The Panchakarma Experience – Part V – The Final Days

As I head into the last phase of the panchakarma I am doing specific cleansing procedures with Dr. Sujatha every other day. They are the emesis, purgation, enema and nasya. These procedures are very gentle. They usually start with a herbal concoction that I drink or a pill that I swallow that has the desired effect to get my body to release toxins from specific areas.

For this last phase the massage treatments have changed.  I have a 40 minute massage called a Pizhychil. As I lie on a slanted wooden table,  some warm special sesame and herbal blended oil continuously flows over my body and is  combined with a soothing massage. This rejuvenating therapy counteracts stress and promotes positive health by balancing the doshas, correcting flow of prana (energy) and blood. Two massage therapists pour cups full of warm sesame oil all over me. I am so slippery during these treatments I can’t even roll over or get off the table without help from them.  It’s followed by a shirodara treatment which is a steady stream of warm coconut oil gently poured over my forehead.

In the treatment room

One night right after this treatment I dreamt I was at party completely naked, except for these cute stilletos shoes, and my skin was glistening.  I was glowing as I walked through the room completely confident in my body. I went out the front door onto the street to look for a friend who was arriving and as I walked through the doors I became aware I was naked. I subtly began to worry what people might think seeing me naked on the street, so I confidently looked around for my friend and then headed back inside to join the party.

I’m waking up in the morning literally feeling like I am shedding old skin, as if I am releasing an old body with emotions and reactions attached to it. With that layer gone, it’s as if I can feel it floating in the room, or it’s topsoil that was removed and discarded to plant the new garden.

At this stage I’m also moving back to solid food for breakfast and lunch. Moving on from kitcheree and soup. When this ends in the next two days, I’ll be moving into a house where I can cook a few meals for myself and gently move into going to restaurants and eating meat and fish. What I’ve learned from this is the balance of avoiding certain foods when I’m feeling a certain way, take into consideration the weather, how I’m feeling and what time of year it is. I’ll start to avoid certain foods like, bananas, peanuts, yogurt & milk. They just don’t agree with my constitution. Other things I love I may not have as often, but I’ll have them every so often. Things like ice cream I’m not giving up…I just have to watch when I have it and pay attention to how I’m feeling.

I’m  learning to live and eat according to what agrees with my constitution and understanding what doesn’t work. Then continuing to work with my body when I feel out of balance to bring myself back in harmony. It takes time but anything is possible. After this my friend Sara comes to visit and then after her stay I head off to do a 5 week yoga and Ayurveda retreat in mountains. That’s where a lot of this will really start to stick. In between that I plan to practice some balance with Sara Schor…a few drinks out…some dessert…balance in all things and anything is possible. Even walking through a party totally naked except for a hot pair of stiletto shoes and feeling totally confident.

“Oily” with Dr. Sujatha

The Panchakarma Experience – Part IV – Gardening

Doing a Panchakarma can be compared to gardening. I was thinking about this the other day and then Dr. Sujatha made the same analogy before a treatment. When you have a new garden, the dry top soil needs to be turned over, raked and cleared of debris & old leaves, so you can get to the rich, nutrient soil below. You rake dead leaves, remove rocks and turn the soil with a spade. In the interest of harvesting whatever you plant, you’ll want to improve the texture and structure of your soil.

The Ghee, the herbs, massage treatments with oil and steaming help loosen all the toxins in the body. The various enema’s and purging’s flush out all the physical toxins. With that flushing I felt experiences surface that I have been holding on to and emotions that have been stuck inside me. Simultaneously, the treatments cleanse my major organs, and replace and lubricate the flora and fauna in my body.

I found the physical aspect of taking medication to vomit and taking enema’s to clear my large intestine and other organs very gentle compared to some of the emotions that came up with each of those treatments. There were some mornings where I just woke up angry at someone or something that had happened in the past. Like I just couldn’t let go of it, and I was really clear about what made me so mad and hurt. Instead of feeling like, “poor me” or “I don’t want to bother that person with my feelings because they are having a hard time”, it felt like, “Fuck you… I need to tell you right now exactly how much that hurt my feelings and exactly the way in which you do that and how you continue to do that. Once I do, it is not my problem anymore it is yours. I don’t care what you’re going through. Fuck off.”

 It was fascinating… I didn’t have any big crying jags or melt downs, instead I was intensely pissed off for a couple of days about very specific things that I wrote about. I had to get it out. There was no way I could ignore my feelings. I’ve know this for a long time and I’m working on it because I need to cry more when I’m hurt. I get angry first and it sticks. Pema Chodron describes this defensiveness beautifully when she talks about vulnerability. She says

” Without realizing it, we continually put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt. These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy and arrogance.
But fortunately for us, the soft spot – our innate ability to love and care about these things – is like a crack in these walls we erect. It’s a natural opening in the barriers we create when we’re afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment – love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy – to awaken bodhichitta.”

