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Panchakarma the Experiment: Exploring Different Doshas

When I read that Ayurveda would be part of our syllabus at Axis Yoga, I was so excited. I didn’t really know anything about Ayurveda, but I was thrilled to learn. As with all things Yoga, the more I learned, the more questions I had. But still, I wanted to know what Ayurveda had to offer me. To find that out I must know my Dosha.

At the beginning it seemed as if I may be Tri-doshic. So again, more questions. If I’m Tri-doshic, how do I know what is a balanced symptom of one Dosha versus an unbalanced symptom of a different Dosha. Instead of looking at the Doshas and their qualities, I decided to look at the unbalanced symptoms of each Dosha and see what looked familiar to me.  Again, I was across the board, I had imbalances associated with all three Doshas.  I had read about the Panchakarma in our required reading and it seemed like a good way to balance everything in one shot and maybe shed some light on my Dosha situation.

Panchakarma the Experiment: The Cleanse

Upon reading about the Panchakarma it didn’t seem that difficult a cleanse to execute. I have done cleanses before, namely the Master Cleanse, and I thought I could sail through this one with ease. But, I was wrong. Ghee was my initial choice for my internal and external oleation. My first attempt with the ghee internal oleation was horrific. It made me gag and the smell was more than I could bare, but I persevered. I continued this morning ritual with a ghee oil pull and tongue scraping for the first three days as prescribed.

On the fourth day I discontinued the internal oleation and replaced it with the external oleation. I also began eating the monodiet of kicheree on this day. Even though I was no longer drinking the ghee, but massaging myself with it before showering, the smell was too much! All day I would burp ghee, everything smelled like butter and not in a good way. I felt as though I were made of the stuff! On the fifth day of my cleanse I woke up with a strange but minor red spot on my chest. After my shower it was a huge red streak headed for my heart. It forked off in two directions and my first thought was that I had some strange infection. So I emailed a picture to our amazing Ayurvedic instructors asking if I should be concerned. As I looked at it it didn’t seem to look all that much like an infection so I settled down. It was concluded that this heat induced spot, over the lymph on my left side was Pitta provoked Ama being released via my skin.

Panchakarma the Experiment: Discovering Doshas

Now I had some indication of what Dosha I needed to be dealing with. I started to adjust my cleanse toward relieving Pitta.  I changed on the sixth day from using ghee for oleation and oil pulls to coconut oil. Oh what a relief! The coconut oil tasted and smelled so much better, it was amazing! It was so much better in fact that I started to massage with it after my shower, it was that much more tolerable to me. In addition to the oil pulling, tongue scraping and external oleation I was drinking Triphala tea with added Fenugreek (more than recommended:) I love how the fenugreek tastes). I found all of these things to be very tolerable and continue them on a regular basis since the end of the Panchakarma. From days four through nine I continued with the monodiet also, this was not tolerable.

I consider myself a fairly accomplished cook and my kicheree turned out horrible. In reality it probably wasn’t horrible it was just dry and sticky, it tasted fine. I really enjoyed it a couple of times with added cilantro (for Pitta) and ginger. But then I got bored with it and almost found it easier to not eat. I would go through phases when I wouldn’t consider putting most food into my body to considering eating a french fry off the sidewalk. A couple of times I had vegetable broth or fruit juice to ease my way, I admit. It was harder than I anticipated eating the same thing all day for several days in a row.

On the second to last day I drank a few teaspoons of castor oil instead of doing the Basti, per the recommendation of our esteemed teachers. I don’t know which would have been worse. I won’t say much here other than it worked.

Experiment in Ayurveda: Eating for Vata Dosha

My diet is pretty healthy because I have been dealing with asthma and food sensitivities for a long time.  I stopped drinking alcohol about 3 months before I began the yoga teacher training.  I gave up red meat and sugar.   My body changed through diet and exercise but I still suffer with asthma and sinus issues. 

My visit with Ayurvedic doctor Alakananda Ma revealed that I was a Vata Dosha.  This changed my whole perspective mid stream on my diet.  This explained a lot to me.  I had been eating foods that were not right for my dosha all along.  The teas have supported my immune system and I feel really good when I take them.  In combination with my visit to Alakananda and Dr. Singer (D.O./alternative Dr. deals with chronic issues), I figured out a directional plan for my health.

The foods within the Vata diet were much different than I had been eating.   Although I was eating healthy foods, they were the wrong foods for my Dosha.  Plus, I ate way too many carbs., having Reactive Hypoglycemia.  My protein was low, I was advised to eat meat.  I bless it.  Since I have cut the carbs., increased my protein, I have felt much better.  I haven’t felt dizzy, as if I was going to pass out during yoga for a couple of weeks now.   I have increased my sadhana and asana practice to daily! 

This experiment has really guided me.  It would be such a beautiful thing if Eastern and Western Medicine would just get along.  They compliment each other.  At this time, I don’t feel that I could have the improvement that I have had, one without the other.  I need some medication, to transition me off my steroid inhalers, prescriptions of high dose probiotics to boost my immune system, shots in my butt of iron and B12 and wow, I feel normal again.  The Ayurvedic diet has been key and the teas are amazing.