From Here to Serenity
Whether looking for an Ayurvedic practitioner in the United States or India, Svoboda advises caution. "If you have an inexpert doctor," he cautions, "your life is in danger." He explains that the procedures might "aggravate the doshas without getting them to move, or move the doshas in the wrong direction, deeper into the tissues." Scott Gerson, M.D., medical director of the National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, underscores the importance of accurately assessing which stage of disease the patient is experiencing. He warns that if the practitioner "erroneously applies radical cure measures to someone who can only be palliated, you risk injuring the patient, pushing disease deeper into the physiology and accelerating disease progression." Dr. Marc Halpern adds that panchakarma is "the single most profound and deepest treatment offered through the science of Ayurveda. Because of that, the potential for healing is greater and so is the potential for causing imbalance."
That said, many people find qualified practitioners that provide profoundly healing treatments. My own experience was that the aftermath lasted much longer than anticipated. There was an immediate shift towards feeling more present. The increased self-awareness put me more in touch with my deep fatigue, which lingered two long months. For better or worse, that New York City edge that enabled me to function against all odds didn't survive Albuquerque. It took a while to acclimate to my new just-can't-quite-force-myself-against-my-needs M.O., but somehow life gets done, and I'm not done-in by the process.
Those interested in panchakarma but looking for some lower-octane care can try some simple home treatments. It's not technically panchakarma—that is strictly a clinical process that must be monitored by an experienced Ayurvedic physician. But outside the clinic, Ayurveda's strong point is the education of the client into a life of ongoing self-care. More than a health care system, Ayurveda is a lifestyle. Halpern asserts that "the best at-home care is to create a lifestyle that is in harmony with your environment through the principles and practices of Ayurveda," such as daily oil massage, meditation, yoga, and healthy eating habits. He stresses the value of simply resting 15 minutes after eating. Remember, Ayurveda sees indigestion as the beginning of disease.
Reflecting on my experience, I hear Bri Maya Tiwari's softly resonant voice: "The intention of panchakarma is to bring us into harmony with who we are." The shifts in my well-being are both subtle and very real. I'm distinctly more present, more patient with my kids and myself, more appreciative and respectful of both friends and adversaries, more satisfied with life. Blood sugar is stable, digestion strong, and sleep refreshing. When stress is unavoidable, I have deeper resilience and simple, effective tools. But am I satisfied? Not totally. One week has done all this. What could six weeks do? I'll see you in India.
Pamela Miles has written on the humanization of medicine and on natural supports in HIV treatment in Healthy Living and the New York Daily News.