Panchakarma rejuvenation therapy is a precious discipline of Maharishi Ayurveda. Ancient kings used it to improve their health and prolong their lives. We offer Panchakarma rejuvenation at the Hougton TM Centre several times a year – but this time we decided it was our turn. Time to do it in India!
So on Tuesday, 8 February 2011 we left Johannesburg on a brand-new Emirates airlines B777.
Our clinic was in a solid three-story building and the welcome we received was very special. We were garlanded, the traditional Indian welcome, and shown to our generous room with its own bathroom plus a kind of sluice room attached in which we were able to store suitcases.
The staff were delightful and friendly and we were almost immediately connected with our vaidya, a blissful, radiant, medical intuitive sage. Just being with him is a great experience, and having ones pulse taken by him is astonishing.
He is a master of the ayurvedic diagnosis technique of nadi vigyan. This means he can read your health by touching your pulse for about half a minute. Much quicker and cheaper than a CAT scan. As if this is not enough, several of our co-travellers experienced his miraculous ability accurately to diagnose near relatives’ illnesses remotely. He did it just by looking intently at a photo on a computer screen and then briefly touching the pulse of the inquirer’s right wrist.
That afternoon we had our first firm, energetic, blissful ayurvedic massage – abhyanga, and by nightfall we were well and truly enrolled in the programme. On Thursday morning we woke at 7.15 to a temperature of 19°. It was a hazy morning in the city. The technicians knocked on my door at 11 and I headed down the passage in my clinic-provided gown and slip-slops for the first of nine treatments that day!
The following day we were into full swing with no less than 12 treatments. It all started with a version of abhyanga called patra potli. This involves being lightly struck 100 – 180 times at a go with fist-sized bags of hot oily herbs wielded by two technicians, with a third team-member standing over a gas stove warming the next batch of bags. It is a powerful natural pain-management treatment.
It was followed by takra dhara consisting of lukewarm herbalised curds drizzled over the forehead and hairline for a delicious 30 minutes. Only slight discomfort being that at the end one’s hair is full of curds! After showering it all off, a delicious lunch at 12 was followed at two by a hriday basti and chakra basti for heart and liver respectively.
Followed by a face pack of brown herbalised mud, and then a nadi swedana heat treatment embracing me with steam clouds smelling faintly of rose water. Then back to our room for a hip bath. That night after supper another four small treatments: a pad of oil on the head, three drops of oil in each ear, a milk-based eyepack and a matra basti, or oil enema. Wow!
And the herbal tablets! There’s a bunch to take first thing in the morning, before breakfast, before lunch, at 4 PM, before supper and again before bed. So on this first Friday of treatments there wasn’t much time for anything else.
The following days we learned so much more about Maharishi Ayurveda, and even found time to spend dictating this.