Ayurvedic Panchakarma Routine for your body and soul
Dr Sudha Asokan’s Ayurveda Kendra in the national capital provides authentic Kerala Panchakarma treatment
Stuck with an arthritic problem that’s not getting any better despite long medication? The pestering backache is giving you sleepless nights? Can’t breathe easy due to sinusitis? Is migraine driving you crazy?
Perhaps it’s time you had a brush with Panchakarma treatment, an Ayurvedic technique using medicated oils and herbal decoctions. Kerala is known as the Cradle of Ayurveda and the Panchakarma system of treatment flourished in the state. Ayurveda Kendra at Safdarjung Enclave in the national capital, run by Sudha Asokan, a renowned doctor hailing from the family of traditional Ayurvedic practitioners in Thrissur, offers authentic Kerala Ayurvedic treatment at reasonable rates. Although Ayurveda gives durable solution to health problems without any harmful side-effects, the cost factor forces many a people opt for modern medicine. “The Panchakarma treatment is expensive owing to the fact that we use medicated oils prepared in coconut oil. For preparation of certain oils and medicines, scores of herbs go into them. Collection and processing of herbs and medicinal plants is a very costly and cumbersome affair. Also a huge quantity of oil is required for treatment,” explains Dr Asokan, director and chief physician of the centre.
According to her, the government should initiate innovative steps to promote Ayurveda so that it is accessible to even poor people. “The poor should also benefit. The government should empanel private Ayurveda hospitals for providing treatment to Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) beneficiaries. Now they can avail treatment only from government-run Ayurvedic centres,” says Dr Asokan.
There is no dispute over the efficacy of the treatment especially among those who benefited from this. Dr Asokan recalled the case of Rekha Khanna (name changed) whose husband deserted her because of her medical condition due to which she could barely walk or stand straight. Even the allopathic doctors, who were treating her, had given up hope. The patient, who belonged to a poor family, was brought to the Kendra and after one month of treatment she could walk. “The family had tremendous faith in me and insisted that I should treat her. I didn’t think twice and took up the case,” pointed out Asokan.
Christina, a British national, says her tryst with oil massage has made a huge difference in her life. She was suffering from severe cervical spondylitis coupled with gynaecological disorders, for which her doctor prescribed prolonged medication. “Can you imagine, I have even contemplated suicide because I was fed up with medicines? Thanks to Ayurveda, I am now 90 per cent alright,” says Christina.
A majority of the patients, who throng the Kendra, suffer from slip disc or back pain. Most of the ailments are triggered by the modern lifestyle coupled with long hours work, irregular sleep, lack of exercise and unhealthy food habits. Ayurvedic system is found to be effective in detoxing body and rejuvenating the system. “Oil massage has done wonders for me,” points out Benjamin Jones, a diplomat. Jones’ gait was severely impaired due to arthritis but after undergoing a week’s treatment he can walk without pain.
Dhara, Pizhichil, Jnavarakhizhi and Sirovasthi are some of the techniques used in the Panchakarma treatment. “These treatments purge toxic substances accumulated in the body and induces new life into it,” claims Dr Asokan.
The treatment is decided by taking into consideration two factors – the state of the illness and the constitution of the patient. For instance, the treatment given to two patients for the same disease may vary.
According to Ayurveda, a healthy person is composed of three bioenergetic forces which are vata (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm). These three not only govern the metabolism of an individual but also manifest in certain physical traits. That means any imbalance in these forces can result in disease – both mental and physical.
For the cure of mental diseases such as hysteria, insanity and hallucination, dhara treatment is often prescribed, while for physical conditions like asthma and tuberculosis Pizhichil is recommended. Dhara treatment involves dripping of medicated oils or milk or a decoction from a certain height to the forehead of the patient and simultaneously massaging the body in rhythmic from either side by expert masseurs. The procedure of Pizhichil involves massaging the patient’s body with strips of linen dipped in medicated oil while the patient reclines on a specially-designed wooden bed (droni) made of wood with curative properties.
A course of Njavarakhizhi, a method of massage using medicinal packs and oil, can cure even severe rheumatic complaints completely, claims Dr Asokan. The medicinal packs, prepared by filling njavara rice cooked in cow’s milk mixed with medicinal herbs are rubbed over the patient’s body after the application of medicated oils. Besides rheumatism, this treatment has proved to be effective for polio, paralysis and muscular dystrophy. A course in Sirovasthi can provide respite to sufferers of migraine, facial paralysis and other nerve disorders. In this technique, a cylindrical cap is fitted on to the head of the patient and medicated oil is poured into it and allowed to stagnate for some time.
Oil massage can also reduce excess fat, enhance complexion and relieve stress and strain. “It reduces fatigue and revitalises the body by improving blood circulation, digestive power and other physiological functions of the body,” says Dr Asokan.
The duration of the treatment could range from seven to 14 days depending on the severity of the ailment. Many a time rejected cases from the city’s major hospitals come to the Kendra for treatment. “In 95 per cent of the cases we have been able to provide relief,” says the doctor. For instance, Jyotsna Verma (name changed), who used to work in the Ministry of Home Affairs, came to the Kendra on stretcher. She was operated upon for encephalitis, characterised by the formation of fluids in the brain. After a surgical procedure to remove fluids she became paralytic. After the treatment, she returned as a happy woman. “Now she can lift her arm and walk freely,” says the woman attending her.
Patients come from halfway across the globe. A scientist had come from all the way from Wales in the UK to treat Parkinson’s disease after taking treatment for it for years together. He was introduced to Ayurveda by his India-born wife. “I am feeling much better now. I know this is not a miracle cure and that it will take some time to cure my problem completely,” he says. The Kendra is popular with high-heeled diplomats, businessmen and politicians. Rajya Sabha Vice-Chairman PJ Kurian is all praise for Dr Asokan, for she has cured him of a nagging pain on his arm.
Speaking about the relevance of Ayurveda in modern times, Dr Asokan says, “Unlike modern medicine, Ayurveda is a holistic health care system – a way of life. Nowadays everyone is in a rat-race. In some professions, people spend about 18 hours at their workplace, and sometimes without even a break. They don’t get enough time to eat healthy and proper food and do exercises; water intake too reduces. Such lifestyle takes a heavy toll on the health. Environment pollution adds to their woes. Incidence of cancer and other life-threatening diseases has become a commonplace thing. We recommend people to spend at least 14 days a year for detoxification treatments. If they can’t do it at one go, they can do it in two spells of seven days each. This cleaning therapy has many health benefits and improves brain activity.”
How does this treatment differ from other forms of massage? “Our concept of massage is very different. Application of oils, approach to the patient and extent of the massage all are decided upon by the disposition of the patient. The application is then carried out in a rhythm unique to the patient,” says the director.
(All photos courtesy: Dr Sudha’s Ayurveda Kendra)
by G Sreedathan