Charaka says of all the treatments in Ayurveda Basti comprises the main component. By cleansing the colon and then applying herbal medicines there that nourish and heal the colon and improve its absorptive power we nourish the entire body. Charaka gives the analogy of nourishing a tree by its roots to get good flower, leaves and fruit.
Coming from a medical family and deeply inspired by my fathers beautiful work as a doctor, I had long a childhood wish to help all around me be relieved of the suffering caused from disease. This quest lead me to spend a number of years with my close friend and mentor Dr. Udo Ehrenfeld, a renowned and award winning medical researcher and humanitarian born in the same village as Albert Einstein. During my working with Dr. Ehrenfeld in the field of immunology with particular focus on cancer, I realized how in our modern world, despite the advancement of our medical technology so to speak, there was very little progress, and sure treatments for chronic diseases. Always there was a voice within me inspiring me to look deeper and deeper and so to speak unpeel the layers to get to the source of understanding disease and it's treatment.
After much research into many medical systems from Japan, Mexico to Peru and the Amazon, I finally encountered the ancient system of medicine borne of ancient India called Ayurveda.
In 1999 I began to personally study Ayurveda with a brilliant teacher and friend who had been introduced to this science many years before, in India, under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who has done wonders to bring the best of Ayurveda to the West since the 1980's. As I dived deeper and discovered more, I realized the vast potential of Ayurveda and practically how little of it's secrets are presently being practiced in today's world.
Every medical scientist dreams to find 'cures' so to speak and in Ayurveda there is a complete system and philosophy that offers a route for treatment and often complete removal of a disease at it's very roots for all pathologies. Even diseases that cannot be adequately understood in the modern model can be well understood with Ayurvedic diagnostic methods. For disease to exist there must be disequilibrium in the bodily systems. Ayurvedic treatment is based upon understanding the nature of the imbalance within the physiology and then taking the appropriate corrective action.
Panchakarma is pinnacle of Ayurveda and after researching and experiencing this first hand, I realized that this procedure of purifying and rejuvenating the body using an exact and scientific process of drawing impurities from deep within body tissues, then eliminating them, could offer profound and immediate healing for so many cases. I witnessed this in the many clinics I visited where Panchakarma was being performed correctly and sagaciously. I witnessed many cases which would take weeks or months with other systems of treatment, completely cured in no time. Panchakarma ingeniously removes the fundament of diseases and subsequently health flourishes anew.
Below I describe some of the detailed encounters and discoveries I had. It is my deep wish to share this with the world and to engage people and resources so that this wisdom can become globally available once more.
PANCHAKARMA - THE NECTAR OF AYURVEDA
Many years fore I read the book entitled 'Ayurveda and Panchakarma' by Dr. Sunil Joshi of Nagpur. For the first time there was a book in English which dove deep into the very essence of Ayurvedic treatment and it's profound rejuvanative and curative therapy known as Panchakarma. This book reawakened a deep awareness within me that Panchakarma is the core component of Ayurveda and sadly in today's world, for the most part, lesser known.
India still has scores of Panchakarma centres but a large number of these are aimed for the affluent tourist market only without respect to the traditional requirements of Panchakarma and most importantly the preparatory and postparatory procedures.
Panchakarma is delicate art and needs an experienced Vaidya (Ayurvedic physician) to guide and oversee the patient every step of the way. Diseases are the product of many factors and aam or toxins in various parts of the body are a fundamental common thread. If one were to take a sampling of chronic disease cases from arthritis to cancer one would find aam as the singular common thread. Panchakarma ingeniously uses the bodies own wisdom to encourage the release of aam and thus renew and clean the body very deeply. I was exceptionally amazed when after performing my first Virechanna (therapeutic purgation), that Dr. Rajashi Metha identified the green tinge in what was being purged from my body as the result of anti-biotics which I had last taken more than 5 years prior. Panchakarma's processes encourage the gentle release of these toxins from where they have accumulated in the body (this will vary from disease to disease and patient to patient) and finally once mobilized they are eliminated from the body. The increase in clarity, youth, vitality and energy becomes noticeable within some hours of the initial purgation, while despite being initially weak, one feels a calmness and clarity that is quiet immeasurable.
When I've studied Ayurvedic classical texts like Charaka Samhita, I've noticed that in the context of Charaka, Panchakarma procedures were very commonly performed as the first line of treatment when a disease had started to appear in the body. It is the wish of Vedic Society to nurture and promote awareness of Panchakarma and also help people to find a means to perform this procedure in their lifetimes so that by purifying ourselves, we become higher expressions of goodness and vitality.
AYUSHAKTI - MUMBAI
In the year past in India and Nepal I visited many Panchakarma centres and each was unique in their own expression. There are two that stood out and I will recommend them here for those seeking somewhere to perform complete Panchakarma.
