Purusha

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.

Ayurveda and Sports Medicine

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Ayurvedic Medicine

 

How can Ayurveda—a medical system that’s more than 5,000 years old—contribute anything of value to sports medicine, a discipline that didn’t emerge as a medical specialty until the late twentieth century? 

As it turns out, Ayurveda’s holistic approach to musculoskeletal imbalances serves as an excellent complement to conventional sports medicine, for both rehabilitation, and, perhaps even more important, prevention of sports injuries. Like the Ayurvedic healers of old, today’s sports medicine professionals recognize that sports injuries and athletic performance involve not just bones and muscles but, rather, the whole person. Their increasing reliance on the services of dietitians, psychologists, trainers, and body workers to complement or minimize surgical, pharmaceutical, and other conventional medical interventions reflects what Ayurvedic practitioners have always known: Many diverse factors—from the patient’s genetic endowment and state of training and nutrition to his her age, mental stability, environmental stresses, and economic circumstances—determine how successfully that patient recovers from an athletic injury. Ayurveda offers comprehensive and detailed studies of these factors and provides specific advice on how to optimize wellness in each area.

Ayurveda was ahead of its time particularly in looking beyond the body to the all-important role of the individual’s psyche in the preventing and healing of injuries and in increasing physical prowess. Its focus on relieving stress and developing concentration taps into the proven power of the mind to overcome physical limitations. Ayurveda also offers specific management protocols for persons debilitated by disease that can be effectively applied to those who are recuperating from sports injuries.

As more and more people adopt fitness regimes, cases of muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries are becoming increasingly widespread. Ayurveda offers a number of gentle yet powerful remedies that can be used as either primary or supportive therapies for orthopedic problems. Among them is marma point therapy, an approach similar to Chinese acupuncture that activates  various pressure points called marmas to heal imbalances and support strength. Ayurvedic experts have also developed many herbal formulations that can hasten recuperation after a surgery, optimize rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries, and help boost performance levels.

These formulations were widely used by ancient warriors to enhance their physical prowess, speed recovery from injuries, and sustain their energy during long, arduous battles. Their Sanskrit names—Mahakashaya Brimhaneeya Dasaimani(“muscle builder”), Jeevaneeya Dasaimani (Vitalizer),Balakara Dasaimani(“promotes strength”), and Sramahara Dasaimani(promotes cheer)—speak for their therapeutic properties. These formulas, which are thought to achieve their effects by stimulating beneficial enzymes and balancing hormones, represent a safe, natural alternative to steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.  

Even though good diet cannot guarantee success, poor diet can certainly undermine training. Ayurvedic practitioners consider eight factors when formulating diets for clients who want to strengthen muscles and build stamina. These include the client’s genetic makeup, the nature of the foods to include, and the proper way to process and combine them, the right quantity to consume, and the best time and place to eat them to advance a particular client’s performance goals.

This deep knowledge of restorative and rejuvenative nutritional regimes, together with their sophisticated understanding of the mind-body relationship, suggests that Ayurvedic practitioners can go a long way toward helping orthopedists and other sports medicine professionals develop a more natural, effective, and individualized approach to maximizing not only the fitness and vigor of the people they treat, but also their satisfaction with the provider’s services. 

 

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. 

Tips for Vata Yoga

People with Vata derangement typically move quickly, sometimes with little awareness, and often push themselves harder than their bodies can take. Vata dosha is characterized by the qualities cold, mobility, lightness and expansiveness. A yoga practice for a Vata individual should be one creating warmth, serenity and nourishment. Vatas can cultivate this by following some basic guidelines:

  • Practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace.
  • Explore fluidity in your poses. Use gentle movements such as spinal and pelvic undulation, rotation in the joints, counter-poses, and flexion and extension.
  • Hold each posture for a short amount of time, but do multiple repetitions.
  • Draw into and move from your power center or hara. The hara is the area below the navel and above the pubic bone.
  • Focus on the foundation of the pose to create stability.
  • Internally rotate the femurs and press into the outer edges of your legs.
  • As you move, imagine you are moving through a substance like warm water or warm mud.
  • Focus on lengthening your inhalation.
  • Stay connected to the earth. Ground down through your big toes.
  • Fix your gaze below or at the horizon.
  • Engage your entire body by hugging your muscles to the bones.
  • Do not over extend or deplete yourself. Your practice should be strengthening, not draining. Vatas easily exhaust themselves and when the vata imbalance becomes severe, a restorative practice is best.
  • Be present in your practice.
  • Stay warm.
  • Conclude your practice with a long relaxation.

When Vata has gone out of balance, too much air has accumulated in the mind, body, environment. The result is a sense of un-groundedness. The best way to balance excess Vata is to bring more earth and stability into the physiology. Think relaxing.

  • Go to bed and awaken at the same time every day.
  • Meditate twice a day to quiet the mind.
  • Practice yoga to connect with your body.
  • Wear relaxing fragrances.
  • Eat three meals per day and favor, sweet, sour and salty taste.
  • Perform a slow daily self massage with warm Relaxing herbalized oils.
  • Drink Relaxing herbal tea.
  • Look for opportunities to create rhythm and routine in your life.
  • Finish things once you start them.

