A Traditional Ayurvedic Detox in Kerala, India

Our team in Kerala recently bid farewell to Lou Burton – who after a couple of months helping out in our clifftop cafe in Varkala, is now off on the next leg of her adventure with partner-in-crime Mark (you can follow along at TannedTonedTravelled.com). While she was with us, Lou took the opportunity to book herself in for a traditional Panchakarma with the Ayurvedic doctors across the road from us. She kindly penned a few words on her experiences, for those of us not brave enough to try it ourselves!

At Soul & Surf in Kerala, we spend most of our days cruisin’ in the surf, zenning out in a yoga class or maxing relaxing with our homemade juices in the clifftop garden. But it never escapes us that we are in a unique and fascinating part of the world. Meaning exploring local traditions and culture should be on everyone’s S&S India bucket list because it’s certainly on ours.

Kerala happens to be home to Ayurvedic medicine and it’s this local tradition specifically that I decided to immerse myself in for a 7 day detox. Also known as the Panchakarma, this is an immersive experience that I was slightly cynical about at first but actually came out of feeling a shift in both my mental and physical wellbeing.

In this post I’ll cover what it’s like to go through the Panchakarma including what’s to love, what’s to be endured and a few top tips before you book onto one.

The Pancha What?
Let’s start with the basics. Because I had no idea what the Panchakarma was before I arrived in India.
Known for its detoxifying abilities and the power to restore balance in the body, the Panchakarma ranges from seven days long to one month long (for the brave!). The word Panchakarma actually means ‘five actions’ in Sanskrit, relating to the five treatments which you’ll undergo to fully clear out the body of any excess toxins and waste. Including relaxing massages, being rubbed all over with herbs & spices and one whole day of purging, this treatment not only promises to rid you of the toxins in your body but also to totally rejuvenate you. Sounds great right?

Ayurvedic treatments are always natural and plant based – including any medicines you may be advised to take. For example just a few of the treatments I received included oil massages, a steam box and nasal drops all of which were detoxifying and natural.
It’s that simple really!

Why the Pancha Karma?
When our lifestyle is tough – long working hours, stressful journeys on the Tube and subsequent rushed or poor eating habits, the toxins and waste in the body starts to build up. Even though I led a healthy life when I lived in London, I definitely still ate when I wasn’t hungry, took on long days at work and the gym and inevitably put additional stress on my body. And I felt like I needed to rebalance after living this hectic lifestyle which is why I chose the Panchakarma.

But it can be far more personal. Whether you have high cholestoral or you’re just looking to lose a bit of weight, the programme can vary to include treatments and medicines specific to your personal goals and ailments. You’ll have a consultation with the doctor before you start and they will decide the best combination of treatments and medicines for you specifically based on your goals and dosha.

Wait! What’s a dosha?
Again the only dosha I knew about before I stepped into the Ayurveda centre was a Masala Dosha (super tasty, make sure you try one – just not on the detox week!). Doshas are the three the biological energies that govern our body and minds; Pitta, Vatha, Kapha. We all have all three of them but usually one is dominant. Your doctor will be able to determine which one dominates in you during your first consultation.

What you’ll love!

  • The massages!
  • Shirodhara – the art of oil being dripped on your head which is said to send you into a meditation-like state (it sent me into one!)
  • Water treatment – water being poured all over you while you lay naked on a wooden table. It’s good, promise!
  • Reflexology.

What you’ll endure…

  • Being rubbed all over with herbs – it literally feels as though you’re about to be marinated and chargrilled.
  • Pooing your guts out for 4 hours.
  • Eating rice gruel. It’s a disappointing bowl of food after you just pooped your guts out for 4 hours and ate brown goo for breakfast.

Other Top Tips

  • To help you get the best out of your time immersed in the Pancha Karma, here’s a few top tips based on learnings from my experience…
  • Find a centre that will support you.
  • Make sure the staff are friendly, communicative and sensitive to your personal needs.
  • Keep yourself occupied.
  • Help yourself by signing up to yoga classes and surf sessions to enrich the time around your treatment. It will help keep your mind busy and keep your body moving in a low impact way.
  • It’s tough, but if you want to see results you have to stick to it.
  • And it makes it so much easier if you have the full support of the centre to get you through. There’s a few centres in and around Varkala, so do a little research before you rock up.

The right programme for you…
I chose the slimming programme, but there are other programmes to choose from which you’ll discuss with your doctor to make it more personal to you.

Check out more of Lou’s writing at Tanned, Toned & Travelled: http://tannedtonedtravelled.com/ 

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