My Panchakarma Experience
Hi guys! It’s finally time to share in depth about my latest 7-day Panchakarma! I know I have written a few mini recaps like my reflections during the PK, my water fasting details, and my kitchari recipes (#yum), but now I am ready to share with you my full shebang of an experience.
I took my time before sitting down to write this recap because I really wanted to let the full experience, and the aftermath, sink in. I have continued the Ayurvedic lifestyle and I’m doing more treatments at Surya Spa post-PK because my body has needed and craved it, which I will also get into. So even though I finished the Panchakarma about three weeks ago, it still feels like I have been *in* the experience and lifestyle the whole time!
So let’s just start from the very beginning. 🙂
Also, for those reading who may not have read my previous Panchakarma posts, read this post first because it will explain & break down what the treatment is!
Booking the Panchakarma //
I booked this specific Panchakarma for a lot of reasons.
I did a 5-day PK in 2016 with my Ayurvedic practitioner Anjali (do you guys remember her from our podcast episode?!) During that experience I did not use technology, didn’t speak to anyone (including my mom which is NUTS for me) for the entire duration of the 5-day treatments, felt more spiritually in tune than ever in my life, released so much negativity and pent up resentment and pain, and also got my dosha back into balance. I felt AMAZING and I know at that time I was glowing from the inside out.
Fast forward to late 2017. My health was no longer as bright and glowy as it was after my first PK. Many of you know this but by late last year I was suffering from severe, debilitating eczema, a painful uterine fibroid, major gut health and digestion issues, hormonal imbalances, skin inflammation, and THEN to top it all off… the worst full body hives I could have ever imagined. Before the hives even occurred though, my amazing bodywork specialist Lauren Roxburgh (the body WHISPERER!) intuited while she was working on me, “I think you need to go to Surya for a full Panchakarma!”
WHAT?! I had already been thinking about it and feeling the deep internal calling to do one, but I also knew that my schedule was insane and carving out a full 7 days, plus the weeklong prep period and the downtime afterward would be next to impossible. Or so it felt — because now I know, nothing is impossible when our health is calling and our body is speaking to us.
So back in November when Lo and I had this conversation, I went ahead and booked a four day PK at Surya for the middle of January. That gave me plenty of time to keep my schedule open and prepare. Even though it was just days leading up to the retreat I hosted in Palm Springs with Kelsey Patel and then a weeklong trip to NYC, I thought, “No problem! I’ve got this! Relaxation and bliss before the craziness.”
Only after that conversation & booking did my digestion blow UP in Bali ( because of having way, way too many foods and bevs I was allergic to, plus the travel and crazy time difference and being out of my routine) and then my skin BLOW UP in turn. On January 2nd I woke up with red, inflamed, cracking, bleeding, on FIRE hives from the crown of my head to the tip of my toes. The rash wrapped around my chin, neck, stomach, back, and legs in a way that made it look like I was having a cutaneous drug rash reaction. That’s what dermatologists told me at least… and it turns out they were very wrong but we will get to that!
So little did I know when I booked that four day PK back in November, that by mid-January my health would be a wreck and my entire system would be begging for a serious break and recharge.
Starting the Experience //
In the days and weeks leading up to the PK, my heart and soul started to deeply crave and yearn for the experience to start. My body knew something so amazing, blissful and relaxing was coming… and I needed it so badly. I was still trying to tell myself that four days would be fine and enough, totally neglecting the fact that last time I did a five day PK I was perfectly healthy in many ways going into it, and this time I simply was not even close to being HALFWAY healthy. I couldn’t even lay down in bed because of the rash on my back, so I truly was not sleeping for at least two weeks before the treatments started.
I had been to Surya in the past for one day treatments, so I knew that the owner & head Ayurvedic doctor Martha Soffer was a brilliant goddess. I am sure you’ve heard me sing her praises many times now if you follow me on Instagram or have read my previous recap posts! She is OTHERWORLDLY with her brilliance in diagnosing, treating, and taking care of her patients. (I believe they call them clients at Surya, but in my eyes we are totally patients. We are being taken care of in the best way.)
When Martha came into my room on that first day I was laying under the covers and the lights were off. She took my pulse, and she immediately said, “Eczema?”
And I said, “YES!” thinking that she could see my skin, but I realized right away that she was getting this info from my pulse and not even from looking at me yet. Like I said, #brilliant.
She felt the crazy intense amount of heat in my blood through my pulse and by looking at my tongue. Right away her hypothesis was that I had parasites, and she told me to look out for them throughout the PK as we would be releasing so many toxins that they would start coming out if I had any.
