Thoughts on Pancha Karma

Thoughts on Pancha Karma
Karma Therapy: Traditional and Innovative
by Light and Bryan Miller
thoughts on PK

Ayurveda is recreated for every age. Dr. Robert Svoboda states in his book, Ayurveda: Life, Health and Longevity that “practice has always been a balance between orthodoxy and innovation…with every doctor carving out his unique niche in the world of therapeutics…and each doctor…is expected to tailor a different treatment for each sufferer. Such detailed individualized care does not often happen today and may never have been common, but the intent (in the writings) is clear.” excerpt.pdf

This could be the ultimate Ayurveda: Evolving therapies adapted to each patient’s needs.

Innovation  can even emerge from diminishing choices. Our teacher, Dr. Chotai, related a difficult case of skin cancer, where traditional medical and Ayurvedic approaches had been exhausted. Pulse Diagnosis revealed a dry, irregular Vata predominating. Seeking the greatest application of earth element, he intuited that earth burial could be the ultimate delivery mechanism. The patient was buried vertically in the sand of Santa Cruz Beach, Mumbai, with an umbrella to protect her head from the sun and only fresh coconut water (water element) for consumption. He sat with her for ten days, drifting from light conversation to deep meditation to silent observation of the horizon and sleep. When the patient emerged from the sand, the lesions were resolved and her pulse had achieved balance.

We are both reborn Ayurvedic practitioners. We have done this before. It is too easy, too familiar , not to be. We have appreciated the traditional methodologies, yet nevethoughts on PK2r felt an obligation to stick to them. Our abyanga massage may have components of cross-fibre, lymph drainage, trigger points, and chiropractic in addition to traditional marma and abyanga strokes. Whatever is needed for the patient.  I like my Shirodhara, heated, temperature regulated, directed, recycled and contolled, with gentle chanting in the background, please. No apologies.

The following are some ways that we have customized our patient’s Pancha Karma treatments. We hope there is something here for  practitioner,s in the field.

Abyangha oil can be created  from a small collection of essential oils and vegetable  base oils. Essential oils are lighter and more concentrated than traditional medicated oils, which can take months to prepare.  With knowledge and intent, the practitioner can instantly blend for a specific dosha reduction or to support any associated conditions or symptoms. For example, in a patient with excess Pitta and skin inflammation, to a base of coconut oil could be added E.O. of Blue Chamomile, Yarrow, Sandalwood, and Lavender for a cooling, calming abyangha blend. In addition to promoting localized skin healing, these oils would be absorbed into circulation, calming the nervous system, quieting the mind and even balancing the endocrine system. Nothing would preclude the use of traditional medicated oils in your blends.

Shirodhara oil can be similarly made patient specific, although its direct absorbtion  is reduced, as only the top of the head is contacted by the oil. However, smell receptors in the nasal passages, directly simulate the limbic system and can release a stream of withheld memories, emotions and desires. The combination of appropriate E.O.s with shirodhara’s lucid dreaming potential could be worth exploring.

Steam treatment can also be enhanced with essential oils of Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Juniper, Ravensara, Cypress, with little regard to doshic influence as the vapors contacting the skin have a local, fleeting, rather than systemic effect. Adding 20-30 drops of a single oil or mixture to the Steamy Wonder or steam cabinet adds herbal energetics to cleansing power of steam. Patients love head massage with Bhrami oil simultaneously.

Traditional Basti treatments, for some Pancha Karma patients, can trigger negative emotional memories from childhood toilet training, early constipation experiences, or negative associations with natural body functions. This can add unwanted tension to a treatment that requires relaxation. The patient can experience anxiety when arising from the floor, upon reaching their holding limit,  contemplating the potential for an accident while mobilizing to the restroom.

We circumvent much of this by use of Colema Board in Basti. This method was brought to the west by Dr. Bernard Jensen, N.D., who rediscovered it on a visit to Nisargopchar (Aruli) Nature Cure Center near Puna, India – Coincidentally, this center was founded by Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. Chotai and others to reestablish Natural Treatments post independence. Designed for home use, the colema board allows the patient to recline supine, draped for privacy, have their abdomen massaged, and not have to get up.  (Video: A four gallon tank ( can deliver gravity fed triphala tea or any Basti mixture you desire. For instance, we add Pau d’Arco, Neem, or Black Walnut Hull to the tea if we suspect Candidiasis or parasites. Additionally, a custom barbed“Y” fitting can be added to the terminal delivery tubing, allowing body temperature sesame oil (1 to 3 oz.) can be injected with a cath tip syringe, directly into the emptied colon to prevent post-treatment dryness.    This form of Basti takes 30 to 60 minutes. Patients who have experienced traditional and Colema Basti often express preference for the latter.  In cases of extremely dry or inactive colons, we still use a traditional retention basti  with 4-6 ozs. of luke warm sesame oil, with good results.