Purusha

From the book Yoga and the Sacred Fire by David Frawley

One could say that the essence of our humanity is that we are ‘sentient’ beings, conscious entities possessed of feelings and capable of suffering. We cannot accept that human beings are enslaved, experimented on, used for food, killed or tortured or any other such demeaning actions that we might allow for animals. It offends our sensibilities when we see a human being treated as a mere thing or ‘object’. We respect our dignity and inviolability as a conscious ‘subject’. This is because we recognize existence of a consciousness principle in the human person. 

We see the human as an independent being, possessing free will and entitled to his or her own life and happiness. We feel that humans should be treated fairly and allowed to live as they see fit, which we refer to as ‘human rights’ in our various law codes. There is nothing inherently wrong with this line of thought except that it does not go far enough. Our mistake is thinking that such a consciousness principle and the rights that go along with it are unique to our species and do not belong to the rest of the universe.

Consciousness is not something that our species owns. It is as universal as light. Some form of consciousness or feeling exists in all beings down to the rocks. However, once we recognize the all-pervasive nature of consciousness then we must treat all creatures ‘humanely’—with a similar care and regard that we would afford a fellow human being. The same consciousness principle that makes us feel human is a universal principle that fills the world with light and allows other creatures to live and move as well. 

The universe itself is a person, though without the limitations and prejudices of our human personality. This is what the science of Yoga calls the ‘Purusha’. The Purusha, meaning a person or conscious being, is a Sanskrit term for the Cosmic Being behind the universe, the spirit within all things. The entire universe is a manifestation of the Cosmic Person. This Cosmic Person endows every creature with personhood or a sense of self, not only humans but also animals and ultimately all of nature.

The goal of classical Yoga—as defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the prime ancient textbook of Yoga—is the realization of the Purusha or cosmic being as our true Self.[i] This is a different definition than most people today consider, with the physical image of yoga that has become popular in our culture, but it is the actual foundation of the Yoga tradition. The Purusha or true Self is the ultimate goal of all Vedic practices and all Vedantic philosophy, examination and inquiry. Yoga is a path of Self-realization in the deeper sense of this Cosmic Self, not simply knowing our human self but realizing the entire universe within our own minds and hearts.[ii] Our true Self is the universal Self or Purusha that exists within all nature.[iii] The greater concern of Yoga practice is uniting our limited consciousness with the unbounded infinite awareness that is the Self of all. 

This yogic view of the Self is very different than usual views that emphasize the bodily self, the psychological self, or the religious soul as our true nature. Our ordinary view of the bodily self is of an entity that is born and dies along with the body and is as separate from the world as our flesh is from the ground. Our view of the psychological self is of an entity created by our personal history during this physical life. It has the unique characteristics of our upbringing and education along with the particular capacities that we develop through our own efforts, making us different than every other person. Our usual religious view of the soul is of an entity created by God, dependent upon the body and its resurrection, which can perhaps commune with God in some heavenly world but retains its separate identity and cannot become one with that supreme Reality.  

In the yogic view, our true individuality is an inner consciousness that unites us with all – not a physical, mental or religious entity that keeps us apart. Our self is mirrored in all the selves in the universe. If we look deeply, we can see that everything in the universe has a personality or spirit within it, whether it is the Sun, the mountains, animals or human beings. Every form in nature from the rocks to the clouds is a face of Consciousness. All faces of all creatures, we could say, are masks of God. 

This Cosmic Person exists in an embodied form as the soul within all creatures. We could say that plants and animals are evolutionary precursors of human beings or younger forms of ourselves, people in the making as it were. The Cosmic Person also exists in disembodied forms as the spirit behind the forces of nature. We could say that the Sun and Moon are cosmic, older or vaster forms of ourselves – spiritual powers and personalities. The whole universe is the cosmic human being taking many different appearances and assuming many different functions both individually and collectively as part of its manifold expression.

This view was known to the sages of the Rig Veda, in which the teaching of the Purusha first arose:
The Cosmic Person (Purusha) is all this, what has been and what will be. From his mind, the Moon was born, from his eye came the Sun. From his mouth arose the powers of fire and lightning. From the wind his breath was born. 
From his navel came the atmosphere, from his head Heaven, from his feet the Earth and from his ears, the directions of space. Thus all the worlds were formed.

The human being is a replica of the greater universe, which itself has an organic structure like the human body. We are an expression of the ‘self-conscious universe’ holding both spirit and nature within ourselves. This means that we exist in all things, not as a separate species but as part of the underlying fabric of awareness. Through the unity of consciousness, the human being is the universe and the universe is a human being.  We could say that the material universe is the body of consciousness, while consciousness is the soul of the world. 

This Cosmic Person is both man and woman, the Great God and the Great Goddess, both the cosmic masculine and cosmic feminine powers. It is not simply the essence of humanity but the prototype for plants, animals, stars and planets. The Cosmic Person is the universal form, the prime archetype behind all beings, the ‘I behind the I ‘in all creatures. 

This Purusha or consciousness principle of Yoga, however, is no mere philosophical concept, theological belief or abstract Absolute. It is the very fire within our hearts that is the light of the entire universe. The Purusha is Jyotirmaya or ‘made of light’. To truly practice Yoga we must begin with an understanding of this being of light as our goal. However, few Yoga students today are aware of the Purusha, much less its connection to fire, though that has always been the key to the inner process and higher experience of Yoga. Most meditators aim at understanding the psychological self, not realizing that our true Self is the cosmic light expressing itself in all of nature, in which our personal psychology gets consumed as an offering in but an instant.