Day 12 of Panchakarma – now we’re getting serious

I kind of fucked up today. I’d misunderstood Dr A’s instructions around food and had breakfast before I saw her this morning. I didn’t realise I’d made a mistake until after the morning treatments. Here’s how things panned out:

Around 7:45 am this morning Dr A massaged my face for a few minutes with an oil that smelled like the ghee decoction of the first week. Then I sat at the table where a large covered metal pot of hot water was waiting for me. I made like a tent with my head under a couple of towels. Dr A instructed me to slowly and steadily breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth before she slid the lid away from the pot about an inch to release a puff of steam. My Panchakarma comrade had already gone through this a couple of times, so I knew to expect heat. The first part was no sweat, just warm, moist air. Gradually, Dr A exposed more steam as she pulled the lid further back, about an inch at a time, always making sure I was coping.

For anyone who has read my Ayurveda posts from the start, early on I mentioned Luke Coutinho – a nutrition guru. He recommended steaming with turmeric as a simple method for detoxing the lungs. I gave it a go. Because the water cooled quickly, I’d had to reboil it a couple of times to feel like I was getting the full steam effect. This morning, having the pot covered and steam gradually released was an excellent method. I got hot and sweaty. Loved it.

Next up I was up on the massage table on my back. Hands and feet covered. Dr A dropped two drops of medicine into each nostril. That was OK, what was less fun was lying on my back, using the same breathing pattern, while also trying really bloody hard not to swallow. I failed, mostly. After being on my back for about three or four minutes I sat up and spat into a small bucket Dr A handed me. Not a lot came up. I confess, at least half the time I swallowed – that automatic reflex over-rode my attempts to catch the mucous before it drizzled down my throat.

I sat out on the porch, chatting with my Panchakarma comrade while continuing to get the mucous out and into the bucket rather than back down my gullet.

Some 10-15 minutes later what followed was more nasal, or rather mucous, decongestion by way of smoke inhalation. A small light brown stick of something that Dr A burned the tip of to get smoking, was then wrapped in a leaf to create a nozzle of sorts. Gently I had to inhale the smoke into each nostril then exhale through my mouth. The first few times, again, I failed, spluttering and hating the sensation of smoke down the back of my throat. But I kind of got the hang of it.

My last treatment for the morning was a small enema. Dr A asked me very sweetly: “You OK for an enema?” compassion oozing with every word. “Yeah, sure. Why not?” I said. After all, I’m surrendered to the process, right?

She returned with a packet of long, thin tubes. “I show you I use a fresh tube for each patient” she said. She held one in her hand – it looked clean and unused. Good call on her part. Good to see the pink rubber tube in her hand before she inserted it. I nodded my understanding and agreement. Also good to see was the large syringe that looked like a toy for a giant baby. It was half full of sun-gold oil. I’d have squirmed inwardly more if I hadn’t already seen the litre of brown liquid the doctor had moments earlier given to my Panchakarma comrade.

Back in the treatment room we go with me on the massage bench, this time on my side with my lower leg straight, the upper leg bent and my bum exposed. Not quite the ignominious pose required of us ladies who go for cervical smears, but not far off.  And my bum? It’s not my best feature. I consoled myself with the thought that Dr A has seen a lot of backsides during her many years as an Ayurvedic practitioner. The sensation of having the rubber tube inserted, the oil gently pushed through and up, the tube removed and a wad of tissue paper placed against my anus was – how shall we say, all things considered? – genteel. Who’d have thought. But yes, yes indeed, genteel because the experience was not hideous, just functional. Not only that, given how expertly Dr A makes a chapati, she has the same level of confidence with her procedures and treatments that I feel I am, literally, in good hands.

Anyways, shortly after this – including some prancing as an excuse for dancing (I’d been told not to sit, move around) and a visit from a cow – Dr A told me I was free, free to go home and have breakfast.
– “But I’ve already had breakfast, before I came,” I said.
– “What?” she said.
– “I thought I was meant to,” I said.
– “No. No wonder it’s not working this morning,” she said.
Doh! Big fat double Doh!


Egg-white, brown rice & veg – a nutritious breakfast, but at the wrong time of day!

This afternoon I’ve had a two-hour, four-handed, hot-balls-of-herbs massage. Magic. The herbs had been wrapped and tied in tea towels, four of them. The massage began at my feet and shins with a small amount of oil poured onto my skin and rubbed in. The next bit was interesting.

Those herb balls? They were hot. Roasting.

They were heated by an assistant who exchanged a hot herb-ball with one of the masseuse as and when the one they were using cooled. Before using the fresh hot herb-ball, the masseuse tapped it against one of her palms to check the temperature before doing a tapping, shuffling slide across my skin. A new and gorgeous experience. Loads better than Monday’s adventure *wink, wink*. When my back was getting done, the herb-ball heat felt more intense. Hopefully without visibly flinching, my internal comment a few times was “Ah fuck”. Literally. But that heat, the subtle waft of herbs, hands pressing, rubbing, smoothing my flesh and – that heat. Magic. The last part was getting my whole body rubbed down using something that felt like the finest, softest sand. Looked like sand too. After that, all I had to do was rinse and dress. Fab.

For the next 20 days I will be going through more or less the same procedure. The quantity of nose drops each morning will increase: 4 drops in each nostril tomorrow; 6 the day after that: 8 drops thereafter until three days before the treatment completes.

I’m hoping that, if not tomorrow, soon after I’ll have mastered the art of expectorating. If I’ve got to do it, I’d like to appear vaguely elegant. Also those enemas, well let’s see. I may or may not report on those, not closely anyways.

Seeing as there is unlikely to be anything new to share I probably won’t post until the end of the 20 days. If anything comes up that’s relevant and potentially interesting for anyone I’ll give an update. Obviously, my wish is that come the beginning of March when the treatment programme is complete, I’ll be able to report on wonderful changes to my body and mind.

All-in, even though after the first week when I saw some changes there are now no significant new improvements to remark on (bar a small persistent spot at the side of my nose that has vanished and a probable ganglion on the inside of my left wrist has softened and reduced), this Ayurvedic treatment lark feels as though it is unfolding as a significant life affirmation. For example, frequently we’re told to wake up and greet the day with gratitude for being alive and all that. Fair-play. I endorse such a thing. Me though? Not so much. But that’s another story. However, this morning while I was eating my mistake breakfast, the rising sun glimmered through the trees and whispered across my skin – and I was grateful for that. Grateful that the sun continues to rise on all of us, wherever we are and whoever we are. 

So for now, wherever you are, whoever you’re with, however you are doing whatever you’re up to
– Keep it real
– Keep sharing the love
I’ll see you on the other side (of the treatment of course).


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