In this third post in my Pachakarma series, I discuss Snehana.
If you missed the previous two posts, you’ll find them below:
The next day begins my three days of consuming medicated ghee – internal Snehana. Certainly not the most palatable concoction but a necessary first-step to dealing with my ‘ama’.
I meet Dr Rumee downstairs at 6.10am for my prepared morning delight! This specialised procedure of Panchakarma falls under the category of Snehana (Oleation) Karma. This internal Snehana is done by drinking ghee and oils cooked with herbs specifically prepared for me.
The objective of taking this medicated ghee is to circulate the properties of the herbs into the cellular level. This softens internal residual toxins, to open circulating channels enabling the toxins to flow through these channels and reach the digestive system.
Basically the ghee acts as a vehicle to take all the toxins to the digestive system or the intestines where they will later be purged.
The dose I take is to be increased each day. The first day I take 40ml, the second day 50ml and the final day 60ml. This is traditionally mixed with warm milk. However, as I don’t particularly like milk they make a refreshing ginger tea for me to mix my internal Snehana treatment.
The initial taste is hard to describe, slightly pungent and the sensation of drinking oil is a bit odd. All in all, it’s not too bad and I down it fairly quick smart followed by a refreshing cup of hot water.
Heading back to my room to rest and meditate for an hour, I am prepared to meet the doctor again for our hour long consultation.
Dr Rumee takes me into a treatment room and asks me various questions about my health, past and present, my childhood, major issues and what I want to get out of my Panchakarma treatment.
She already has all of this information but wants to go over it together. Dr Rumee then takes my blood pressure (120/80), performs percussion on my internal organs, examines my pelvic and back area and other parts of my body in great detail.
Dr Rumee then demonstrates how to perform daily pelvic exercises that will balance my hormones and strengthen my internal pelvic area, in turn helping to deal with the back pain. These are to be done every morning for the duration of my stay and to be continued when I return home.
The session followed immediately after, is my Dinacharya demonstration.
Dinacharya is the daily routine. This daily routine helps establish balance and harmony and is very health promoting. It allows the body to be in tune with nature’s cycles.
I am shown how to perform daily eye exercises followed by eye washing. The benefits are to improve eye function, give strength to my eye muscles, give relaxation to the eyes and improve vision.
Then I am shown how to perform oil pulling and mouth gargling. Ayurveda advises oil pulling to purify the taste buds and the entire system. The tongue is the mirror of the whole digestive and metabolic systems. That is, each section of the tongue is connected to the kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver, heart, pancreas, small intestines, stomach, colon and spine.
Thus, an oil-mouth-massage soothes and stimulates the key meridians where taste meets organ. Simultaneously, as in any skin massage, the inner skin and lining of the mouth, palate and tongue become warm and supple and the lubrication prevents dryness.
The specialised herb oil used here is Pitta (one of the three doshas/constitutions) predominant energy, which means bodily fire. This is involved in the whole metabolic transformation process. So it helps to digest or metabolise ama (undigested or un-metabolised food or stress).
At last I am allowed breakfast shortly after 9am. My food plan for the next three days while I’m on the medicated ghee is a light to normal diet which I actually find very substantial.
Breakfast is porridge cooked in ghee, brown sugar and cooked apples with various spices including cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
Lunch and dinner varies, always starting with a Dahl soup, some sort of grain such as rice or couscous, chapati, vegetable momos and a selection of steamed or fried vegetables. These are usually cooked in very tasty spices plus there is always a fresh chutney to finish it off.
Later that morning I have my first yoga session with Dr Rumee. We start with breath awareness, followed by Foundation One yoga poses. I find this very basic compared to the yoga I have done, on-and-off for around 30 years. However I understand the necessity of going back to basics. The pranayama breathwork ends with Bhramari (deep humming bee sound) and OM chanting.
At the end of this session the doctor then guides me in using a neti pot to cleanse my nasal passages. The first seven days I am to use a warm milk concoction, not the most pleasant activity I have done considering my dislike of milk. I’m sure there will be worse to come however!
This practice detoxes the nasal passages and sinus area and is the quickest route in the body to the brain helping clarity of thought. The neti pot is also added to my Dinacharya.
Abhyanga and Picu vs Snehana?
That afternoon brings the most amazing massage treatment – a whole body synchronized Abhyanga cleansing massage that is performed by two therapists.
Absolute bliss! Being massaged by two hands is wonderful enough but four hands is simply divine.
After the massage I have my first Picu treatment. Another oleation practice, this process involves submerging cotton cloths in warm oil to heat them, compressing the cloths and then applying them to the specific body parts to treat those areas.
The therapist concentrates on my lower back, neck, shoulders and knees. These are my particular problem areas. The compresses provide nourishment to muscles and tissues, releases stress, increases flexibility and restores muscle and joint movement by penetrating into the deep tissue level.
It is excellent for joint pain and swelling, joint and muscle stiffness or deformity, muscle and tendon cramps, twists, and tears, spondylosis and backache. It improves the lymphatic system and general circulation. It also feels soooo good! It sure beats drinking medicated ghee in my morning snehana!
The fourth post in this series, I begin to explore the fascinating city of Pokhara.
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