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Panchakarma: Sail Through the Worst Menopause Symptoms Using This Tool

Updated: Apr 25

Panchakarma.


This was the one big thing I did to sail through the worst menopause symptoms.


Granted, this is a really big thing.


Twenty-one or twenty-eight days in a residential setting in India getting daily treatments, eating simple foods, taking herbs, and, oh yes, doing a major detox.


I received panchakarma three times between 2015 and 2018 at Vaidyagrama, an Ayurvedic Healing Village in Tamil Nadu, near the Kerala border.


It allowed me to bypass the worst menopause symptoms and sail into the post-menopause years.


a woman performing kizhi (an Ayurvedic treatment) on another woman

During the rest of this post, I will refer to Vaidyagrama and its policies to give you an understanding of the process. Other Centers will have slightly different policies, but the healing benefits are the same.


The worst menopause signs and symptoms


According to the Mayoclinic, signs and symptoms of menopause include:

  • vaginal dryness

  • irregular periods

  • hot flashes

  • night sweats

  • chills

  • mood changes

  • sleep problems

  • weight gain

  • slowing of metabolism

  • dry skin

  • thinning hair

  • loss of breast fullness


The US Office of Women's Health adds these signs and symptoms:

  • vaginal problems and infections

  • memory problems

  • urinary problems

  • depression and anxiety

  • changing feelings about sex


What is panchakarma?


In Sanskrit, the language originally used to write the ancient Ayurvedic texts, "panch" means "five" and "karma" means "actions."


Therefore, panchakarma means "five actions."


These five actions include:

  1. enemas (both oil and herbal decoctions)

  2. purgation (taking herbs that make you go to the bathroom all morning)

  3. emesis (vomiting induced by herbs)

  4. nasya (substances introduced through the nose)

  5. bloodletting (don't let this one scare you. I've never seen it used, but would love to experience it)


At Vaidyagrama, they tailor every patient's program to fit their individual needs.


Generally, during a 21-day stay, most people receive just one of the above actions at Vaidyagrama, however, I have visited other Panchakarma clinics in India where 2, or even all 5, actions may be administered to the same person in 21 days.


a man holding a clay shirodhara pot suspended from the ceiling


Challenges to doing panchakarma


Panchakarma is not an easy retreat, but the benefits are well worth the challenge!


Time


The first big challenge is clearing a chunk of time (twenty-one or twenty-eight days) from your schedule and responsibilities.


I get that this can be tough in our busy world, but the benefits of panchakarma make it worth-while. Jump ahead to the benefits of panchakarma.


Fatigue during panchakarma


Getting a body treatment every day may sound amazing, but the body gets fatigued while working to cleanse and reset every cell.


Which brings us to REST


During panchakarma, your job is to rest.


I know that may sound grueling to you.


And if you are like me, you may have forgotten how to rest.


In our modern culture, busyness has replaced rest, and re-learning that skill can be challenging.


Many people who have joined me for panchakarma at Vaidyagrama have said that resting was the most difficult part of the program.


It took me a long time to realize the difference between resting and napping, and while I certainly don't do resting perfectly, I am getting better at it thanks to my panchakarma experiences.


Not exercising


As I mentioned above, the main job of the patient during panchakarma is to rest.


That means no exercise.


The body uses its energy to clear toxins and rejuvenate each cell, which doesn't leave enough energy to exercise.


There's an opportunity to walk around the covered pathways within the Vaidyagrama compound, but venturing out into the sun and wind is discouraged. The body should be protected from the elements during panchakarma.


a thali (dish) with small bowls of simple foods

Eating simple food


Vaidyagrama offers simple, non-spicy, nutritious foods that are easy to digest.


Easy-to-digest food is important because once the body digests the food, it can begin to digest the toxins in your body.


There may be days during the process when all you get to eat is kanji--watery rice, which can be a very challenging part of panchakarma.


It's important to remember that these foods are specially prepared to allow the body to clear toxins.


Traveling to a foreign country


For some people, India in itself is like a mini-panchakarma.


The senses get overwhelmed by all of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of India.


When I take groups to India for panchakarma, I have Vaidyagrama arrange for a car to pick them up from the airport so that there isn't any need to deal with the taxi drivers outside the airport.


They are taken directly to Vaidyagrama and are cocooned in the healing environment for the entire stay so that the senses do not get overwhelmed.


What happens in your body during panchakarma?


Panchakarma aims to bring the doshas back into the GI tract so they can be purged or pacified (Kripalu, 4.19).


The following things happen during panchakarma in this process of moving the doshas from the periphery of the body to the center of the body (Kripalu, 4.19-4.20):

  • the doshas become more fluid

  • the doshas become aggravated (to help them be more easily released from the body)

  • digestion improves

  • metabolizing of ama (undigested food particles that putrefy in the gut and spread out into the tissues as subpar nutrition lodging in weak spots which leads to disease) Read What is Ama in Ayurveda? to learn more about ama.

