The Ultimate Ayurvedic Vacation: Panchakarma
Planning to hit the road for a getaway this season? If your travel itinerary is packed with sightseeing stops and must-do’s, you might end up feeling more tired than energized.
"Sometimes, people’s vacations are almost as frantic as their lives," says Rogers Badgett, proprietor of The Raj, the nation’s premier Ayurvedic health center in Fairfield, Iowa. "There’s something to be said for taking time away that’s really a vacation for the body, mind, and soul. We have offered treatments since 1992 and we consistently see the results in the eyes and faces of those we treat. They come away looking and feeling younger and healthier."
For some truly restorative downtime, consider the ultimate Ayurvedic vacation: Panchakarma.
What is Panchakarma & Why Do It?Panchakarma is an integrated series of traditional, in-residence Ayurvedic treatments that, while incredibly relaxing and nurturing, dislodge and flush impurities from your cells and tissues. During a Panchakarma stay at a facility like The Raj, you can spend anywhere from three to 21 days receiving deeply relaxing, purifying treatments like abhyanga (warm oil massage administered by two technicians), swedena (herbalized steam bath), and shirodhara (in which warm oil is gently poured onto the forehead). The Raj has over twenty-five different types of Ayurveda treatments, which address different areas in the body like joint health, fatigue due to impurities, and many other conditions.
"According to Ayurveda, disorders are primarily the result of imbalances and toxins (ama) that accumulate in the body over time," says Badgett. "Whether caused by poor diet and digestion, stress, or environmental toxins, these imbalances can build up in our cells, joints, and tissues, and they keep our physiology from functioning in an optimal way. With Panchakarma, we’re flushing impurities from the body and enlivening the body’s remarkable capacity for self-repair. The outcome affects every aspect of our lives, as we are not only healthier, but we think clearer and are more relaxed and happier after the treatments."
Research supports the program’s efficacy. A 2002 study published by Robert Herron, Ph.D., in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that fat-soluble toxicants were reduced in people who did a five-day course of Panchakarma at The Raj. Without treatment, the report also indicates that it can take years for those types of toxins to naturally leave the body.
But if spending your vacation ridding yourself of deep-seated toxins sounds like hard work, think again.
"The fact is that most people would describe the treatments as luxurious," Badgett says. "They’re deeply effective, but they’re also very gentle."
How Does It Work?Most Panchakarma treatments involve two key components: oil and heat. The massage of the skin and muscles helps with circulation and allows for the otherwise stagnant toxins to move from these tissues through our elimination system. The oil used in the massages penetrates deeply into the body’s tissues, drawing out toxins that then move to the digestive tract for elimination. The heat opens the body’s channels for circulation—the veins, lungs, and so on—to speed the process of purification along. At the outset of your visit, all of the oils and treatments are customized with Ayurvedic herbs that have been specifically recommended for you by an expert in Ayurvedic pulse assessment.
"The program is very tailored to each individual’s needs and doshas [Ayurvedic constitution]," says Badgett. "The kind of oils, herbs, and treatments can be very different according to a person’s particular physiology and needs."
An Average Visit at a Panchakarma Health CenterBefore your stay, a Vaidya (Ayurvedic Expert) will review your health history to create a "home prep" regimen and gentle cleanse program to prepare your system for the in-residence treatment itself. Upon your arrival at the health center, you’ll have a wellness consultation with an expert in Ayurvedic pulse assessment who will recommend a customized Panchakarma program based on your Ayurvedic constitution and current state of balance.
Throughout the rest of your visit, you can just relax and enjoy your treatments. You’ll also have time to take gentle Yoga Asana classes; stroll in nature; eat light and organic, nourishing fare; learn from lectures and videos on Ayurveda, meditation, and diet; and enjoy discussions with Ayurvedic experts who can answer all your questions.
"It’s a total immersion treatment and learning experience," says Badgett. "You’ll learn about how Ayurveda extends into so many different areas of life and gain a blueprint for living in tune with nature’s rhythm. The word ‘Ayur’ means life, and ‘veda’ knowledge or science, and thus Ayurveda really is the knowledge of life. After your Panchakarma is over, you’ll go home with dietary and lifestyle recommendations to help you lead a healthier life."
"My Panchakarma experience at The Raj was gentle, nurturing, and truly transformative. It set things in motion for me to be able to work through some health issues during a challenging time of my life. The positive effects have lasted for years afterward." - Valerie B.
Benefits for Mind, Body, and BeyondThe goal of Panchakarma is to restore balance by targeting the root cause of imbalances—which is often related to digestion. By balancing the body, Panchakarma acts as the ultimate preventative, helping people to stay well throughout the year.
"It’s through digestion that you fuel your body," says Badgett. "If you can’t digest food properly and you’re not assimilating nutrients, it really doesn’t matter what you’re eating. When your body digests well it creates nutrients that move easily through the body to nourish all cells. Panchakarma isn’t just about removing impurities. It’s about improving digestion and metabolism, which are so foundational to good health."
The results can be extremely transformative and far-reaching.
"People not only feel better, physically, they can also notice an increased sense of well-being and vitality as well," says Badgett. "The mind is connected to the body, and when you have physical blockages, it can be hard on the emotions and the mind."
Beyond these profound benefits, it can also simply be good to unplug and unwind. While on your Panchakarma vacation, you’ll be away from your daily responsibilities and distractions—and perhaps your Netflix account.
"It lets people really unhook," Badgett says. "They can go to bed early, let go of life’s stresses and really just sink into the Ayurvedic experience. A lot of people get back in touch, feeling that it’s okay to take care of themselves. They realize how much more productive they are and how much more they can give when they’re feeling better. That’s the thing: your health is foundational to your success, to your happiness, good relationships, to your achievements, to everything you do."
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.