Day 28 of Panchakarma – only four days until freedom, what’s next, and the ‘M’ word

The end is coming into view. There’s not just light at the end of my Panchakarma tunnel but now also colour and form. Feels great. And because the end of the programme is now so close I’ve started considering what’s next.

This morning I got confirmation from Dr A that when we complete on Thursday 2 March there is no need for much follow-up. She’s recommended a herb supplement for the next six months to a year that will help keep my tension and stress levels in check. I reckon that’s no bad thing. Part of the reason for ending up in the toxic mess I was in when I started the programme is down to stress and a tense body I was literally painfully aware of.

One thing I want to do next is get my house in order. Here in Tamil Nadu we’re also going through Spring, but in a few weeks it’s going to start feeling like summer. So now would be a good time to do a Spring Clean – a detox on the house to compliment the one I’ve just been through.

The other thing I’m keen to do next is some other body work. Namely exercise (other than my twice-daily cycle rides). Given I’m in India I reckon having another go at yoga is the thing. To that end I want to do a couple of private sessions and I’m in the process of making enquiries.

In the meantime, back with that book on Ayurveda.

Although the book is just an introductory text, skimming over all that makes up Ayurvedic principles and practice, the author has managed to include a lot in a short word count. There are even diagrams and photos. I’m currently reading the chapter on Longevity.

I’m not much bothered about the duration of my life (I used to be convinced my end would come under the wheels of a red London double-decker bus), but like any sane person the concern is more with the quality of whatever life I do live. In the Longevity chapter the author has included breathing, meditation and, no surprise, yoga as the recommended form of exercise.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, everything a person does should be modified according to the dominant dosha. My dominant dosha is Kapha. When it comes to the yoga poses for Kapha body types, some are not suitable. Example the ‘Hidden Lotus’ (puts too much pressure on the adrenal glands apparently). I’ve done a couple of yoga courses over the years but never heard of this pose. When I saw the photo I can see why: lying face down on a mat but resting your face on your chin, chest flat to the mat, hands behind your back and, get this!, your legs in some kind of cross-legged lotus pose. No friggin’ way. How the hell do you even get into that pose? Hidden lotus indeed; so hidden it looks as though the yogini in the photo is trying to do deep-sea diving in her search for the thing. In which case the author can rest easy – I ain’t never going to attempt that pose, never mind (as he suggests) not holding it for too long. Not only not long mate, no time at all.


On the other hand, one of the poses suggested for my dosha I’m totally happy with. The ‘Palm Tree’. Stand, clasp hands and raise arms above the head. Simples. Love it.


Like I say, the book is a basic introduction. There’s no instruction about the poses. I’ll let you know how I get on with classes, if I find a suitable tutor. If not here then when I’m back in London.

The M Word
Now, on yet another note, I wanted to mention the M word. The M word being Menopause.

Last night I spoke with a friend on the subject. She happens to be a nurse. Our conversation about menopause was not our first given our relative ages. She reiterated her belief that the reason the menopausal phase of a woman’s life is not well-managed is because so few of us, including the medical profession, knows much about it, but with no one group at fault. Her belief is that part of the lack of knowledge is down to the vagueness of the symptoms that starting showing up during a woman’s 40s. Given what I’ve been through during my 40s I think she’s spot on.

We both bandied around the concept of systemic dis-ease during a woman’s progression towards a more definable set of menopausal symptoms. But before those definable symptoms come into play – the hormonal changes that can upset a whole host of physical, mental and emotional functions – there are gradual, subtle changes taking place. Changes that seem to creep into a woman’s life like a barely discernible siren call that grows stronger and wilder and which we are helpless to resist until, crash! we’re dashed against the rock face of those menopausal symptoms we had no idea would be so debilitating.

Another aspect of the menopause that she has been spot on about is the ‘hot flushes’ women often experience. She asserts that the naming of the symptom down-plays the intense, distressing, all-encompassing experience that comes with vasomotor instability. Thankfully that’s one aspect of the menopause I’ve not had to deal with – the friends who have say those ‘hot flushes’ are hideous.

I’m also bloody grateful for having gone through this Panchakarma treatment now when I’m about to crash into my own menopausal rock face. Life before the treatment was descending into an unmanageable, unbearable beast of a thing. The daily distress with my body and myself was exacerbating and feeding into the tension I was feeling at all levels of my experience. To what dark and dastardly depths would I have plummeted with the addition of more hormonal/menopausal symptoms? Clearly those symptoms may still come, but at least after this intense detox I should be able to navigate a more sane route around those rocky shores. Here’s hoping anyways.