  • the channels of the body are unblocked

  • vata dosha becomes pacified


Benefits of panchakarma


Benefits of panchakarma include (Kripalu, 5.20):

  • cleanses various systems and organs of the body

  • purifies and cleanses of the cells, cell membranes, and molecules

  • restores the entire body back to balance

  • begins the rejuvenation of bodily tissues

  • increases the effectiveness of herbs given in the months following panchakarma

  • removes ama (toxins), stagnant doshas, and waste products

  • increases the functioning of all the body's systems (ex. metabolism, absorption, assimilation, etc.)




kizhi poultices

What a panchakarma program may look like


There are three main stages of a traditional panchakarma program.


That's why a thorough panchakarma takes at least 21 days to receive.


The first stage


The body is prepared for the 5 main actions.


Treatments and herbs are administered to help stimulate digestion and open the channels of the body.


At Vaidyagrama, everyone receives different herbs and treatments, depending on both the strength of the body and the strength of the disease.


Kizhi


One treatment that you might receive during this first stage is Kizhi.


During the Kizhi treatment, poultices are filled with specific herbal powders, warmed on a pan, and applied all over the body.


This treatment creates sweat which helps to open the channels of the body.


Kashyam Dhara


Kashyam Dhara is another treatment that might be received in this first stage of opening the channels.


Kashyam, a decoction made from water and herbs, is warmed and continuously poured over the body in a pattern.


This treatment also opens up the channels of the body through sweating.


Sneha


Copious amounts of oil are applied both externally and internally for 3-7 days.


Abhyanga is a treatment where warm, medicated oils are massaged into the skin. These medicated oils are chosen specifically for each patient by the doctors.


Snehapana is the consumption of medicated ghee in greater quantities each consecutive day in the morning for 3-7 days.


Elakizhi is a treatment where fresh herbs are cooked in oil and then placed in a poultice to dipped in warm oil and rubbed all over the body.


Once your body is well-oiled and lubricated, you are ready to move to the second stage.


woman receiving a 2-person massage

The second stage


The second stage consists of the 5 main actions mentioned above: enema, purgation, emesis, nasya, and blood-letting.


At Vaidyagrama, as previously noted, most people will only receive one of these actions during a 21-day panchakarma.


These actions are intense and will only be administered if the doctor feels your body is strong enough to handle them.


The third stage


During this final stage, light foods are given to help restimulate your digestion, while herbs for rejuvenation and disease prevention are administered (Kripalu, 5.18).


Daily practices to help cleanse your senses are taught and administered.


This stage is critical because if the digestion is not brought back to balance, then the accumulation of toxins can begin all over again.


A typical day during panchakarma


This is the typical schedule that I remember from my time at Vaidyagrama. Every Center will have its flow to the day, but most of these will be part of the majority of programs.


  • 6 am delivery of morning medicine

  • 6:30 am an hour of community chanting and a homa (fire) ceremony

  • 7:30 am herbal tea delivered to your room

  • 8:30 am breakfast delivered to your room

  • sometime during the morning, a doctor will visit you daily

  • sometime during the morning or afternoon, you will receive your treatment

  • 12:00 pm lunch delivered to your room

  • 1:00 pm group yoga nidra practice with a recording

  • 2:00 pm satsang--group session with a doctor answering questions

  • 3:30 pm a simple activity like an herb walk, cooking lesson, etc.

  • 4:30 pm tea and fruit delivered to your room

  • 5:30 pm another satsang with different doctors answering questions

  • 6:00 pm group chanting and a homa (fire) ceremony

  • 7:00 pm dinner is delivered to your room

  • 9:00 pm bedtime


Of course, many of these activities are optional, and instead, you can choose to practice resting.


special fire ceremony for Ganesh set up on a red floor

Why travel to India for panchakarma?


India is the birthplace of panchakarma and the practice of Ayurveda has been embedded into the culture for thousands of years.


Sometimes it is hard to receive all of the treatment opportunities that Ayurveda has to offer at a US panchakarma facility due to legal issues and costs.


Panchakarma in India is a fraction of the cost of programs in the US and many other countries.


Traditionally, 21 days is the minimum amount of time required for a true panchakarma.


Many Centers in the US only offer 5-7 day programs which cost almost as much as 21 days in India.


Vaidyagrama in India is a residential center that immerses you in the experience.


Many of the Centers in the US require off-site accommodations and may not even offer food.


Panchakarma for the worst menopause symptoms


If you are struggling with the worst symptoms of menopause, consider receiving panchakarma to help ease these symptoms and bring balance to your life.


Check my website for upcoming trips.


You can also book a free 30-minute consultation to see if the Panchakarma trip is right for you.









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