Vamana (therapeutic vomiting), Virechana (purgation), and Gall Bladder Flush are treatments that can be challenging, emotional, and time consuming. They are often not included in Pancha Karma for these reasons, yet they may be the very thing that the patient needs. We find that one in ten PK patients needs Vamana, one in four needs Virechana, and one in five needs a gall bladder flush. Pulse detection , with  the classic associated symptomology is diagnostic.  These delicate therapies should be learned from a master, practiced under supervision, and applied only where indicated. The ancient apprenticeship method of teaching, Guru Kula, which means “becoming family to the teacher,” was once the only way to master these  treatments and may well, still be, the best way.

Pancha Karma Food and Drink  should be simple and restful to the digestive tract. Tradition holds to the Hot Water/Tea and Kichari approach. We have found many easy to digest additions to the basics. Individualized herbal teas are easy to design. The Yoga of Herbs by Drs, Lad and Frawley offer commonly available western herbs present with ayurvedic doshic classifications for each. Light believes that local herbs have special healing power for the native people. We still use the Indian Herbs of great importance that have no western corolation. We take it a step further and design an herb tea, for each day of PK, to target and support  a different body system (Digestive, Liver, Nervous, Respiration, Circulatory, Immune, Reproductive, etc.) Each blend has specific rasayana herbs for the target system, with good tasting, complimentary herbs (mint, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, licorice, anise or fennel) added to improve the taste, where appropriate. This mix of therapeutic and good tasting herbs, exemplifies the art of blending. If it doesn’t taste good, the patient probably won’t drink it. We give each patient a four-cup thermos of hot tea for the day.

We give each PK patient 4 cups of vege/fruit/herb juice each day and a shot glass of wheat grass juice. These practices also come from our teacher Dr. Chotai and his Aruli nature-cure practice. He is credited by Dr. Anne Wigmore ( ) of teaching her  much about wheat grass. He was especially fond of giving his patients fresh extracted Tulsi (basil) juice and still dispenses wheatgrass at (126 years old). Carrot, celery, beet, cucumber, fennel bulb, apple, pineapple, cilantro, ginger, parsley, and mint are a few of the common ingredients to choose from when designing a juice for a specific dosha or condition. I prefer to serve the wheatgrass separately as it can overshadow any juice blend. These fresh juices are full of  prana, enzymes and nutrients. They can be tasteful, easy to absorb, satisfying and assist with removal of the ama (toxins) stirred up by PK.  Chlorophyll found in all greens, and especially in cilantro and wheatgrass, has a chelating effect (grabs and escourts out) on heavy metals like mercury.

Water is Life. We have researched and found, what we believe to be, the best water in the United States; it rises through a 3000 foot limestone deposit, over a 3000 year period of time, and so will be pure for the next 2900 years. It is bottled at the source and delivered in 5-gallon (and other sizes) glass bottles. No plastic residues for my PK patients. It can be found at  A complete analysis of mineral content and absence of toxics is posted. My research points toward good spring water as preferable to other sources or purification methodologies.  I encountered one PK patient who had been hospitalized with seizures and took a year to recover while cleansing ( not PK ) on distilled water. Between the  herb teas, juices food and spring water, I have never seen drops in the electrolyte levels of PK clients.

In the PK food department, we go light for the first three days with fresh organic fruit salads (morning), a nourishing, blended vege/herb/seaweed soup we ( immune soup ) served with ghee (lunch and dinner). For the last 4 days, our kitchen goes full on, gourmet vegetarian,  with everything from quinoa kitcharee and spinach-curry sauce to cashew-herb stuffed butternut squash. Patients leave, after their seven days, excited about new healthy cuisine possibilities and with Light’s new 500+ page cookbook (Lotus Press, soon to be released) in hand. If patients take their newly learned diet and daily regimens home with them, they will stay healthy. Their friends and family will ask about their obvious good changes in looks and behavior.

A final area of PK, where new approaches can be introduced, is the arena of emotional release, relationship reappraisal, and the rewriting of one’s life story. This can all be covered in a therapy called Tarpana. This healing ceremony was originally directed towards ancestors and their patterns, which we carry forward consciously or unconsciously. Swamini Mother Maya Tiwari in her newsletter of Oct 2010 writes,“Without realizing it, we often carry the ancestors on our backs. Because their memory patterns are deeply embedded within our vital tissues and cells, we continually re-enact patterns that originate in the history and memory of our family lines. When we do not recognize ancestral traumas, we are likely to ferry them into every aspect of our lives. But we can resolve our karmic history through honoring ancestors; we can trade in hurt and grief and illness for celestial guidance.”  She offers the following ceremony:

Mantra for Healing Ancestral Memories

Facing Southward direction, sit in a comfortable posture and recite the following mantra 108 times. Keep in mind your ancestors and the faces and/or names of anyone of them who calls to you. Use a Japa-mala (prayer beads with 108 beads, or rosary) to maintain the mantra count.

