Panchakarma - My most intense cleanse yet.

The journey

Let me start off saying that my main reason for embarking on this particular (and very expensive) treatment was because a.) it came highly recommended by women I trusts, and b.) I haven’t slept great in two years, I think. Honestly it’s hard to remember anything!

                                                         Tired, tired, tired. All the time!

                                                        Tired, tired, tired. All the time!

Back story (if you don’t want the why just the what scroll done to panchakarma)

In the spring of 2016 I was feeling desperate for sleep. By this time I hadn't slept well in months so when I’d wake up (wide awake) at 3am I’d panic knowing that I wasn’t falling back to sleep until about 6am when I should be getting up. I tried to get help from my general practitioner but she was useless and the only hormone specialist I knew of wasn’t taking new patients.

One learns to live without sleep and powers through the days as best she can. But this is no way to live and takes a heavy toll over time.

By early 2017 I was determined to get this squared away and finally secured an appointment with above mentioned hormone doctor. She reviewed my blood tests and put me on bioidentical estrogen aka estradiol. She did not put me on progesterone or testosterone, both of which also needed addressing. She kept telling me that she didn’t really want to treat hormones, not enough money in it. Really?! Thank you very much. Regardless the estradiol helped A LOT with the hot flashes but didn’t do much for sleepless nights. I finally convinced her to address at least the progesterone deficiency, which is suppose to help with sleep and she finally did. It helped, but only for a while, a few months at best, and then I was back to shitty sleep.

I found a new hormone doctor, someone who only works with hormones. None the less, even with regular testing and adjustments I’m still sleep deprived and flashing. This lack of sleep has a profound effect on how I feel both physically and emotionally. First, I’m really fucking tired. All the time. Everyday. Second, I can’t think. I can’t remember. It’s hard to speak articulately. Dumb dumb. Third, I’ve become really clumsy. It’s hard to preform fine motor skills, everything feels hard. Finally, I’m no longer vibrating at the high frequency I’ve become accustom to, there’s a dull film over everything. Yes I have moments of inspiration still, moments of clarity, and despite all of the above I’ve been creatively productive. But I just don’t feel good. Depressed…that’s too strong a word because I’m not exactly depressed, in a funk I guess. I have very little tolerance and would prefer to be left alone. Yes all alone, in my studio, no demands. I haven’t even felt up to hosting Moon Lodge, which I am (was) passionate about.

So along comes January 2018, my customary cleanse month, which I do every year with my Seattle friends. It's good to have support and it's a great way to connect with friends who live far away. (You've got to love the internet). Seattle BFF/cleanse partner decided that since she embarked in 2017 on a path of learning about flower essences and herbal healing that panchakarma (pk) would be the cleanse she would do. I, since she is my go to on health related matters, decided I'd check it out. I have another very knowledgeable friend near me who is a healer and very familiar with pk. She concurred saying that it's a deeply healing treatment and recommended Surya Spa, which I decided to check out. I liked the website and it seemed like a fabulous place so I made an appointment for a consultation with Marta.

Panchakarma

I was excited to begin; I was banking on this working. Banking is just the right term because not only was I somewhat desperate at this point but also because this is a huge (for me) financial commitment. 

Day 1

I show up on day one, just a little trouble finding the place because the street that it’s on is blocked off due to the proximity of the cliff to the road. It’s in a house on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Incredible view. I’m early and am offered tea and toast, which I of course accept, lovely.

After I finish I’m escorted to a lovely room, I’ll call it the red room, with an ensuite bathroom. I’m told to get undressed and lay down on the table. It looks just like a massage table. It’s heated, very nice.

Redroom.jpg

My treatment begins with Abhyanga, meaning 'Loving Hands'. It’s an ancient Indian Ayurvedic warmed oil massage therapy, used for healing and detoxifying the body, mind and spirit performed by two people. That’s right a four-handed massage. It begins with one woman massaging oil into my scalp and the other massaging my feet. NICE! Once you're very relaxed they begin the full body massage, it's  amazing that they're perfectly synchronized, almost as if it's one person with four hands and it feels deliciously relaxing.

That was followed by an ionic foot bath. There’s this device in a bucket of salt water, I guess it’s the ionizer… Apparently this removes toxins through your feet. The girl treating me says the water will turn color based on the toxins that are coming out and shows me this chart. Whowa! The water turns every color and ends up a very dark, murky orangish brown, yuck.

 The chart shows the color of the water/area of the body. That water was clear to begin with! Yuck!

The chart shows the color of the water/area of the body. That water was clear to begin with! Yuck!

I do a little research when I get home and it seems more likely that the ionizer is what changes the water color. None the less my research shows that it does balance out your ph levels, making your more alkaline, which is good, and the chunks in the water are toxins that have been removed through the pores in your feet. Who really knows though, maybe it is all toxins…?

It’s fascinating and disgusting at the same time. 

After the foot bath back on the table for Basti and Shirodhara. Basti is enima therapy and on this day it’s an herbal oil enima. Good times. Shirodhara involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead. No warm oil for me since I’m a Pitta suffering from hot flashes. Cool coconut water is drizzled on my forehead for a while, not unpleasant. And then I’m done for the day. Good thing there’s an ensuite bathroom because after all that oil, everywhere, I need a shower.

I felt really good after treatment No.1, lighter, brighter and yes I slept pretty darn good that night. I was feeling hopeful.

Day 2

Same as day one, I show up early, have toast and tea and this time I’m escorted to a back room, I don’t like it as much, I’ll call this the blue room. The blue room is removed from the rest of the house, you have to walk outside to get to it. It too has a bathroom attached but it’s not luxurious like the red room. The table is not heated. Bummer. The treatment begins with Abhyanga and today Marta herself works on me. Things are looking up. The treatment is the same as the day before the only differences are I have a ginger foot bath and an herbal enema instead of oil.

