I Tried Panchakarma, and THIS Is What I Thought…
Let’s preface this with the fact that I have been dying to write this post since the moment I stepped out of the oasis of an experience that is Surya — but I have been so incredibly blissed out ever since my treatment that I took the full 3-day weekend to recoup and gather my thoughts before I sat down to spill my guts about it.
But now I’m ready. You ready? Let’s do this.
An Ayurvedic spa. What? If you’re only just beginning to learn about Ayurveda like I am, then the fact that there are spas dedicated to just Ayurvedic treatments probably comes as a bit of a surprise.
When I first heard about Surya from my friend Suzanne of The Chalkboard Mag, I was instantly drawn in. Ayurveda is a practice I have been loving and finding such healing benefits from, so spending a full afternoon at a spa dedicated to those healing practices (and more) sounded up my alley times about a billion.
But first let’s get something straight: this isn’t a bougie, luxurious spa with fluffy bathrobes and cucumbers for your eyes like you might be envisioning (I mean, I love those too, don’t get me wrong). It’s a house, nestled into a residential neighborhood in the Palisades (overlooking the ocean — breathtaking), and it’s full of more spices + herbs + oils + ghee + bread-baking aromas + Ayurvedic guru amazingness than you could ever even begin to imagine.
When I walked in, I was lead to a kitchen table to eat lunch with the rest of the people who were there to get treatments done (2 women in the middle of 7 day Panchakarma treatments, 1 woman who was an acupuncturist visiting from Portland, and 1 awesome guy who lives down the street and joins them for lunch almost every day).
While I was waiting for my lunch to come and chatting with the other people at the table, Marta (the head Ayurvedic doctor there) came to take my pulse so that she could assess what they would be doing with me in my treatment.
After about 30 seconds of pulse-taking she nodded, said, “Okay!” and walked away to put together my own personalized concoction of herbs, oils, and more (not even sure what else — my mind was blown!) for my treatment.
I couldn’t help but ask, “What did you just learn about me from my pulse?!” and she laughed and told me she would discuss it in detail with me in the treatment room.
(Sidenote: I’m used to the pulse-taking thing, since that is what I do with my Ayurvedic practitioner, but it still blows my mind every time how much can be learned about a person’s health, balance and doshic imbalance from someone’s pulse.)
Then they brought out my delish homemade Ayurvedic lunch of lentil dhal, freshly baked bread (all gluten-free, grain-free, refined sugar free, totally healthy), veggies and rice — straight from the kitchen to my left! I felt like I was in someone’s home, which I guess technically I was. 🙂
It was delicious. Nourishing, plant-based Ayurvedic food is probably my favorite way to eat right now, so I couldn’t have been happier.
Then, one by one the other women started getting taken back for their treatments… But not before telling me how much I was going to love mine / how inexplainable it is until you’ve tried it.
After I finished lunch and watched the other ladies head into their treatment rooms, it was my turn to go back, disrobe and get started. I still wasn’t sure what to expect! I knew from Suzanne that there would be a lot of hot oil involved, and that the treatment would last several hours, but everything is so personalized there I wasn’t sure what else would go down.
I laid down on the table with a little cloth over my lady-parts (yes, you can use your imagination for the rest of it — I did say *disrobed*), while Marta took my pulse again and asked me a few questions based on what she was noticing.
“How is your skin and your liver?” she asked.
“Liver, I’m not sure. Healthy I think? I barely drink! And skin, not so good. It’s been really inflamed and hard to manage for the last year or so.”
“Yep, the health of your skin is allllll based on your liver.” – Marta
Great… Toxins in my liver! I started thinking, which makes sense with all of my digestion problems…
She also noticed that I don’t sleep very well at night (too much vata in my system), that there is a lot of heat in my stomach (bad digestion), and that my muscles were super sore (so much exercise!).
Everything she said was dead on. Pretty amazing, just coming from my pulse.
Then two other women walked in the room, and my first reaction was, “Ummm, do they know we are about to start my treatment?”
But it turns out, they were the two therapists who were going to be performing the treatment itself! Marta told them a few things to add to my mixture before they got started, and then she left the room (I think????!! I was face down at that point and already starting to relax), and they started on the treatment.
The treatment itself is called Panchakarma, which is a full-body detoxification process that is meant to eliminate toxins and imbalanced doshas from the body. The toxins usually come from disease, poor nutrition, hormones, digestive enzymes, or simply from the stress of life. “Pancha” means give, and “karma” means treatment, and within Panchakarma there are five procedures done.
The first is called Abhyanga, and it’s an individually prepared herbal-oil massage designed to relax the mind-body, break up impurities, and stimulate lymphatic circulation.
Basically, it’s like getting rubbed down with warm (actually kinda hot) herbal-oils on both sides of your body at once… And each therapist performing the procedure rubs in a mirror-imaged, totally synchronized movement. At first I was wishing it was firmer, more massage-like (I love a good massage), but eventually the rubbing itself became incredibly therapeutic and I started to get sort of entranced…
The Abhyanga oil massage enhances the ability of nutrients to reach starved cells and allows for the removal of waste that’s stuck in diff places (in my case, in my liver). Basically, after Abhyanga is performed, you are said to reach a heightened state of awareness that will direct the internal healing system of the body.
