By Andrea Foster
What was I getting myself into?
A last minute opportunity opened and now I was quickly preparing my body and psyche for a three-day retreat, metamorphosis, challenge, education. What would a pancha karma be like?
Pancha karma is an Ayurvedic treatment that typically last multiple days and involves a variety of experiences, depending on the goals of the client. The words “pancha karma” are Sanskrit for “five actions” and refer to five different treatments, including massage and herbal therapy. Pancha karma has been used in Ayurvedic healing for thousands of years and remains a popular goal for pilgrims journeying to India seeking health transformation.
I was in the final days of my studies in the Ayurvedic Clinical Foundations program at the dhyana Center in Sebastopol, CA. This chance to receive a pancha karma would place me squarely in the midst of experiencing all that I had been learning for 7 months.
A pancha karma in India often lasts a minimum of 10 days, involving one or two specific treatments for the client, who then spends the rest of the day in meditation, rest, and healthful nourishment. One’s free time is typically left open-ended, and can sometimes lack emotional support to process the changes that can occur.
Here in the States at the dhyana Center, pancha karma takes a Western spin. It involves a holistic approach, delving into deep-rooted holdings and beliefs for the client, shifting physical ailments at their emotional source, pulling from inspiration and elemental wisdom to allow a client to discover new aspects of themselves or validate longstanding hunches about what can be of most benefit in their wellness journey. Tools from a host of global traditions help to move energy as well as muscle. Emotional support is at the heart. More is poured into a single day, but an entire retreat is compact to fit into a busy schedule.
At the end of my first day, I went home to my kids feeling as though I had come down with the flu. I barely had the energy to eat the dinner provided to me. I knew this was normal, expected, and all part of the process. I had some “homework” to do to cleanse my body in preparation for the next day and then I slept deeply and got ready for the next day in the journey.
The beauty of pancha karma is that no two are alike. Each starts with preparation done months before the retreat is scheduled, where the client has the opportunity to communicate their journey thus far as well as their goals and concerns, whether that’s physical or mental health. The practitioner team reviews that client’s needs leading up to the retreat as well as how their body arrives and consequently responds throughout the days.
Back in my pancha karma, I was cocooned in the warmth of a cozy treatment room, cuddled in a fluffy robe amid soft light and gentle music. I was surrounded by practitioners focused on embracing and uplifting me — all of me. Simple, elegant meals were prepared and appeared before me, fortifying me for the hard work I would undertake.
My particular pancha karma was designed to help with a chronic back injury, but also called me to dive into deeper waters of my fears, hesitations, goals, and needs. I stepped away from ordinary time and place to take these three days to identify, stir, and nourish under the firm and compassionate hands and tools of my practitioners, guides through this small journey. No, this wouldn’t fix everything now and forever, but it was an important step to identify my self-worth and my wish to heal.
The three days would find me meditating in the steam room, receiving deep lymphatic massage, floating in a flower-embellished bath, soaking up medicated oils, opening to muscle tenderizing, exploring challenging emotional terrain. Each day was different, yet I flowed through a rhythm of bodywork and spiritual process like a shell polished as it tumbles in the tide.
My work was not finished when my last day ended, but I have always marked the time before pancha karma and after. It was a pivot point in my personal and physical journey. And it can be that for so many others who step through the Treatment Center doors.
You can purchase a 1, 3, or 5-day pancha karma now at a 15% discount until February 28. There are even 2018 openings for a retreat with the founder, DeAnna. Call the Treatment Center to book your pancha karma or any other retreat at 707-823-8818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.