I’m feeling pretty darn good after that treatment too but don’t have good sleep that night.

Day 3

It’s Saturday so I show up just on time, not early. Still I have tea and toast and it’s back to the blue room. This day I feel kind of cranky. I’m not thrilled to be back in the blue room and since I’m sleep deprived I’m feeling irritable.

The treatment begins with Abhyanga again, I think every treatment begins this way. Next is a cooling treatment called Patra Pinda Sweda. This is where a special mix of cooling herbs is combined with milk and rice and wrapped in a soft cloth. The packets are hot and squishy and are rubbed all over you, head to toe, 30 minutes on each side, back then front. Even though the packets are hot the sensation is kind of like menthol, it leaves your skin feeling cold, which I guess is the point since their intention is to cool my fiery Pitta thus eliminating my hot flashes. Needless to say, this is not an enjoyable process. I did have a very nice chat with the two girls giving me the treatment and invited one over for tea so that a least was nice.

The treatment ends the same as the rest, coconut drizzle and an enema.

Another night of not great sleep but I think less hot flashy.

Day 4

An exact repeat of Day 3, including I’m not thrilled to be back in the blue room and since I’m sleep deprived again, I’m feeling irritable. I have to have another Patra Pinda Sweda. Bhurrr. This time I get a chlorophyll enema, which is supposed to be deeply detoxifying.

As I’m lying there, I have total monkey mind, I’m wondering if it’s too late to change it from a seven day treatment to a five day…?

I leave feeling less irritable but not fucking fabulous, which is how I want to feel. I’m now looking forward to just being finished with the treatments.

Day 5

Heavenly… Back to the red room, which is a relief to me. For some reason I just don’t love the blue room, I think it was the pinda treatments.

Again the treatment begins with Abhyanga, the deeply relaxing and nourishing four handed massage. Marta is working on me again, very nice.

Marta noticed that my left hip was cold, I’ve been having some hip issues that I think are directly related to tightness, so after the abhyanga they used a little wood box with burning mugwart to apply heat to that hip. It felt amazing and my hip felt a lot better afterwards. After that a yoni steam, for this you sit on a chair with a hole and there’s a pot of steaming herbs underneath. This may sound strange but it’s an ancient practice with many benefits. Next an oil basti, woot! My treatment ends with a warm oil shirodhara, very, very relaxing. I like this better than the cool coconut water.

I leave really happy I didn’t change it to five days.

Day 6

Today’s treatment begins in a beautiful room, I’ll call it the purple room. It has a view of the outdoor patio, an lovely alter, a fireplace and a steam box. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a lot of photos to show you just how lovely it was.

Purple room.jpg

As with all threatments it begins with abhyanga. Today one of the women who works on me is Jema and she is AMAZING! Something about her, extra special healing hands. Also she uses tuning forks during the head massage, which is incredibly relaxing. Did I mention the whole previous five days I’m suffering from a serious case of monkey mind? The tuning forks zero you right into the moment. This ahbyanga is super duper relaxing, I’d say I reached a hypnotic state, my body was so relaxed and comfortable, it felt heavy, in a good way, sinking into the soft table…very nice.

Next I get a scrub made from herbs, coffee, sugar, and oil. They scrubed the shit out of me and it hurt but in a good way. I really liked it and I’m really happy I have one more day of treatment.

After that warm oil shirodhara followed by a chlorophyll basti. This time instead of be left alone while is does it’s work Jema gives me a foot massage. Way better that laying there watching the clock tick tock. Love her!

I leave feeling really good.

Day 7

I slept okay last night. I did wake up twice but was able to go back to sleep and I awoke feeling rested. Yes!

Today is my final treatment and I find myself a little bit sad about that. Panchakarma is deeply nurturing and is a big time commitment. Really it’s the biggest gift I’ve ever given myself. Surya Spa is a warm welcoming place filled with wonderful women there to nurture and heal people. I will miss my treatments.

We begin as before with abhyanga, Jema is working on me again, I’m thrilled. After that she does a treatment that I think was called nasea (sp?). I sit in a chair and she uses different tools to deeply massage the head, sholders, and back, between my shoulder blades. It’s crunchy and those crunching sounds are lactic acid build up. I have heard of this before so I’m not surprised. She works on me with a flat wooden tool like the ones I use to smooth out clay. In fact it reminds me of working with clay because she goes over an area with the tools then feels with her hands until it's smooth and there’s no more crunching.

As she works we chat a bit. I tell her I didn’t like the pinda treatments and she concurs that they are not fun. Apparently as the treatment draws out the heat it can also draw out anger. I tell her that explains a lot because I felt really irritated during and after those treatments.

After that I sit in a steam tent, but not too long because I’m a firey pitta.

Next is an oil basti, followed by a heart opening treatment. Jema uses chickpea dough and makes a bowl that is stuck to my chest near my heart. In it she puts rose quartz and herb oil. On my stomach she places three pieces of solidite. These remain in place while I recieve a warm oil shirodara. I’m feeling really, really good.

Then I shower, get dressed and head to the dining room for lunch. Oh did I mention that they serve lunch every day? So nice.

As I eat I chat with two lovely ladies that are also there for panchakarma, Kate an actress and Jordan of The Balanced Blonde, who by the way took fabulous pictures of the purple room. I invited them for tea and I hope they take me up on the offer.

As I drive away I’m thinking to myself that I do actually feel transformed. I’m not sure if this feeling will last but I’m going to do my best to prolong it for as long as possible.

I plan to continue eating a vegan diet and got a couple of new cookbooks to support that effort, The Plantpower Way and Veganomicon