I’m learning to go beneath the anger and look at the emotions that are there because that’s where my vulnerability lies. It’s hard and there are things I don’t want to look at and deep feelings that I have dismissed for a long time. Emotions that my family has certainly dismissed through the years. More than likely because of their own vulnerabilities. In some ways it feels like digging up the past, but it also seems that’s the way to till the soil to plant the new garden.

The Panchakarma Experience – Part III – Putu

Evenings are quiet in Nyuh Kuning. Usually after an early dinner I’ll take a walk along the a darkly lit but safe road to the village Temple and then walk back to the hotel to read.

With Wayan before Yoga
Once the first 5 days were over and I had ingested all the Ghee, my massage treatments started to included steaming. After oleating the body externally and internally, herbal steaming opens the minute channels in the body, to loosen toxins from its original site and to encourage them to flow to the digestive tract and to some extent also the skin. I sat in what I considered to be a make shift sauna so I could sweat out all the toxins. When I say “make shift sauna”, I’m talking about a large wooden box that I would sit in and sweat, with my head sticking out and the box holding all the steam. I’ve been told that this is a traditional steam box. (I just made that term up) They have these in Ayurvedic clincs in India. Ketut puts me in the box after my treatments and says, “and now I’m going to cook you. Untuk makam malam. (for dinner)”. I sit in the wooden box for as long as I can and sweat. 


I moved from the Garden View to the Puri Asri Hotel across the road. The room is much prettier and the bathroom is nicer. As they say in Bali, you have to take the good with the bad, and on my first night it seems I was sharing my room with the biggest, furriest spider I have ever seen in my life. I looked up on the wall and there she was, big and fuzzy, just sitting there, waiting to greet me. Grabbing my camera I managed to get a couple of quick pictures. I turned for a second because the phone rang and when I turned back she was gone. I decided to name her Putu.


The next day I went to the front desk to show them the picture of Putu and said sweetly, “this  was in my room last night when I moved in.”

The reply was, ” Oh – Balinese spider. Good if you grill it, cook it up and add some sauce, tasty, ya?”

 I said, “You want me to grill it and eat it??”

“Ya”, he said, ” Very good Balinese spider, not dangerous.”

I stood there half laughing and half surprised by his response, but not really.

“Okay,  if she comes back can I call you to remove her?” I asked.

“Ya, Ya, sure. No problem, tida apa apa. Take photos for your wall, big Balinese spiders” and he made the universal gesture of photographs on the wall with his hands.

I wasn’t that amused because it was Day 6, I had just started my period, had a long steaming in the box and was really feeling light headed and weak. The staff at Puri Asri were sweet, Indonesian style, and also a bunch of teenagers. When I asked any one of them for something, they’d say, “Ya, ya”, then 30 minutes later I’d have to ask again. Then 45 minutes later someone else would come back and want me to remind him of what I asked for in the first place. A hotel run by teenagers. My room was  pretty, but came with terminates (now that i know what the “sand on the floor” means), rampant mosquitoes and a large Balinese spider I named Putu.

The Panchakarma Experience Part II – Ghee

Medicated Ghee & herbs

The first 5 days begin with medicated Ghee. 2 tablespoons on Day 1, then 4 tablespoons on Day 2 and increase by 2 until we’re up to 10 tablespoons on day 5 and the jar is empty. The Ghee helps to increase the digestive fire, thus it increases the metabolism. Yoga classes help stimulate the digestion of the Ghee and the detoxing process. Once my whole body is saturated with Ghee, certain signs will tell us that the toxins have to be moved from its deeper site to the surface and brought out of my body. When my skin, hair and whole body feel oily and the Dr. can see it, she’ll know the Ghee has soaked into my system. That’s something to look forward to!

The upside of the first five days are the 2 daily massage treatments at the clinic. I’m receiving  Abhyanga and Shirodara treatments every day from Putu and Ketut, the therapists at the clinic. Abhyanga is a massage using warm sesame oil mixed with herbs that is massaged all over my body for about 45 minutes. The Shirodara uses warm coconut oil and herbs and is gently dripped on my forehead for about 45 minutes. The effect is to relax my mind and open my third eye. It usually makes me fall asleep it’s so peaceful.