For now – and with a happy heart that my detox programme is almost complete, my sanity returned, and a body that feels like a body rather than a bloated barrel constricted by dense metal rings – I shall away to practice that ‘Palm Tree’ pose…

However you do it, and whatever you do – stay healthy!

The Start of a New Discovery

 Initiating an Exploration into Ayurvedic Medicine and My Own Body

Yesterday I went in search of an Ayurvedic practitioner and thankfully, I think, found one. I’m hoping the start of a new discovery will lead to a life-enhancing outcome. Perhaps a life-long adventure too.

Why did I go on such a search?

Because I’m feeling like shit. Physically and mentally.

I’ve not been in great shape for a few years. Went through a terrible time with my menses for a while. They were heavier, and lasted longer, than an overactive and destructive volcanic eruption – and as messy and devastating. Think about it. When there’s a heavy and sustained loss of blood for a couple of years, where’s it coming from? From my bone marrow is where. Before I reached the final resolution with a second, small operation – to remove the troublesome intra-uterine fibroids at fault – I needed two mega doses of iron, given intravenously, before they would do the op. That resolving operation was about three and a half years ago. Recovery from all of which has taken time. Too long. In the process of recovering I seem to have slipped into sluggishness and apathy – on all sorts of levels. However, this past year in particular I’ve been experiencing near-constant abdomen discomfort, bloated daily, and a lot of lethargy.

Due to whatever fucked-up reason, this time round I just don’t seem to be able to get it together to do what I know can and will work. The result – I keep feeling shit. Every day. All day. Feeling shitty and fucked-up is NOT good. Ever. Feeling shitty and fucked-up when trying to motor through creative output, to be a fully-involved person in an intimate relationship, to keep kicking-arse is NOT good. Ever. So, what to do? What the hell to do? That is what I have been asking myself. Something has to give.

For a while the key questions running around my head, like growing kittens in search of milky nipples, have been:
– What is it I really need to do?
– How I can do that?

– I need to lose weight and find healthier ways of living. Not just for the aesthetics, but more importantly for my health and wellness.
– I need to be more active too, for the same reasons.
– I need to readjust my dietary intake to support all that.

I’ve been here before, getting help with my health. In this way, what I’m about to start is a new discovery because of the method, rather than the intention.

A short bit of back-peddling/backstory:
In case you didn’t already know, I’m in India. In particular a small town in Tamil Nadu (I’ve written about this elsewhere). I love here. Apart from being with Mr D, there was something about the place when I first visited back in 2007 that grabbed me and held me in a firm embrace of love and compassion and kindness. I happily fall into that embrace every time I return. The natural consequence of my staying in India is that when I consider seeking out help with this persistent problem I want something, someone, local. So naturally that had to be Ayurvedic Medicine. (If you want the low-down on Ayurvedic Medicine there is plenty online.)

During the ruminations about my persistent problems I happened to tune into a TV programme last Sunday during which a celebrated Indian health and lifestyle guru* spoke cogently and emphatically about the need to, sometimes, detox the body. Apparently he’s had excellent success with his detox programmes for cancer patients, as well as helping people with weight loss and improved health generally. From the manner in which he spoke, and the specifics, I believe him. His chat and obvious knowledge on the subject of health convinced me – I need to detox.

Clearly I could just do this at home. The guru chap already gave a few pointers. Simple stuff. But I’ve never been great at detoxing. Let’s face it, retoxing is always way more fun and easier. Given my brain fog and entrenched lethargy, how the hell was I going to get a start on detoxing? I figured it was time to get help.

While out and about a few days ago I took a detour and saw an advertising hoarding outside a suburban house: Ayurvedic treatments for all kinds of illnesses and health issues. Yesterday I met the owner of that hoarding, Dr A. I liked her from the off. Female (preferable given my complaints), direct, forthright, approachable. I told her I needed an outside agency, someone other than me, to help me shift my shit.