Then I showed her my skin, and she told me that doing the full recommended seven days would be highly beneficial for me. I told her I was committed to hosting a retreat in Palm Springs that weekend but that I could come back the following week for three more days before I left for NYC, and she said that would be fine.
So right away my PK went from four days to seven days, and my whole body, mind and soul felt relieved. I knew how much I needed this.
The treatments & being technology-free //
From Day One through Day Four I turned my phone completely off, and did not touch my computer (other than to email my mom one time!). Jonathan and I had decided beforehand that I would fully dive into the experience, come home and rest and read every day like my first PK, and just CHILL. A.k.a, we didn’t see each other or talk at all.
That part was way harder than both of us anticipated… there have been so many times when the two of us are in different countries, SO MANY time zones away from each other and hardly able to talk, but somehow not talking at all is harder. I think it was less hard for me because I was doing such deep, internal healing work and getting the treatments every day… but I couldn’t help but miss him so much at night and just want to say goodnight and I love you. 🙂
I did send my mom an email during the experience because she begged me to update her midway through! My skin was so, so, SO messed up when I started the PK that I was considering going to the hospital… so I understood her concern and wanted to honor my promise. I sent her an email during Day Two (while I was water fasting!) and typing it out to her felt like writing a massive blog post, which was SO MUCH FUN. I never communicate with my family via email, so it was kind of a fun switch up. I am pasting a paragraph from my email to her below so you can see:
Excerpt from email to my mom during PK:
The head doctor Marta is AMAZING (!!!!!). You should look her up, she is very well known. Her name is Martha Soffer but pronounced Marta. You’ll find tons of articles on her. She has me doing a WATER FAST today, tomorrow, and most likely Thursday. That means I am eating no food at all. That way the body can focus on healing the ailments vs. digesting food. If you’re wary about it you should look up articles by Dr. Joel Fuhrman on water fasting — they treat fibroids as well.
So far I feel really good… I have also been doing enemas every day (basti is what they call them in Ayurveda). Today I did a coffee enema and yesterday I did an oil one. Tomorrow they will have me do a chamomile one.
The rash on my back is still terrible and same with my arms and legs. Now it’s wrapped around my sides and my stomach. Marta thinks that four days won’t be quite enough to fully detox me because I am SO filled with toxins in my liver / kidneys etc. So she is having me come back Monday, Tues, Weds of next week after I get back from Palm Springs so I will technically be doing a 7 day Panchakarma with a break in the middle. But next week I will have to be back on phone / computer when I’m not at Surya and that’s okay. She also thinks the rash stems from parasites emotional trauma and prolonged stress. We have been doing cooling treatments every day since it’s a “pitta” imbalance and pitta in Ayurveda means fire. I am a pitta dosha so it is just way out of balance right now.
The Panchakarma is amazing and really so much more intense than my last one because I am coming from such a less healthy place with my skin and stomach. Here they do very rigorous and thorough treatments of all kinds (the enema, the diet / water fasting, liver cleansing, multiple treatments per day, lots of rest, etc.) and is designed to really HEAL the body from the inside out. Everyone there says that a full Panchakarma is the best thing you can do for eczema, so hopefully it really works.
It is also the most enjoyable thing ever and so relaxing. I am going to see my acupuncturist after this. Then I will be resting, reading, sleeping and watching Vanderpump most likely. 😉
Then I went on and on to tell her that Hudson and my neighbor’s dog played all afternoon and that Hud was passed out from exhaustion in the window afterward! Too much. Hopefully you can see from the email that I was on CLOUD NINE and feeling really good from the treatments, even though my skin was still in so much pain.
That week I was doing morning treatments, meaning that I was at Surya from 9:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. every day. We started the treatments each day with Abhyanga, a hot herbal oil massage administered by two therapists at once in synchronicity on both sides of the body. It feels amazing and brings all of the toxins to one place in your body (the colon) so that you can release them. Depending on what other treatments you are getting that day, the abhyanga can last from anywhere to an hour to over two hours.
After that the treatments differ each day depending on your dosha, your imbalances, and where you are in your healing process. Mostly every day that I was there I got a Pinda Sweda, which is a type of Ayurvedic massage that is done with warm medicated herbal oils and herb bags. Mine had rice and hot milk in them which was used on my skin to release the HEAT and excess inflammation in my body. To be honest, it was excruciatingly uncomfortable because of my rashes but the discomfort is also how I knew it was working.
After each Pinda my skin would feel on FIRE but my body would feel cold at the same time. This was my first PK experience where I wasn’t in total physical relaxation and bliss the whole time because when you have serious inflammation and you’re getting a Pinda… it does not feel awesome. But I so, so needed it and I knew that is what I was there for — to HEAL.
