakened with the need to have a bowel movement. The flush and release from the liver and gallbladder began. It went well with the release from my bowels. I was able to sleep some into the early morning.
Joshi saw me around 10 a.m. the next day. I had a remarkable shift in a good way with my pitta and vata doshas. I knew this as I already could feel the difference as he shared the good news with me.
As I write this blog about a month later, I have no more back pain. I am able to practice my more active form of yoga. My dietary choices are more careful and in line with what I need this time of year. My sleep is restful and deeper. The inflammation in my body has been quelled.
This is just a mini-tour of what I share in my book, Cleanse Your Body, Reveal Your Soul. Check it out! On Audible or Amazon, Bookworks (my local bookstore in Albuquerque), Target, Barnes and Noble. This experience can be yours as well. Tailored to your needs.