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Another year, another cleanse

Health, wellness and mindfulness

The Backwaters, Kerala India

In 2017, I was on a flight every month – this combined with constantly being “on” and a fortuitous gap between projects led me to cancelling my NYE weekend in Sydney to travel in India in the early new year, 2018 for a panchakarma treatment. 

What is panchakarma? I first learned of the treatment following an Ayuverdic consultation in India in 2015, the doctor suggested a 21 day panchakarma treatment – which I did not time to do then – to restore my hormones. When I learned that Kerala was the home of Ayuverda – I sought a program that could work with me.

This ancient Ayurvedic treatment is said to balance the body’s doshas – a total body reset that can restore, rejuvenate and heal ailments. The underpinning principle is to eat the right foods for your dosha (Vata, Pita or Kapha) and lead a balanced lifestyle.

Since starting my wellness journey to heal a medical condition, I have spent thousands on chiropractic care, kinesieology, reflexology, acupuncture, massage and energy healing, yoga retreats, juice detoxes, colon and bowel cleanses, enzyme therapy, raw food diets, and walking pilgrimages in my attempt to physically, emotionally and spiritually heal my body.  

I enjoy my clean lifestyle – predominantly vegetarian and almost vegan (the occasional fish or egg slipped where unavoidable at social functions), gluten free, processed sugar free and preservative free – I seek locally grown and where possible organic fresh produce. This is not only for health reasons, it is a lifestyle choice – my body feels sacred and it is a pleasure to nourish it  with food that makes me truly feel alive. And although I feel and function well daily – it had not “healed” my condition – as some natural therapists would have had me believe.

What more could I do for my body? If all of these treatments had not achieved the desired result? Another year, another cleanse – the panchakarma treatment starts by gently detoxing the body -for me, this was not a challenge from a dietary perspective – the food was natural and prepared fresh. I was already doing all of the right things for my diet and the Ayurvedic doctor, who I admire for her honesty, had advised me prior to departure that the panchakarma could only assist with healing the functional side – the tumour itself was considered structural and would unlikely be reduced by the treatment but I was prepared to give it a try.

Day one starts with a gentle Ayurvedic massage, followed by a steam bath. Then the vigorous treatment begin – all start with a light Ayurvedic massage, Abhyangam and then for the first two days, I was “pounded” with a mix of powdered herbs (that have been fried in hot oil) – a process called podizizhi. The second treatment for the day would be Shirodhara, where again after a light Ayurvedic massage, hot oil was poured over my head for around 25 minutes. Exposure to sun and screens should be limited during this powerful treatment that impacts on the brain function – the third eye chakra and the location of the pituitary.

This was repeated for six days. The only change was that on the third day, the morning treatment was change to Elakizhi, using hot leaves instead of powders to pound my body. On day seven, I was informed that I would have a hot oil enema after lunch. This would be repeated on day eight and followed by a decoction enema on the morning of day nine. For this I would have to fast.

Panchakarma treatment is not just gentle massage and relaxation – it is a process of cleansing and restoring that also impacts on the emotions. I found my surrounds – alone in a foreign country, with noises from animals in the roof of my cottage at night, geckoes and other insects my room a challenge, even though I had survived the dorms during my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the treatment process brought up a number of emotions and I felt that the environment was a further challenge to me.

This was not only from the point of view of my career, but also my health. In order to lead a balnanced life in Ayurvedic philopshy , one must also be working in a field that compliments their well being.

By day nine – the decoction enema – I decided that I was well and truly over the treatment – not because I had lost faith in the process but because I felt that I had gained all that I could from the process in this setting.  

A necessary part of the treatment of course is rest – perhaps the most challenging for me – to switch off – however I succeeded in reading a number of texts that had been on my too read list as well as some Indian philosophy. Working my way through various texts, my biggest question was what more could I do with my life?Or maybe I didn’t  have to do more for my health or in my life – maybe I just had to be. 

From years of health, wellness, professional and spiritual development – I already knew myself well and what my body required to feel comfortable in my surrounds (and be one with the animals scuttling in my cottage roof) – especially while undergoing a rigorous treatment such as panchakarma. Knowing myself helped me to make a bold choice that I would not continue with the treatment – at least not right now. Forcing a transformative process such as this in conditions where I was not completely relaxed (I had trouble detaching from my work) was contrary to the process itself. Now was a time to honour my body’s choice and continue my work within. 

Maybe I would one day continue the treatment in more conducive setting or maybe this is all I needed from the treatment – time would tell. 

My freedom to choose what was right for my body – no “guru” required and that it was OK to leave a path that did not feel right for me – was part of knowing myself and a powerful gift. And in case questioned my judgment on this, I received a sure sign from the universe as I was reading the last pages of Pure Philosophy by Muri Narayanaprasad:

Once you understand that you are one of the countless fleeting forms in which this one Reality finds self expression, happening because of the infinite creative urge inherent in itself ….find out through self examination what inherent qualities , traits , potentials and life interests make your personality unique. Now find a vocation that fully fits with your potential.

Self reliant freedom is gained when you realise that the happiness you are in search of exists already your own essential content, which is pure consciousness in essence. Knowing yourself sets you free!

This affirmed the freedom I created to pursue everything I love – including some of life’s simplest pleasures or rituals like my morning coffee and meditation before I start my day, my time, quiet time – at one of my favourite cafes, at home – wherever I am the world; to write; to travel; time with family and friends who are family, and most importantly to be love and find it in everything, every experience.

Are you free?  And if you are free, what are you going to do with your freedom? #friends #family #freedom

To read a previous article about Ayurveda by Belinda go to: http://decisivecravings.com.au/travel-wellness-and-cooking-in-rishikesh/

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