Then I would take a cold shower and come back to the treatment table for a basti, which is an enema. We rotated every day from a coffee basti, to an oil basti, to a chlorophyll basti, and back to coffee. This part of the process was so important for me because I have so many toxins and parasites that needed to be released, and this is such a holistic and effective way to do that.
After that, I would get my shirodhara, which for me every day was cold coconut milk dripped onto my third eye for about 30-45 minutes versus the warm herbal oil that is often used. I had a lot of heat in my head that Martha could feel, so we continued to cooling shiro’s the whole time for me.
Some days I would also do an ionic foot bath, which I fell in LOVE WITH (!!!) because not only does it draw toxins out from your feet into the water, but it also turns the water a DIFFERENT COLOR depending on what toxins are being drawn out. I saw heavy metals, candida, air pollution, skin disorder toxins, and so much more coming out into the water through the colors. It was gnarly.
Other days I would do a ginger foot bath, which is also highly detoxifying. And easy to make at home! It’s literally just ginger boiled in hot water that you then soak your feet in.
All of this to say, all of this detoxing is amazing and totally exhausting at the same time. I needed (and still need!) SO much sleep and rest while my body processed all of this deep, deep healing.
What else did I do every day? //
After the treatments Surya serves lunch, which is always a mung soup with Indian basmati rice and lightly sautéed or steamed veggies — always DELICIOUS. Then I would take a walk around the gorgeous area that Surya is located in the Palisades and look out at the ocean, taking it all in. I found that not being on my phone gave me the beautiful, simple pleasure of enjoying the MOMENT and soaking in the beauty around me for exactly what it was, instead of trying to capture it like I always do when my phone is on me.
After that I would come home each day, relax with Huddy, read, write, research all of the health things I was becoming fascinated with (water fasting, fasting for healing, alternative healing methods for rashes and fibroids, etc.), watch a documentary or two (HIGHLY RECOMMEND the doc HEAL!), and go to bed early. It was a DREAM.
Water fasting during PK //
As you saw in my email to my mom during the PK, I went on a 3-day water fast during the Panchakarma. So the delicious lunch I talked about above is something I only got to enjoy on my first day, and then again the following week when I came back for an additional 3 days!
The water fast itself was surreal in so many ways. I felt so spiritually connected to the plants, the ocean, the wind, the cosmos, people who have passed on, and so much more. I was getting major MESSAGES from people who are in other realms while I was getting my shirodhara — which was SO COOL. I think that removing the filter of digestion, when done for healing purposes, and fasting only on water takes our body to a whole new level of awareness and closeness to the earth. It was truly remarkable.
Physically, the water fast was easier than I thought it would be in many ways. My body was doing such heavy detox during the PK I already felt exhausted, so adding more exhaustion (no food!) to my plate was a lot — but I was there for true healing so I wanted to give the experience my all in every way. It was nice to come home and have no responsibilities because I made so much time for myself and my healing that week. I would just come home and LAY DOWN, sometimes falling asleep, because my body was doing so much healing work.
I loved the fasting experience so much that I’ve decided to do weekly water fasts from here on out. Not only is it deeply healing for so many of my health conditions, but it also gives me a reason to slow down every week, which has been my greatest intention for almost two years now. The weekly water fasting was prescribed to me by Martha for my rashes, fibroid, health maintenance, and overall healing.
Parasites & Tapeworms //
I will keep this section brief because I plan to do a whole dedicated blog post on this subject because so many of you have asked me to go into detail about this!
I’ve known that I have had parasites off and on because they showed up in a stool test I did with my Functional Medicine Doctor two years ago, and then again this past year. Both times he put me on an antibiotic regimen to get rid of them, so I figured they were gone.
About three months ago I noticed something on my skin that seemed really odd… almost like a raised, red blister that was extremely painful to the touch on my inner thigh. At first I was worried about it because I had never seen anything like it and it was SO painful, but shortly afterward I started getting the full-body hives my terrible eczema worsened so I almost forgot about the little patch on my leg that I was worried about.
Fast forward to the PK, when Martha told me that I likely had parasites. Once we got the toxins moving through my body, the parasites started to come through me. I have seen so, so, so many come out at this point. I know it’s disgusting, but I am also SO GLAD they are leaving my body. Martha pinpointed that most of them coming out are tapeworms… so I know the type that I have which is helpful, albeit horrifying to know that I have tapeworms.
Well, TODAY I finally put two and two together that the painful patch on my skin that I had dismissed as a weird rash is actually a tapeworm. I googled it and wanted to die when I realized it looked exactly like the images I was googling for “tapeworms under skin.” (Don’t look it up unless you think you have one — it’s seriously gross.) I don’t think that particular one can be released through this liver cleanse that I am currently doing since it is UNDER my skin on my leg… so I will likely have to see a dermatologist to remove it. (Ew, but at least I know now.)
