It may be emphasized that Ayurveda is a system of medicine that puts more value on prevention than management of diseases. In the treatment of diseases, Ayurveda adopts two distinct modalities. Shamana, used to manage the symptoms of the disease and shodhana used to eliminate the cause of the disease. Panchakarma is the most important shodhana chikitsa.
All the methods that are popular in the centers are a part of the large spectrum of Panchakarma. Panchakarma is a five-fold therapy; it is highly personalized, based on the needs of the individual depending on the body type, dosha imbalances etc. Usually only parts of the five therapies are needed for each treatment and rarely are all the methods of Panchakarma included in a single treatment. Panchakarma includes the following five purification therapies, viz. Vamana (emesis), Virechana (purgation), Basti (enema), Nasya (nasal insufflations) and Raktamokshan (blood-letting).
The Abhyanga and Swedana are methods which are the preliminary procedures of any Panchakarma treatment. After this oil massage and sweating procedure, Shirodhara commences. In Shirodhara warm medicated oil suitably selected to treat the ailment is pored over the forehead for a specified time. This calms the mind and expands consciousness thereby relaxing the entire body. Lastly, Nasya drops are administered to the nasal passages. These medicated oil drops help remove residual doshas and toxins from the head and neck area. They balance prana and thus promote clarity of perception.
The treatment methods of Pizhichil, Kizhi and Uzhichil are also popular during the monsoon season. Each of these is a method that comes under subsections of Panchakarma but is well known in isolation too.
In this therapeutic process, lukewarm herbal oils are applied all over the body by two or four trained therapists in a special rhythmic way. This is done continuously for about 60 to 90 minutes per day for a period of 7 to 21 days. This treatment is very useful for rheumatic diseases like arthritis, paralysis, sexual weakness, nervous weakness and nervous disorders.
Kizhi means a bundle or a pouch in Malayalam. The bundle here is made of cloth of exact specifications of length and material and tied up with a filling of sorted prescribed medicines. This is heated, immersed in specific and prescribed decoctions or oils and applied on to the body parts. The guna or benefit of the decoctions or oils is also instrumental in curing you. Kizhi is therefore a process by which the whole body or specific parts are made to sweat by the application of warmed medicine herb powder or leaf or hot rice tied into a cotton cloth. Kizhi is an external treatment although it is be absorbed internally through skin. To be sure, the Kizhi is a proved restorative method for a number of ailments like paralysis, arthritis, rheumatism, joint pains etc, but only along with supporting and complementary internal and external administrations of medicines and methods. There are a number of Kizhis prescribed including, those with herb powders, heated sand of specified nature, rice and milk etc.
Uzhichil” comes under the “Sveda” system of Panchakarma and is treated by the leading experts of Kalari, the traditional martial art form of Kerala. Uzhichil denotes a specialized way of massaging. The patient is made to lie down and the massaging is done over his entire body or at certain parts in a specialized way mentioned in the texts. It is in this method that you see the acrobatic fete of a trained masseuse massage you with his foot, hanging from a rope in the ceiling.
Uzhichil is done usually for a period 14 days. After the first seven days of Uzhichil, the eighth day is set apart as a day of rest and purification. The treatment is then further continued for another seven days. The period of treatment can be extended as per the decision of the expert supervising your treatment. The patient will undergo a special diet and regularized living system called “Pathyam” on the days he is under Uzhichil. Medicated oils are used here and these are supposed to cure the fundamental causes of illness lying dormant in the human body. Uzhichil is found effective in the treatment of rheumatic patients (especially those who suffer from a paralytic stroke), patients with breathing problems, arthritis, spondylitis, slip disc, weakness of nerves, cramps and various other diseases.
Uzhichil helps to improve and enhance ones general health it has even been recommended by The Natyasastra, the ancient text of dance and acting. Uzhichil also helps to soften the muscles, skin, have a sound sleep and peace of mind, the reason for which it is largely recommended for athletes and sportsmen. In Kerala the students of Kalari and Kathakali (the traditional and classical dance, drama form of Kerala) undergo a course of Uzhichil to gain flexibility of movements.
Like the rejuvenation treatment, Panchakarma cannot be an on-demand treatment, although there maybe people adhering to that practice. This only means that when you read of the Panchakarma somewhere and find it interesting, you cannot go to an Ayurvedic centre and demand it; just like you cannot demand a hysterectomy or appendicitis surgery because you felt you needed it. Kerala has no dearth of qualified Ayurvedic doctors and registered medical practitioners of Ayurveda. There are also eight traditional houses of Ayurveda which exist since the scriptures, which have treatment methods and medicines and herb mixes handed down through generations. The Karkitaka month of rejuvenation is observed in complete reverence by all of these.
Monsoon Tourism has become a buzzword now and there are corporate houses which bring over executives for a work cum pleasure conference sections nowadays to Kerala in monsoon time. The best thing about Ayurveda is that it is tried and tested and it is not always five-star Ayurveda that is best. You pay more for the infrastructure and comforts you look for, but the basics of Ayurveda are always the same anywhere.
(22 August 2012)
Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org