What I actually told her was I feel stuck. My whole body feels stuck. I feel stagnant, almost on hold. Definitely not girl interrupted – that passed by a long while back – more like woman halted. Even though I’ve been feeling this way for a few years, more recently the sense that this stagnation is not just physical but affecting all of me has grown.
Here’s a list of my physical issues:

  • Bloated belly – almost constantly
  • Aching joints
  • Sluggish colon activity – too often constipated
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss and thinning
  • Painful joints
  • Overweight with – because of the bloated belly – a girth-to-hip ratio tipping me towards diabetes, heart problems and the like

My other issues include:

  • Brain fog
  • Erratic energies, but mostly lethargy
  • Unfocused in my activities

With a smidgeon of info about Ayurvedic medicine I already knew that one of the treatments might be an enema. I told her I was not keen on having one. She wanted to know more. I explained I’d already had colonic irrigation, twice some years back. While the irrigation itself was mildly unpleasant – warm water gushing past my anus and up my rectum was an odd experience – the fact of the cost with no obvious positive outcome (coupled with a lackadaisical practitioner of that fine art!) meant I was not enthusiastic about going through something similar.

Dr A sent me away with the agreement that I would return the next morning, before breakfast, when she would make a diagnosis by taking my pulses. After the pulse diagnosis she would make her recommendations.

That diagnosis took place this morning. In Dr A’s consulting room she sat me down, placed her fingers on my left wrist and took my pulse.
“Fire,” she muttered after only a few moments.
Given all I know about my body and personality type, that one-word assessment was not a surprise. But I was surprised when she gave her diagnosis – all of my key elements (doshas or humours) are out of balance. That ain’t good. No wonder I feel so crappy. Her diagnosis confirms what I thought – I am fucked-up. She reckons she can reverse my shittiness.

Following her pulse assessment she went on to explain the proposed programme. Now that was not just a surprise but a bloody shock.

Panchakarma is a detoxification procedure that involves a variety of processes and lasts for between 30-45 days. Thirty days! Holy shit. And, less holy but more shit – enemas too. Crappolla.

We chatted some more. Dr A. gave an overview of the procedures involved in panchakarma, said she’d prepare a full outline when I start. At that point I hadn’t yet agreed I would start  – but I was aware that something in me felt drawn to doing her detox. She left me for a while to go and attend to another client who was coming to the last few days of her own panchakarma programme. I mulled over what Dr A had just told me.

Although we hadn’t yet discussed it, cost was definitely going to be a consideration. Could I afford to undergo such an intensive programme? Could I afford not to, whatever the cost? Clearly doing a panchakarma in India was going to be cheaper than if I did something similar in London. That was a worthy factor. Also a factor is that I have the time to do this. No need to try and fit the programme around a full time job. No need to worry about how to juggle work, commuting, and other commitments. But could I afford it?

She told me the cost. Higher than I expected. But understandably so given the procedures and herbal medicines involved, the – gulp – enemas and food too. She made me a coffee and we chatted some more.

When I left her some 50 minutes later I had a small batch of tablets and she had my agreement that I would undergo the programme. The start of a new discovery has begun.

I’ve also decided using my blog to document my experiences during the process might be fun as well as interesting for anyone thinking about taking Ayurvedic treatments, or undergoing panchakarma in particular. I’ll try to post daily.

Today, as one means of assessment, I have taken a few body measurements. No weight recorded as I’ve no weighing scales. I’ll take these same measurements at the end of the programme. Here’s the awful truth:
Bust 102 cm/40 inches
Waist 93 cm/36.5 inches
Hips 103 cm/40.5 inches
Right Upper arm – 33.5 cm/13 inches
Left Upper arm – 35 cm/13.5 inches
Right Thigh – 64 cm/25 inches
Left Thigh – 62.5 cm/24.5 inches
Right Knee – 43.5 cm/17 inches
Left Knee – 42.5 cm/16.5 inches
At a height of 156 cm/5 feet 1 inch all of those measurements mean I’s fat! Clearly I’m hoping there’ll be a reduction in all these figures, including my own, along with all the other intended improvements.

So tomorrow morning at 7am is my start on a new discovery, but just a start. I know that these next 30+ days are only a beginning. After the panchakarma is complete I’ll need to keep on implementing better lifestyle choices. Here’s to my starting a new discovery that supports all the health improvements I’m aiming for – because right now I need them more than ever.

If you have any questions as I go through this process, please throw them my way.

For now, let me leave you with this quote (taken from Dr A’s panchakarma info sheet):
The doshas, the dhatus, digestive fire and excretion, when balanced (along with) a happy soul, senses and mind, then the person is called healthy. —— Vaghbhata ——
(Sama dosha sama dhatu samaagni malakriyah. Prasanna atmendriyamanah swastah ityabhideeyate.)

And this (gruesome) image:


I hope I look better than this come March…

* see Luke Coutinho website for details