Based on a recommendation from my friend Sahara Rose (the Queen of Ayurveda), I recently spent ten days at Sukhavati Bali, an Ayurvedic Retreat & Spa focused on health and healing doing Panchakarma — a traditional Ayurvedic detox.
Located just 20 minutes outside of Canggu in a small town in Bali, the retreat center offers three Ayurvedic meals a day, stunning grounds, a river on the premises, two daily yoga classes, offsite outings, and beautiful accommodations. The pristine grounds have a private pool in each of the nine villas as well as a shared pool, yoga shala, dining area, many outdoor seating areas, and riverside Ayurvedic treatment rooms. I stayed in the Saraswati Villa with my brother, which was so fitting because my grandmother has always said that she prays to the goddess Saraswati specifically for me. Our villa was a place of pure relaxation — with a private garden, pool, outdoor shower and outdoor living room. One of the things we especially loved about the retreat is that they make a conscious effort to make a positive impact on the environment.
- All plastic bottles have been replaced with water jugs in each room as well as titanium reusable drink bottles.
- Plastic straws have been replaced with reusable glass straws.
- Training and implementation of a proper waste disposal and recycling system have been established as well as the use of composting.
- Only environmentally friendly cleaning products to be used by the housekeeping staff (where possible)
The word Panchakarma means “five actions” in Sanskrit, and it refers to the five steps involved in the process of traditional Ayurvedic detox. The word detox here isn’t just about ridding the body of toxins, it is also about creating a balanced mind-body state. These five steps are designed to work together to cleanse the body and restore balance to the doshas, the three fundamental energies in the body. The process was intense but the team at Sukhavati does an incredible job of making you feel supported and comfortable every step of the way. The on-site doctor provides daily appointments to each patient, and each day is filled with a balance of more challenging processes (like enimas) and relaxing therapies (like in-room facials). Each evening, your schedule for the next day is left on your bed. Not everyone engages in all five of the steps below, and each program is tailored to what your desired results from the experience are.
Vamana (Therapeutic Vomiting):
The first step of Panchakarma is Vamana. This involves therapeutic vomiting to remove excess Kapha (one of the three doshas) from the body. This is done under the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner and is used to clear the respiratory and digestive tracts. Vamana is a powerful tool for detoxification, and it is particularly effective for those with respiratory problems, allergies, and skin disorders.
Personally, this was not part of my program so I cannot speak to it, however I was prescribed herbal supplements during my stay at Sukhavati that I am still taking and have found to be very helpful.
Virechana (Purgation Therapy):
The second step of Panchakarma is Virechana, which is a purgation therapy that involves taking herbal laxatives to clear the digestive tract and remove excess Pitta (one of the three doshas) from the body. This step is useful for those with liver and digestive disorders, as well as those with skin problems, allergies, and chronic headaches.
I drank 100 ml of castor oil for this step of the process. I found the oil easy to swallow, though many others at the retreat did not. It is a very thick and viscous liquid. On the day I drank castor oil, the only meal I consumed was khichdi — a traditional rice/daal mixture. Being plant-based already, I did not have a very challenging time with this step, however many of the others I spoke to struggled with the dietary restrictions, including my brother. Interestingly, as soon as I drank the oil I had a really bad headache. The headache passed after a couple of hours.
Basti (Enema Therapy):
The third step of Panchakarma is Basti, an enema therapy used to remove excess Vata (one of the three doshas) from the body. Basti involves the introduction of herbal oils, decoctions, and other substances into the colon to promote bowel movement and remove toxins. Basti is particularly helpful for those with joint problems, constipation, and nervous disorders.
Nasya (Nasal Administration):
The fourth step of Panchakarma is Nasya, which is a nasal administration therapy used to remove toxins from the head and neck region. Nasya involves the application of herbal oils or decoctions into the nostrils to clear the sinuses, improve mental clarity, and treat conditions like sinusitis, headaches, and allergies.
Rakta Moksha (Blood Letting):
The fifth and final step of Panchakarma is Rakta Moksha, which is a blood-letting therapy used to remove toxins from the blood. This process involves the use of leeches, needle pricks, or other techniques to remove excess Pitta from the bloodstream. Rakta Moksha is particularly effective for those with skin problems, gout, and other blood-related disorders.
Following the five steps of Panchakarma allow you to remove toxins from their body, restore balance to doshas, and promote optimal health. It is recommended to undertake Panchakarma under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, like those at Sukhavati, who can guide you through the process safely and tailor to your individual needs.
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