Om Namo Vah Pitris Saumyah
Pronunciation: (Oom Nah-mow Vaff Pete-riss Saum-yaha)

The following link references an article by Dr, Robert Svoboda for a detailed description of the traditional ceremonial tarpana: 

Light and I came into the field Ayurveda and Pancha Karma through our initiation and training in the metaphysical practice of Kayakalpa ( ). Dr. Chotai taught the release of emotional holding and the thoughts underlying them, without naming the process or breaking down the connections between ancestors, past relationships, thoughts, emotions and karmic entanglements, therein. It was simply: do this breath, let the emotions flow, release the thoughts and claim your divinity.

My Story.  Five years post KK training, I had undergone training in emotional release work, rebirthing, dabbled in the mind- body connection during bodywork and stumbled on Dr. Svoboda’s book Prakruti. Your Ayurvedic Constitution regarding Tarpana. After a failed, self-administered gall gladder flush, with a bitter taste of refluxed olive oil/lemon juice in my mouth, I had the thought, “Where is my bitterness coming from? What ancestor was bitter?  Ah Ha,, my maternal grandmother!” Small, crooked, nagging and Vata predominant, she was my least favorite ancestor and I was much like her. Especially regarding anything I didn’t like or approve of. Could I ever complain and whine. Remembering Dr. Svoboda’s Tarpana ceremony, I spoke my feelings to her, looked for her innocence, looked for her gifts and claimed my divinity. My gall bladder symptoms disappeared . Emotion released; bitterness and disgust. Relationship reappraisal: I appreciate my grandma’s  vata creativity in me and release my judgements about her. Life story rewrite: I am not a victim, I am creator in my life! Bing! Lights on.

Soon thereafter, we began applying this ceremony systematically with our patients, guiding them to the releasing breath (in through the nose/out through the mouth with a sigh-aaahhhh). Advanced yogis could add a muladbanda contraction( at the height of the inhale), visualize the energy rising to the third eye and place the tongue on the roof of the mouth. Speaking to each ancestor, our patients spoke their unspoken thoughts, screamed their unexpressed rage (sometimes supported by a precursing primal-scream, breath of fire), cried their withheld tears, identified the patterns experienced, claimed the lessons learned, accepted the gifts bestowed and declared their ultimate divinity. Sealing the deal with a ritual gift of the ancestor’s favorite food, they often found release from karmic entanglements.

One distraught, Catholic, mother of 8, spoke her pain to her out missing son, released him to his path, blessed him  to whatever he did and found relief from months of insomnia, arthritis, and acid heartburn.  Had stumbled on a new cure to a myriad of symptomologies?  Can the ancestor entanglements go both ways? One week later, she received a phone call from that son and a ticket to visit him in Europe. How did he know, that she had let go?  Are we all really that connected?

We began to extend the Tarpana Ceremony to our patient’s other relationships…friends, enemies, rivals, business associates, lovers and spouses (past and present). With the intention to create freedom from all earthly attachments, we found body associations to specific conditions: anger with dad locked in the right shoulder. molestation in the inguinal ligament and adductors, fear of speaking in the throat muscles. We added balancing breath to the end of the ceremony (through the nose quietly/6 seconds. in/ 6 seconds out).  We added affirmations (I am peace, I am love, etc.). We have taught this “new Tarpana to 60 + PK trainees and sent them out into the world.

This had become  a Pancha Karma, unlike any, from traditional training or literature, and yet, we had found our niche.

Opening Charaka , I found a discussions of how  various conditions could arise from fear, anger or grief, with each requiring a different curative approaches. The lines between orthodox and innovative blur. In the now moment, there is only God doing PK on God, being present, meeting a need,  serving a tea,  oil gliding across skin, breath matching breath, observed and observer one. We hope all possibilities open for you.


Light and Bryan Miller AP (ayurvedic practitioners)

Light and Bryan Miller perform KayaKalpa and Pancha Karma treatments in Sarasota Florida and in the world, where called. They are NAMA approved for in classroom and Gurukula training toward  AP  (ayurvedic practitioner) certification,  hold Pancha Karma Trainings for practitioners, are distributors of essential oils, doshic reduction packages, and are authors of Ayurveda and Aromatherapy, Ayurvedic Remedies for the Family, The Ayurvedic Home Study Course (900 pages/4 volumnes) and Cooking with Light( soon to be released Lotus).  941-806-7760




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