These ancient treatments remain well-guarded secrets to this day. It has been said that only royals and rishis (sages) could undertake such intense treatment, because it requires money, time and spiritual discipline. One is sequestered for 90 days in a “kuti,” a specially-built cottage or hut that is cut off from light. For the next three months, the patient remains in darkness, shielded from sunlight and outside visitors. During this time, the patient undergoes complete purification of the body through the Panchakarma detoxification process. Certain herbal pastes are rubbed on the body to exfoliate the skin, and allowed to dry, drawing out toxins. Medicinal plants, leeches, sweating and vomiting therapies detoxify organs.
Throughout the process, diet is minimal and liquid fasts encouraged. Some yogis drink only warm cow’s milk. Special salts are ingested to preserve the body. After weeks of cleansing the body of impurities, it is made ready for re-nourishing tissues at the deepest levels. Abhyanga massages, mineral baths and Shirodhara, sacred essential oils and precious gems, are used to anoint the body. At this time, immune boosting Rasayana herbs and fresh juices are given. These tonics are full of antioxidants to repair and prevent free radical damage. Legendary rasayanas, such as the soma plant, which is found in the mountains of India, is said to be one of the secret ingredients to ensure youth. Patients undergo daily spa therapies, performing tapas (austerity), meditating, reciting mantras and practicing yogic breath. The therapy essentially cleans their physical bodies and transforms their emotions by releasing anger and grief in order to cultivate inner peace.
After 90 days, the patient emerges completely transformed. It is said that a person’s gray hair is replaced by dark hair, old teeth are replaced by new teeth, the complexion becomes fair, wrinkles smooth out and skin’s elasticity is restored. Eye sight and hearing improve drastically, age-related aches and pains disappear, memory and concentration becomes sharp and there is spiritual clarity.
Further, normal and dense vibrations of the physical body become lighter. If done correctly, according to the original manuscripts written on palm leaves, one is said to gain immortality. That probably won’t happen, but Kalpa is truly the culmination of all Aurvedic knowledge and therapies. In many cities of India and health resorts of Kerala, Kayakalpa schemes are being offered. The Kerala region, which boasts two rainy seasons, is said to be ideal for such treatments. The rates depend on the number of days one decides to undergo the treatment. Typically, one can choose a treatment package of 7-, 14- or 21 days.
Off to Detox!
Detoxification, rejuvenation and nutrition help reverse the aging process. According to Ayurveda, the human body is made up of seven types of dhatu which are responsible for the functioning of the systems and organs and the structures of the body. Each dhatu builds on the one before it and they develop on the nourishment that comes from the digestive system.
The sole purpose of metabolism is to assemble proper dhatus, which are base of growth and survival. Any kind of disturbance or imbalance in dhatu equilibrium causes ailments and diseases. The seven dhatus are rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mansa (muscles), meda (fat), asthi (bone), majja (bone marrow) and shukra (reproductive fluid). Blood provides nourishment to the body, muscles are basic cover for the bone, fat provides lubrication between various body organs and helps maintain right body temperature, asthi gives structure to the body, bone marrow is found in the brain and spinal cord. It fills the bone, shukra—it is the cause of ojas, which is actually essence of all seven dhatus. The shukra is responsible for the body’s vitality and energy. Dhatus are sites that doshas enter when they cause disease.
An understanding of doshas is important to understanding pathology—what goes wrong in the body. Some key treatments include Rasayana, the branch of Ayurveda that deals with the promotion of the positive health by eliminating the ill effects of old age, thereby improving the quality of life. They are available in the form of tonics and medicines. They are rich in herbs which have the power of rejuvenation along with lot of micronutrients. All are said to rejuvenate the mind and body and boost immunity.
Rejuvenation is a unique specialty of Ayurveda, and has been confirmed in gerontology. It is part of the eight major branches of Ayurveda. Panchakarma reverses the path of the disease. It is a Sanskrit word meaning five actions or five treatments. It is a process to clear the body of toxic materials, called Ama, left by disease or poor nutrition. This foul-smelling, residual “sludge” must be completely evacuated from the body. Its removal purifies the tissues at a very deep level. Other treatments include daily massages, oil baths, herbal enemas and nasal cleansing. All these treatments should be done yearly in order to maintain mental and physical hygiene and balance.
Ayurvedic preparations have a long, uninterrupted history of use. But Ayurveda is not just about medicine. It is about healing, energy, kindness and compassion; as a result, many consumers are turning to Ayurveda to nurture their spiritual side and, at the same time, boost their overall sense of well-being.
Navin M. Geria
Chief Scientific Officer
AyurDerm Technologies, LLC
Navin Geria, former Pfizer Research Fellow is a cosmetic and pharmaceutical product development chemist and the chief scientific officer of AyurDerm Technologies LLC, which provides Ayurvedic, natural and cosmeceutical custom formulation development and consulting services to the spa-wellness-dermatology industries. He has launched dozens of cosmeceutical and ayurvedic anti-aging products. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick-Energizer, Bristol-Myers and Spa Dermaceuticals. He has nearly 20 US patents and has been published extensively. Geria edited the “Handbook of Skin-Aging Theories for Cosmetic Formulation Development” focus book published in April 2016 by Harry’s Cosmeticology. He is a speaker, moderator and chairman at cosmetic industry events.