(I definitely, definitely did. But we aren’t there yet.)
After the Abhyanga (or maybe in concordance with it, not sure, I was so blissed out and relaxed!), there is Shirodhara, which is a HEAVENLYYY procedure of warm herbalized oil being poured over your forehead, meant to synchronize brain waves and profoundly calm the mind, body and spirit. In my case, I think it was cool coconut milk rather than oil (probably because of the heat she detected in my body), and it lasted for about 30-45 mins… #heaven.
There is also Pizichili, which is another continuous stream of warm herbalized oil poured over the body by the two therapists as they massage the body in perfect (and I mean perfect… very very impressive) unison. It was during this part of the treatment where I fell into a total and complete state of bliss and relaxation. At a certain point I couldn’t even tell if their hands were on me or not, because my body felt so one with the room around me, if that makes sense.
It’s hard to describe, but I was in that waking-dream-state where I literally had NO idea whether I was awake or asleep, dreaming or in my conscious thoughts, in my subconscious or my conscious, or even sort of what city I was in. (That last part might be because I travel so much, and maybe I really did fall asleep, but I seriously was transported and was SO beyond relaxed, for me to sort of forget where I am is a relaxation fete in itself.)
There is also Udvartana, which is a deeply penetrating herbal paste lymphatic massage. It’s to get the lymphatic toxins out of your body. I think the paste was also in my hair, judging by the dark paste-like substance that was in it when I showered after the treatment, but that’s also just a guess.
Overall, I was blown away by the relaxation. I also knew that I was going to go through a heavy detox process, because I could feel that initial detox feeling rising in my body… That feeling of intense exhaustion, relaxation, fuzzy headedness, and the type of small headache I get when I am about to really release some toxins (like in a super intense massage, but times a million).
When the treatment was over, I felt like I was coming out of a coma and/or being re-birthed on a sopping bed of warm oils. It was INSANE. My body hadn’t moved in hours, and had soaked in that incredibly healing warm herbalized oil that was personalized for me, and so much more. I was a zombie, and a happy, relaxed, calm, zenned out zombie at that.
There are showers attached to the treatment rooms, because there is no way you can leave there without showering (lol), and it was probably the longest shower of my life because I was so out of it and so calm.
I stumbled out of the treatment room, said goodbye and thanked them a million times (I felt like they had just transformed me), devoured a quick dinner, and fell asleep at LITERALLY 8:30pm.
The next day:
The next day was when I really noticed the benefits, though. I slept like a ROCK (very rare for me), and even though I hosted two events on Saturday I was pretty out of it and very tired. Normally I am full of energy and super stimulated after I host an event, but I felt totally exhausted, calm and like I could fall asleep standing up.
That’s how I knew I was still detoxing like cray.
After my events, I got in bed around 3:30pm and never got back up. Stayed in bed, ate dinner, and went to sleep really early again.
Come Sunday, I felt more like myself, but STILL sleepy and zen!!! I think my body was seriously processing what had just gone down, and was doing through some major release because of it.
My overall impression:
It was amazing. Sensational, really. It was such a treat, and I am so beyond grateful to Surya for hosting me and giving me the treatment of a lifetime.
Panchakarma is traditionally done in a 7 day period rather than just one, and the FULL treatment is something I would love, love to try some day. Even 3 days would be so blissful. Well, even one was blissful but you know what I mean.
* I don’t think this is a run-of-the-mill treatment that everyone and their mother needs to go out and try. It’s super expensive, and it’s one of those very intense experiences that are meant for people who are looking for something DEEPER, and are dedicated to their health and finding alternative practices that really, really heal and nourish their bodies as a whole.
I don’t really spend my money on a lot of things other than my health and wellbeing, so I can justify these types of experiences once in a while. For the average person (and for most of my friends and what they like to spend their money on), I can see how it would seem a little crazy. (A treatment is about $588 a day.)
But for someone who feels truly off balance, sick, highly interested in Ayurveda, highly interested in having a deeper connection with their mind and body, and interested in not only detecting but getting RID of toxins in one fell swoop of a heavenly treatment / experience, then it is certainly justified.
It’s also like a mini retreat when you’re there, so if you go for the full 7 days I am sure it’s nothing short of feeling like you’ve just been on a vastly replenishing vacation / another planet that’s made of milk and honey and all things good (and your body will be thanking you times a trill).
The truth is, I really like to try it all — the “woo woo,” the expensive, the inexpensive, the deep + intense, the stuff that only people who are serious wellness junkies would dream of doing… Because I enjoy it, I believe in it, I am dedicated to figuring out my stomach (and now liver?!) probs, and I also like to report back to you guys about it all. 🙂
So… Thoughts?! Anyone tried Panchakarma, or interested in trying it? I really want to try the RAJ in Iowa for an Ayurvedic retreat — but first I want to go back to Surya for 3-7 days of treatment.
If you’re looking for more resources & details about Ayurveda, check out these books & some of my fav herbs:
& if you live in LA and are looking for the experience of a lifetime, check out Surya for SURE. I can’t recommend it highly enough.