Panchakarma

Shirodhara in Infertility

Infertility has been steadily rising among men and women over the last few decades. As an Ayurvedic practitioner,  I work with clients dealing with infertility by applying diet and lifestyle practices along with herbal formulas, stress management tools, and Ayurvedic body techniques. Since ancient times, one such body technique, shirodhara, has been used with great success to address infertility problems. 

Shirodhara is a simple yet profound technique specifically designed to balance and stabilize the nervous system and the activities of the mind. In this application, an Ayurvedic practitioner streams dosha-balancing herbal oils over the middle of the client’s forehead, where the third eye chakra is located. Shirodhara is highly effective in normalizing sleep cycles, reducing stress, and managing infertility and is unique in its ability to calm the nerves while at the same time awakening the senses. 

Modern scientists now recognizes the relationship between what traditional Eastern philosophies call the “third eye” and the region deep inside the brain that houses the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the pineal gland. These three structures regulate production of most of the hormones in the body, including reproductive hormones, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Secreted by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream, this hormone stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles in women’s ovaries before the release of an egg at ovulation.Insufficient levels of FSH can result in reduced growth of ovarian follicles and interfere with the release of an egg, thus leading to infertility. In men, FSH is required for the proper development of the testes and for sperm production. 

Normal levels of FSH are needed for fertility in both men and women. When levels are either too high or too low, the chances of pregnancy decrease. Elevated FSH levels are a sign of malfunction in the ovary and testes and, in women, may indicate the onset of early menopause. Diminished FSH levels in men may indicate the failure of the testes to produce normal numbers of sperm. 

The application of the dosha-specific herbal oils on the focal point of the third eye helps ensure adequate levels of FSH and other reproductive hormones by optimizing communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the pineal gland, These endocrine glands not only secrete our reproductive hormones, but also govern the hormones that support our autonomic responses, including digestion, respiration, and elimination, and play an important role in our mood and emotional states. The use of shirodhara promotes harmony between our organ systems and hormones, thus supporting female and male fertility and overall wellness. 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

How to Ensure a Healthy Transition with the Change of Season

ayurveda spring food

Spring is almost here, but we are still experiencing the cold and dark conditions of the winter. Ayurveda defines rutu sandhi as the transition between two seasons, which generally consists of the final 15 days of one season and the first 15 days of the next. As we move from winter to spring, this “door” or pathway between seasons offers a great opportunity to switch out the old season’s clothes, lifestyle, and attitudes for a fresh new start. This seasonal juncture is an excellent time for a cleansing treatments like panchakarma. Chances are we have accumulated excess kapha in our system during the winter. This imbalance can be aggravated by the arrival of the spring, which like winter is a kapha-dominant season. Ayurveda recommends incorporating certain foods, practices, and herbs into our daily routine at this time of year to keep kapha in balance. 

Spring is the king of the seasons. During this time, Mother Earth awakens to bring new life after the dormant winter months. Spring is mild, moist, and full of color. It is a wonderful time for testing new skills, growing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually and starting a new lifestyle. Spring is also a blooming season, when flowers shed their pollen and infuse the air with their glorious fragrance. While the transition to warmer weather and burgeoning plant life can be a delightful experience for some people, it can have a downside for kapha individuals (especially those with pollen-based allergies) and for any anyone else who’s accumulated excess kapha.For these individuals, the irritation of mucous membranes and the buildup of mucus associated with kapha can lead to an onslaught of colds, allergies, sinus infections, asthma attacks, and hay fever symptoms. Their discomfort often intensifies when the warming spring air liquifies the congestion, inducing runny noses and wet, phlegmy coughing.  

To alleviate excesskapha in the throat, you can gargle honey and hot water or a cup of hot water with 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of salt. Another helpful formula for this time of year is a combination of ginger, black pepper, and pippali (piper longum) known astrikatu. This spice blend not only clears mucus from the body but also increases digestive fire and helps eliminate toxins. Adopting a kapha-pacifying  diet during the pre-spring period can also lower the incidence of allergies, hay fever, and colds. 

Regimen for Spring

  •  Adopt a diet dominated by bitter, pungent, and astringent foods. 

  • Eat lightly, and consume easily digestible foods. Favor soups and cooked vegetables.

  • Use small amounts of raw honey as a sweetener.

  • Fast for one day a week, preferably on Monday or Thursday (for astrological reasons).

  • Drink warming, cleansing herbal teas, such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, clove.

  • Practice yoga, meditation and pranayama.

  • Keep warm and dry.

  • Rinse nasal passages with warm saltwater and herbs. By taking just a few seconds to do this, you can avoid days of misery from sick sinuses.

Things to Avoid

  • Fatty and fried foods

  • Excessive amounts of sweet, sour, and salty foods

  • Large, heavy, breakfasts

  • Between-meal snacks, except for dried fruit

  • Cold or iced beverages

  • Daytime naps

  •  Exposure to dust, dirt, and pollen

  • Cold drafts and air conditioning

Foods for the Season

  • Legumes, split peas, red lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, and fresh soybean products

  • Amaranth, barely, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, 

  • Radishes, spinach, artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, lettuces, okra

  • Apricots, berries, cherries, dark grapes, mangos, peaches, pears, pomegranates, and raisins

 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

 

 

Why Panchakarma?