The first was Ayushakti in Mumbai. Ayushakti is the inspiration of Dr. Pankaj and Dr. Smita Naram who are both exceptional and renowned Vaidyas. What stands out is the profound attention to detail and also the affordability of the Panchakarma treatments at Ayushakti. I personally experienced my first complete treatments there and meeting with scores of people who had been through the process, I noted that the quality of doctors, herbs and knowledge are superb and without compromise.
Ayushakti is located in a suburb of Mumbai which as a modern Indian city is not always the most conducive to purifying ones body but the positive of this is the accessibility and also the amazing architecture and location of Ayushakti itself. Dr. Naram had used Vaastu Shastra for the construction and much attention to natural materials and this tends to insulate one from Mumbai. Once in the side lane where Ayushakti resides and walking in the door, one enters a world of vibrant wisdom and health.
At Ayushakti I met with Lenny Blank who I had know as a key person in bringing Ayurveda to the USA in the forms of Vasant Lad, Sunil Joshi and many others and Lenny was at the same time undergoing Panchakarma there, I took this as a fine concordance that the quality was superb.
What really impacted me deeply was the expertise of Dr. Raja Shri Metha who is the Vaidya in charge of Panchakarma at Ayushakti. She is a very wise, gentle and pure soul and her love and compassion are very much present as she spends time with you each day monitoring most importantly your pulse and your progress. The pulse reveals all the information of the state of the mind and body and Dr. Metha uses the pulse like a modern doctor might use a very advanced machine, she monitors the patient and gently steers the treatment in the direction it needs to go.
For people seeking to experience the dramatic effect of Panchakarma be there a serious illness or just a wish to houseclean your body, I highly recommend a visit to Ayushakti.
The second Panchakarma centre I wish to mention is the Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre founded by my good friend Dr. Talavane Krishna. IVAC is indeed a centre of palatial expressions and it is set on a magnificent piece of land overlooking the Mysore countryside and the ancient Lalita palace of Mysore. The place is silent and nature is vibrant and in constant song at IVAC. In terms of setting IVAC could not be beaten for part of Panchakarma is to take deep rest and besides undergo methodical purificationary treatments, to reconnect with nature and the natural rhythms within us.
Dr. Krishna, the founder has been a deep spiritual practitioner through his life and when I met him upon my invitation that he come give Vaastu Shastra workshops in Cape Town, I knew that his depth and spiritual insights were a precious treasure for this world. Besides becoming my first Vaastu Shastra teacher which lead me to much further research and studies in this light, Dr. Krishna also shared with me how he had taken his vision of creating an ideal Ayurvedic centre in India to reality. We had looked seaward across the Atlantic, standing on Table Mountain and I saw how his talk of IVAC lit his eyes.
So when I arrived at IVAC after some weeks in the buzz of Bangalore, it was as if I was a nomad long in the desert without waters, finding a pristine oasis. I was deeply touched at the vast attention to detail that was played out in every aspect of IVAC. Firstly the land was a very fertile, green, living space that had good natural Vaastu due to it gently sloping to the North-East and also having Chyamundee Hill to the South creating stability, prosperity and peace. I know Dr. Krishna had searched long for the ideal land to construct his dream upon.
All buildings had been designed with perfect consideration of the science of Vaastu Shastra as practiced by Dr. Krishna and taught to him by his Guru Mr. Reddy, a renowned Vaastu practitioner from the region. The peace is immediately noticeable.
Every other factor has been done with similar awareness, from the detailed and expert training of the staff to the very sattvik Ayurvedic cuisine which is lovingly served each day in the dinning hall. The doctors are professional and very knowledgeable. I was particularly touched by a young female doctor, who had recently completed her studies and I found her compassion and wisdom very notable.
So many more things I could details such as the construction of the wooden Ayurvedic massage tables, which had been made out of a single piece of wood specially imported from Burma and constructed on site. The pure copper bath tubs. The amazing fragrant in-house post massage scrub powder which seems to transport one into a sensory never-world.
The highlight for me was my first experience of Pizzichil, a South Indian treatment for balancing and nourishing the body, especially Vata. At IVAC I proceeded to be poured and massaged with hot medicinal oil for no less than an hour and a half by 6 men. This transported me into a deep state of oneness and tranquility that prevailed long after I departed from IVAC.
What came to mind clearly when at IVAC is that in the West we have a culture to take a holiday so to speak but rarely do we think of taking our body on holiday. Panchakarma or even the rejuvenative massage and steaming procedures in themselves, combined with a balanced diet, are truly a holiday for the body.
If someone is looking for somewhere to rest deeply, reconnect and discover a level of peace within and without and the true ancient heart of India, then I would deeply recommend a visit to IVAC.
One final note is a special recognition for IVAC's guest manager named Vinita who is an exceptional human being and went always completely over all imaginable levels of service and care and love to please the guests.