Garam Masala (Curry Powder)

A nice surprise from the alone time happened when I arrived for yoga one day and found a group of people leaving with Dr. Sujatha. She was holding an Ayurvedic cooking class at her family compound near the clinic. I was invited to join and it was a really nice afternoon. For one thing I got a full meal, so that was exciting. She showed us how she makes Kitcheree (since I’m eating it every day that was helpful), zucchini soup, a beetroot dish, 2 different chutneys and dal. They were delicious. She has a large herb garden so she’s able to grow most of the herbs she cooks with. She makes her own garam masala, curry powder, and I got to watch her make spices from scratch. Amazing.

Heading back to my room at the Garden View Hotel, I got sidetracked in a conversation Ketut, who works at the reception desk. He was looking for someone to talk to and since I don’t have much to do, I learned quite a bit from our talk. 
Turns out the “sand on the floor of my room” I ask him to sweep up daily, is actually from the ceiling because there are really bad termites. Then, I got to hear the whole story about how the owner died in the last year and his son has taken over the hotel and refuses to spend money on upgrades and isn’t very nice to the staff. 
The clinic booked this hotel for me and tomorrow I’ll be moving to another hotel across the road that clinic also booked. The room is pretty cheap so  I’m trying not to complain because I don’t want to look spoiled. I’m more concerned about what’s happening with the Panchakarma then the hotel. It’s funny how we ignore things when our focus is somewhere else and we just want to make things work. Tomorrow I’ll change hotels and have a day of rest from the Ghee, the yoga and the massage treatments. It’ll be a whole day with nothing to do and head full of oily hair.

Dr. Sujatha cooking with Ghee

The Panchakarma Experience – Part I

As I listen to the layers of night sounds on the patio of my hotel room in Nyuh Kuning, I’m unpacking my things, and settling in to do a 15 day traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma at the Amrta Siddhi clinic in Bali with Dr. Sujatha.  Why am I doing this? What exactly is an Ayruvedic Panchakarma? The main reason I’m doing this is because someone mentioned it to me one day after yoga and as soon as they said it something inside me  said “YES”. It was that loud and that clear and my whole body responded before I really even understood what it was. Once I did a little reading and asked around, things just fell into place.

What is Ayurveda?  What is Panchakarma?
Ayurveda is one of the oldest medical systems in practice today, dating back to time immemorial when Indian Seers received this body of knowledge in the form of the Vedas. Ayurveda is based on a profound and complete understanding of the whole human being. Its prime purpose is to secure a long and healthy life for each one of us so that we can participate in life to the best of our abilities. Understanding disease is based on 3 main functional patterns, or doshas, that work in nature and also in our bodies: Vatta, Pitta & Kapha. These doshas relate to the five great elements (Pritvi, Ap, Tejas, Vayu & Akasha) that exist in every life form and every object. Taken together they form a powerful tool to select the proper medicine, treatment, diet and   activities that will bring about healing to the patient. Medicines are made entirely from substances taken from Nature, like roots, barks, seeds or fruits and are prepared according to the ancient recipes.

Panchkarma is a 5-pronged method of treatment designed for “Shodhana”, the expulsion of disease-causing toxins or “Aman”.  The word Panchakarma means, “five actions”. It is intended for both the elimination of toxins and also for the replacement of the tissues. The process detoxifies and rebuilds the body and rejuvenates the patient. It detoxifies on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels. The different medical treatments include:
“Nasya” – Nasal Therapy
“Vamana” – Emesis
“Virechana” – Purging
“Basti” – theraputic enema – both herbal and oil
“Raktamokshana” – Leeching (probably won’t be doing this one)

I’m staying at a hotel near the clinice so I can walk there for daily massage treatments, yoga and they will deliver all my meals to my hotel. The doctor has prepared some medicated Ghee (clarified butter) that I’ll be taking for breakfast the first 5 days to loosen up all the toxins in my body.

Sitting on the patio of the Garden View Hotel I’m noticing a few things about the room that make me nervous, the main one being the bathroom looks like it hasn’t been remodeled since 1980. It’s a little scary. There’s a little bit of moldy smell in the room, but the patio outside is sweet. When I walk across the floor of my room in my bare feet I keep feeling sand on the floor and wonder where it’s coming from. Is it blowing in from the open patio door? I’m getting hungry for my first dinner to be delivered. What will the food be like?

Patio off my room

The clinic is in a small village about 10 minutes outside of Ubud. Dr. Sujatha who runs the clinic is from Southern India, near Mysore and trained in India before she came to Bali with her husband. She’s very bright and despite the challenges of having a small clinic in Bali it’s really growing. Next year they will be building a new clinic with live in accommodation and a kitchen to give classes.  She has a great reputation in the area. She explained to me this process changes your body on a cellular level, then replenishes and rejuvenates once you release and purge stored up toxins. I’m excited to see how the process goes.

Exploring Life in Nyuh Kuning
Balinese Prayer