Martha also put me on an herbal parasite killer called HumaWorm that I would highly recommend to anyone who has parasites or tapeworms in their body. I have no idea how I got mine, but it could have been from contaminated water or food, traveling, a sponge I’ve used to clean my dishes, a veggie from the farmer’s market, ANYTHING. Scary.
The Aftermath //
After my seventh day, I was truly depressed that the PK was over. I grew so comfortable in my routine of going to Surya every day to get the treatments. I was seeing massive improvement in my skin, I was eating food again by the end of the PK, and felt so close to Martha and all of the therapists there! Everyone at Surya is incredible and they make you feel right at home. I also knew that I had so much more healing to do, I was worried that I would backslide without being in that healing environment with the permission to SLOW DOWN every day.
I had a consultation with Martha before I left to make sure that I was carrying the benefits of the Ayurvedic lifestyle with me so that I could continue to feel better and better. She put me on a protocol that has been EXTREMELY helpful where I… take a tablespoon of olive oil every morning for my liver, drink two glasses of warm water, give myself an herbal oil abhyanga massage every morning, do TM and light yoga before I check any technology, eat kitchari and COOKED veggies for breakfast, lunch and dinner (while I heal), and do a weekly water fast every Monday to continue healing.
Everyone’s bodies are very different but this is what works best for me right now. Yes, that means I am completely plant-based right now which is also anti-inflammatory… and my body is loving it. With the abundance of legumes and grains, I feel satiated and so nourished. The last time I was plant-based (which you can read about here) I was pretty much fully raw and all about the smoothies and juices, so this couldn’t feel more different. I am not labeling myself because who knows how I will feel as time goes on, but right now this is really working for me.
The MENTAL benefits have also been so, so significant. My experience this time was much different than last time in that my body, mind and soul have all been working to heal, heal, heal. Last time, I was exploring all sorts of spiritual awakening and ideas. This time my energy is consolidated and I am just trying to feel better and get well again. I still had some major epiphanies, specifically about slowing down and taking REAL care of myself instead of the go-go-go and THEN take care of myself pace that I had been so used to.
I also got the clear wakeup call that alcohol just isn’t for me during my PK. I have hardly drank for the last few years… I can count on two hands the amount of times I had alcohol in 2017. But I was still into drinking socially when it felt right. Now I just have zero desire. My body feels so taxed as it is, and alcohol intuitively feels like the most inflammatory, disrupting substance for my body at this time. I will drink lightly if I feel inspired to in the future, but right now I am seeing 2018 as a fully alcohol-free year for me. <3 It came to me LOUD & CLEAR from the cosmos during my PK, so I am listening!
My rashes are improving but not fully gone. Hopefully the below liver cleanse will help a lot as I continue to heal.
Liver Cleanse //
During my consultation with Martha we also decided I would come back to Surya to do a liver cleanse in conjunction with the New Moon… which is tomorrow! Valentine’s Day!
The liver cleanse is a six day treatment that includes drinking malic acid every day (to bring all toxins into the liver so they can be eliminated), 3 coffee bastis (one at the beginning, one in the middle, one at the end), a kitchari and cooked veggie diet, and then on the 5th night (tonight for me… eek!) drinking epson salt, olive oil and a bit of grapefruit juice. It will be a major detox for my liver and gallbladder.
I know it will be so good for my skin and organs. People tell me that after a liver cleanse you feel RADIANT and amazing… so, I absolutely cannot wait to experience the benefits! They also say that I will feel very wiped out tomorrow morning… so when J and I drive to Ojai for Valentine’s Day I might be very bleh for a while until I get more energy!
Summing it all up //
It’s super difficult to sum up an experience like a Panchakarma in just a blog post. I seriously would like to write a book about my experiences, and continue to do PK’s here in LA at Surya seasonally, and also do an extended one in India sometime this year or next. I so deeply believe in the healing practices of Ayurveda and balancing our doshas to heal.
I am also considering going down the path of practicing Ayurveda. I am not sure what that will look like yet, but to add it into my current lifestyle and business feels so right, plus I just want to KNOW MORE. I also want to know more about kundalini, reiki, mediumship, and other forms of spiritual healing so WHO KNOWS what I will really pursue first — but eventually, it will be all of it. 🙂
If you have any PK questions, leave them below! I love answering them and highly recommend this treatment to anyone who needs to heal from the inside out, and anyone who is interested in preventative healing. It can be expensive, so starting small with a one day or three day treatment is always an option to see how it feels for you. I consider it to be a longterm investment in my health so I am happy to pay every last penny!