Experiences of a Pancha Karma Retreat

Essays > Health

Sarita, and some of her friends, share their experiences of a 5-week long Ayurveda Pancha Karma Retreat in India.

For the whole month of December some friends and I have been staying in Kerala, India to take part in an Ayurveda Pancha Karma Retreat. Dr. Mini Joy is a third-generation Ayurveda physician and runs a small Retreat Center from her home. She has built cottages in her back garden for guests to stay and takes in people for a minimum of three weeks, with four weeks being the preferred amount of time. Here you experience authentic Ayurveda, not the tourist variety. However, even though the process can be super-intense for some people, Dr. Mini Joy applies it with so much love and wisdom that whoever comes will be able to melt and allow their bodies to be fully detoxed and rejuvenated.


I am a great believer in wellness and preventative medicine and for this reason I go through a Pancha Karma Retreat every two years. At the time of writing I have been staying here for 4 weeks, going through 10 days of detox, 5 days of toning for muscles and bones, a divine 7 days of having warm herbal liquid poured over the whole body every day for lymph flow, and 7 days of rejuvenation therapies; presently I am waiting to start a 7-day darkness and isolation retreat. All aspects of my body have been purged, using every orifice to do so! Medicinal packs and a lot of medicinal oil have been used during the almost daily massages, making my skin soft and supple. I have had simple and delicious food and herbal medicines prepared according to recipes that date back thousands of years and have been through thousands of years of refinement.

Also, slightly warm medicinal oil has been poured gently over my forehead for up to 45 minutes at a time in a process called shirodhara. This is a profound and mysterious healing method that resets the nervous system and brain, clearing mental toxins and karma. Through this, and other treatments, I experienced profound states of meditation and bliss.

My two therapists, Samya and Aasha, have both been excellent. Thanks to their loving and professional session-giving skills and their impeccable style of working, I felt completely surrendered in every session. At one point I went through a healing crisis and they performed a miracle in dealing with it; my right knee became swollen and I was in agonizing pain. I could neither bend nor straighten it. The next morning when I tried to stand I found out that the whole right side of my body was in pain. I had a fever and felt dizzy. The doctor told me that my pingala nadi [the energy channel that runs along the right side of the spinal chord, ed.] had become inflamed due to some toxins released in my brain.

My therapists immediately applied a thick black herbal paste down the back of the whole right side of my body and left it on for a few hours. Almost immediately I felt the cooling effect and the pain diminished. By the next morning, my whole system had come into alignment and I was able to do yoga and walk normally again. Ayurveda has healing and wellness down to a fine art.

I came here in the company of the following few friends and it has been great to go through the Pancha Karma process together. We have shared our joys and sorrows, talked about bodily purging processes such as poo and vomiting, and taken lovely walks together near the backwaters and on country roads. I interviewed them and asked them to share their experiences.

Niraj, Biodanza Teacher and Trainer

I hadn’t done a great deal of research about Ayurveda before coming; I was simply hoping for physical rejuvenation. I feel that all my biological systems are purged; it is really a holistic reset. What I loved was that nothing that was used was in any way toxic or dangerous, i.e. there were no side effects. They were simply natural herbal concoctions and decoctions, without risk. It was a comforting thought that no toxins were entering my body even though it was worked upon up to three times per day!

Now I feel rejuvenated and relaxed on a physical and emotional level. I feel an enhanced sensitivity and can immediately feel the effect of my primary dosha, i.e. the pitta (fire dosha) rising. I have never been able to feel that effect from eating food before. I have been distracting myself each day by using my computer and have not completely unplugged from the ‘doing mentality’. But next year I won’t even bring it along!

Raj, Global Manager of Tantra Healing Energy, from USA

I thought Pancha Karma would be challenging but actually it has been quite easy. The time flew by. I enjoyed Dr. Mini’s loving energy, the nature here, and the wonderful food. I love the exquisite daily massage and, all in all, it has been a joy for me.

