Festival founders Ram and Sonali Banerjee continue to lead us through their Ayurvedic retreat diary. WARNING: Not for the faint-hearted - read at your own risk!
Unknown to me before I came was that a 21 day Ayurvedic PanchaKarma course consisted of at least 10-14 days of pre-treatment, getting the body ready for the treatment. I thought I was doing well but since I was not sweating as much as they would have liked, I was treated to 10 minutes in the ‘sweat box’ after an oil massage for a couple of days. It did the trick, I sweated for at least an hour afterwards. The steam is of course infused with herbs for even greater effect.
During pre-treatment, toxins are excreted from the body via sweat, urine and faeces. The natural question to ask is what happens to the toxins that are not excreted and still remain in the body. So, like a fool, I asked and immediately started to regret my curiosity.
"Then it is time for THE treatment to begin" came the reply. Toxins had now been expelled from body tissues and were now in the gut or bloodstream ready to be removed via Vamana (vomiting), Virechana (purgation), Basthi (colonic irrigation), Nasya (Nasal drops) and Raktamokshana (bloodletting) - hence Pancha (5) Karma (actions). At this point I headed for the laptop to find an early flight home!
Since we were both ready for the treatment we decided to find out Sonali’s fate first – well, she is the brave one. It was to be Virechana and she received a small quantity of powder that she was to mix with a little warm water and drink the following morning at 6am. It didn’t taste very nice and there was no immediate effect until at 7am there was a strong urge to ‘go’. Another 5 bathroom trips in the next 2 hours fully cleaned out Sonali’s gut so that only the warm water she was sipping from time to time was coming out unprocessed. That was it, she was done and they brought some gentle rice porridge when she started to feel hungry again. Not so bad, I thought - I wonder what they have in store for me?
I got a phone call immediately after lunch to say they are coming for Basthi. I was in a state of shock but there was more. Colonic irrigation was the only way to get rid of toxins in the large intestine – impossible to reach via the normal ‘downward’ route. I can hear you giggling already! Why my toxins could not play ball by staying in the small intestine I have no idea – clearly they don’t like me! The treatment is a little strong so to get the process started gently it is the norm to start with a couple of small colonic irrigations using oil. I was starting to turn green.
After lunch is a good time because the blood is positioned in the gut to receive nutrients from the food and can thus absorb the nutrients that were about to be injected up my, sorry I have to use the word, bum. It did not go un-noticed that those about to do such terrible acts on me were so cheery and smiling. So it was that I was told to lie on my side while my lower clothing were unceremoniously brought to my knees and the doctor started to put on rubber gloves.
Being an advancing male, I have had a prostrate examination before where rubber gloves and Vaseline were the norm. That time, the process was mildly alleviated by the owner of the finger being a very pleasant young Indian woman doctor from Swindon. My doctor here was young but that is where all the similarities with my previous experience ended.
“Now, relax, I am just going to dilate you with my finger.” There was a lot going through my mind but relaxation was not one of them! “Breathe through the mouth.” Breathe, I was positively hyperventilating as if giving birth! The syringe that followed had a plastic tube not dissimilar to one used to ice a cake, and contained 70ml of medicated oil which was now being squeezed into my bowel. Not unpleasant, long or painful just a complete loss of dignity. Still lying down but with my trousers now back up I was asked to fold and stretch my legs in turn a few times and then lie down for 15 minutes.
I had illusions of ‘dribbling’ from the wrong end as I got up but it all stayed in for another 2 hours or so until I finally had to go to the bathroom to eject it all. Apparently the longer you can hold it, the better the chances of the medication in the oil being absorbed by the body. Two hours was good, apparently. I patted myself on the back only to realise that tomorrow, they will do exactly the same thing all over again.
I am sure Sonali bribed them to give me this option, I just can’t prove it!