Ayurveda teaches that the key to optimal health lies in our ability to fully digest everything that enters our body and mind, integrating whatever nourishes our being and eliminating the remainder. Because of genetic tendencies and, more commonly, unhealthy lifestyle choices, the most vulnerable areas of our body tend to accumulate toxic residues from foods, experiences, and feelings that haven’t been completely digested and metabolized. When left unaddressed, the buildup of this sticky toxic waste, known as ama, can give rise to physical and mental fatigue, disease, and emotional distress. Its presence often manifests in physical symptoms ranging from high cholesterol, hardened arteries, tooth tartar, and joint pain to a coated tongue, foul body odor, and excess mucus. Signs of ama’s harmful impact on our psychological and spiritual well-being include frequent episodes of boredom, irritability, and insatiable craving.

For thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine has relied on the purification process known as panchakarma to deal with this fundamental threat to our health and happiness. The word panchakarmameans “five actions” and refers to five procedures that intensively cleanse and precisely balance the body, mind, and emotions. The correct application of these techniques quickly reverses the degenerative process and often yields profound and long-lasting benefits. Ayurvedic practitioners use panchakarma as a preventative or supportive measure for a variety of health imbalances. It can be particularly effective for managing health problems that are chronic, metabolic, or stress related.

According to Ayurveda, every human being is unique and therefore best served by an individualized approach to health care. The aim of Ayurveda is to help a healthy person stay well and to eliminate the causes of disease in a person who is ill. In both cases, panchakarma nurtures wellness with a set of procedures that are tailored to an individual’s constitution, age, digestive strength, health issues, immune status, and situational factors.

Panchakarma therapy detoxifies the various microscopic and macroscopic structures of the body, including the respiratory, lymphatic, circulatory, reproductive, and nervous systems. By optimizing digestion, elimination, and nutrient absorption and by introducing antioxidant enzymes into the body, panchakarma helps neutralize free radicals, balance cholesterol and triglycerides, and regulate blood pressure. It can slow the aging process, boost vitality and mental clarity, and even reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke paralysis, and cancer by enabling our mind and body manage stress more effectively. Brain wave studies indicate that panchakarma techniques foster a relaxed yet alert mental state. By inducing this state of restful alertness, these techniques help protect our mind and body from the potentially deadly effects of chronic stress and tension, while enhancing our physical and mental performance.

Many Ayurvedic practitioners believe that even healthy people should undergo regular panchakarma treatments to combat the effects of chronic exposure to today’s rising levels of environmental pollution. Traces of the thousands[EP1] of synthetic chemicals used in modern industrialized societies (including many compounds that are linked to cancer and other health threats) permeate our food, water, air and can accumulate in our bodies, adding to the toxic burden of ama on our organs and tissues.

Ayurvedic theory emphasizes the importance of a panchakarma program for easing the challenges of transitioning from one season to the next. This is particularly true during the early spring when the lingering effects of excess kapha on winter-stressed bodies tend to increase susceptibility to colds and seasonal allergies.  

The first stage of panchakarma comprises treatments that stoke agni (digestive fire) while liquefying the sticky mass of ama in your organs and tissues and pushing it toward the digestive tract. This preparatory phase, known as purvakarma, consists of oil massages, ingestion of medicated ghee, and techniques like steam baths to stimulate sweating. These treatments lay the groundwork for efficient waste removal by lubricating the body’s subtle channels. After several days of purvakarma, the practitioner chooses one or more of the five (pancha) actions (karma) designed to rid the body of the ama. This stage also typically lasts for several days. The elimination stage is followed by a series of internal and external rasayana(rejuvenation) procedures. This phase, which strengthens and nourishes the body, is just as vital as the first two to panchakarma’s goal of preventing disease and restoring our natural state of balanced health and happiness.

Just as you would with any medical procedure, be sure to consult with a qualified physician before undergoing panchakarma therapy. An Ayurvedic physician has the specialized expertise to determine your constitution, diagnose any health problems, and recommend the panchakarma techniques that are most appropriate for your condition. Specially trained technicians must administer these procedures in a defined sequence over a specified period of time. The importance of close supervision by an Ayurvedic expert at all times during the treatments can’t be overemphasized. If your body isn’t properly prepared for cleansing, or if the techniques are incorrectly administered, the process can overwhelm your nervous system or dislodge more toxins than your body can handle. Each stage of panchakarma must be performed with proficiency and grace in keeping with the rigorous standards of Ayurvedic tradition.

While many of the most popular cleanses promise fast results, these quick fixes tend to be harsh and unpleasant and their benefits often prove fleeting. Panchakarma is gentle, soft, and slow. It seeks to create a gentle, steady wave of cleansing—not a tsunami—so this time-honored Ayurvedic therapy may grant those who experience it deep and enduring rewards.

Panchakarma may help with most minor and major health problems including:

  • Nervous system disorders

  • Stress, insomnia, anxiety

  • ADD/ADHD

  •  Obesity

  • Diabetes

  • Sports injuries 

  • Arthritis

  • Frequent illness

  • Allergies, asthma

  • Infertility & sexual dysfunction

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Muscular dystrophy

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Drug abuse

  • Stomach discomfort

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches & migraines

  • Digestive disorders

  • Skin conditions

  • Psoriasis

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Candidiasis

  • Joint immobility

  • Circulation-related imbalances

  • Thyroid conditions

  • Crohn’s disease & IBS

  • Constipation

  • Insomnia

  • Heart disease

  • Osteoporosis

  • High blood pressure

  • Menopause

  • Emotional problems

  • Seniors’ health issues

  • Parasites

  • Depression & bipolar disorder

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

Sources: 

“What Can Panchakarma Do for You,” Yoga International, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/what-can-panchakarma-do-for-you.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

 [EP1]I deleted to reference to 100, 000 chemicals use in commerce. The EPA has a list of 84,000 chemicals that  are manufactured but fewer than 8,000 are in wide use.