I came because of digestive difficulties, problems I have had since childhood. Despite both my parents being respected MDs, neither of them had any training in nutrition, which is sadly the case for most MDs in the USA. I grew up on a typical American diet which consists primarily of junk food. As a child I was fed microwave frozen TV dinners, processed sugar in many forms, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, processed meat, ramen noodles (full of MSG), GMO corn and other pesticide-laden vegetables, fluoridated tap water, lots of pasteurized homogenized milk and tons of antibiotics. This lethal (and common) cocktail completely destroyed my intestines and digestive tract. It is amazing to me now that no doctor or anyone ever made the connection between my diet and my poor health.

Changes to diet and nutrition, though helpful, were not enough. Advanced medical technologies (Health Optimizing), as offered by Thomas Aksnes in Norway, put me in the right direction. However, more was needed. This is why I chose to come for a one-month Pancha Karma Retreat. I will return for another one next year, and in fact, am planning to return for three years in a row.

Susanne, Psychologist (Master of Science), Germany

For a long time I wished to do something for myself, such as a wellness retreat for body mind and soul. I had no idea what Pancha Karma was, I just felt the call to go and I trusted my intuition. I arrived in one state of being and here I find myself moving to a whole new spiritual level. I realized that my body is a temple, I became more and more connected to my body and sometimes entered states of meditation during a massage, which was absolutely new for me. I stopped smoking, a wish I have had for a long time; it was easy in the environment of the Pancha Karma. Now I feel whole and clean and my strength is back. I used to push my energy down with smoking but now I discovered that I can handle my true power. I am very grateful for my experience here and am looking forward to integrating it in my daily life.

Anand, Civil Engineer/Developer, India

I came for a one-month Pancha Karma retreat because I had an injury two years ago; C4 and C5 in my cervical neck were creating numbness in my right hand. My whole hand was weak and particularly the index finger. Also, I had gained too much weight. I knew something about Pancha Karma, but not the details about the processes that are used. I also came because Sarita had recommended it.

After these four weeks I have much less pain in my neck and the numbness is almost gone. Murli, the masseur, found an internal problem in my nerves and he worked very hard on releasing this blockage. (He also found a point in my leg which would have created problems in future.) Murli and the doctor found the source of the numbness and worked it through. This was amazing because, previously, no therapist, doctor or massage expert has ever been able to find the source of my problem. I am very impressed.

Dr. Mini always consults with her therapists and knows each and everything going on with her patients. She has healing power and exceptional knowledge of Ayurveda. She also uses prayer and mantra to bring out the best for each person. She never treats us like patients but rather like members of her own family. She has let me taste all kinds of delicious foods, specialities of Kerala. The satvic food and the timings of eating are beneficial for me. Previously, I would just sit at the table without appetite and eat mechanically, but now my healthy appetite has returned, and yet I am losing weight.

Some of the processes were difficult for me, for example the ghee drinking and the herbal enemas. Halfway through the process I wanted to leave, but was helped to remain by Sarita who gave me colorlight therapy treatments. It also helped to speak to Dr. Mini because she explained that, if I left, all the benefits would be lost as the process was only halfway through and I would suffer from side effects. I then decided to stay. In fact I was very weak because of the detox and I understood that it would not have been right if I had left. Now I have much more energy and greater stamina. I am able to go jogging or accelerated walking in the morning, something I was unable to do before. My body is lighter from inside.

My job requires to be away from home for long periods and previously this created a lot of disturbance. Now I am feeling much more confident to face whatever is needed in my business and approach it in a calm, balanced way. Also, I am now able to go deeper in my meditation; I can sit for longer and my body is calm and quiet. My body actually wants to be in silence and my inner agitation has gone.

It is truly amazing to imagine that Ayurveda has been around for approximately 6000 years and is still as relevant today as it was then. I hope many more people will be able to benefit from Ayurveda treatments; it can help to reset the health button of the world!



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