Monday, December 25, 2017

My Panchakarma Virechana Experience

I lay down face up on the bare bed, stark naked except for a cloth barely covering my privates. My hands are stretched far out to one corner, warm oil drips onto my starved and somewhat weakened body, from legs to the torso to the arms. Then, in pressurized machine like manner, he massages up and down and in circular fashion swishing the oil and squezzing my organs. As my skin stretches and my skeleton offers meek resistance, I close my eyes into submission...

For a couple of years now we have been trying Ayurveda – during Sh’s pregnancy, to battle my daughter’s asthma and incessant coughs and colds; with good success. Our confidence in Ayurveda’s holistic healing approach and our friendly neighborhood Ayurveda doctor (Dr. Nayana) has only grown since.

I tried to apply Ayurveda to cure a skin eczema that I have been having for the last 12years or so. The steroid based allopathy medicines don’t get to the root cause.
After a few months of some mild medicines and kashayam, my doctor suggested I “treat” myself to a full Panchakarma Virechana detox program to get rid of any Pitha dosha that may be causing this. It was the most I have spent on myself in a while, but I decided to give it a shot.

The best part of the whole exercise was the suspense factor. The doctor modifies the phases as per the reaction to the current & previous phases. It pans out one step a day. In my case, I was in constant consultation with my doctor on Whatsap. So it was more one “ping” at a time. I had no idea how the massage phase would be, no clue on the purging process, etc, only knew that it would go on for 12 days.

Preparation phase – 3 days

This was perhaps the easiest. I had to take digestive medicine Chitrakadi Vati for 3 days and have easy-to-digest home cooked food. Curd and fruits were proscribed.

Snehakarma or Oleation Phase – 3 days

My previous experiments with intermittent fasting & bullet proof coffee came handy here. You start your day by consuming 15ml to 50ml (increasing quantities – Shodana Sneha) of medicated ghee on empty stomach, sip warm water periodically and fast till noon, to aid the absorption of ghee. Ghee is actually euphemism, don’t imagine anything as tasty. My burping was not much but brought out the pungent taste back to the mouth. Diet for the rest of the day was only watery rice gruel (Ganji). By the third day, the boredom of not eating as per your regular schedule and the food you want got to me.

Abhyanga (massage) and Swedana Phase – 3 days

 This was the first time I had massage of any kind. Despite all the running, I have so far stayed away from deep tissue massages that are very popular with runners. The oil massage (with special oil – Shatavari + Chinchadi thailam) was an experience in itself. Taking your clothes off with just a komana to cover your vitals is in itself a quantum leap from my comfort zone. 40mins of Abhyanga, breaks more mental barriers than physical, I guess. 
I felt frail as I got off the massage table. The body is but on rent, take care of it enough to lead a happy life, don't be too attached to it, it is on rent after all.
Swedana / sweating follows for 15mins in a steaming chamber. I liked the Paanamrutha after the massage. The relaxation of the massage comes at the cost of dietary & sleep restrictions. Rice is ok, No Urad / Toor daal, no fermented foods, no coffee / tea – rules out a lot of staple food. Pongal with tadaka & tomato rasam (without daal) were my treats. I figured if you take a deep breath of coffee decoction and drink green tea, it comes close to actually drinking coffee. And, don’t relax too much, so you fall asleep - Sleeping during the day is prohibited.

The core of it all – Virechana Phase – 1 day (thankfully!)

This is the actual purgation process. The idea of the previous phases is to loosen the Kapha rooted in the organs, gut and intestines. The idea of Virechana is then to purge this out of the system via the anal route.
I was told that on this day, after the massage, a kashayam is given and within one hour, the urges will start. One would have urges for about 15 times during the day. You are only allowed to sip warm water till evening when the purgatory process is over. Simple, right? But the actual day was quite miserable.
The massage, medicine (one bowl of chamanprash like porridge) and a glass of diluted kashayam were actually nice, quite contrary to what was to come.
Within about 30mins, the medicine started doing its thing. The urges came in 30mins intervals to start with, then more frequently. I joked that the timing chart looked like my 5K split timings, precise to start with. S said it was closest to an edema-like feeling I will ever get. Jokes apart, by noon, I was already into double digits. By 3pm or so, the very idea of going to the bathroom was nauseating. Surprisingly, the last thing on my mind was hunger – I had lost the wish to eat, anything! By 4pm, the doctor gave the go-ahead for a bath and eat some Ganji. Finally by 5pm or so, after some 16 purging sessions, I was done and hopefully, the Kaphas have left as well.

Samsarjana / Recovery phase – 2 days

For the next couple of days, my weakened digestive system should be given time to recover slowly. More dietary restrictions, starting with Ganji, then moving to Pongal, rice and rasam for the second day. One the third day, I am allowed to eat fruits and get back to regular diet.

I am yet to figure out if this cures my skin eczema issues. My initial reaction is relief that I am nearing the end of this. I certainly feel light, I have lost 4kgs in this period. You are what you eat, there is no doubt about it. Do I recommend it? Yes.

Do challenge your body to move out of your comfort zone, and if the purging process comes with the multitude of benefits that it claims, you have more reason to do it.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2017

A few days before the Chennai marathon on Dec 3rd, I had a cousin Dr. G pay us a visit. A great conversation ensued and it felt like my 50 year old self had time-travelled, paid a visit to give some wisdom to my 30 year old self (yes, that is what literary freedom is for. You are allowed to understate). I shall try to put my Chennai marathon experience through this kaleidoscope.

1.       Invest in your health – I try to keep working towards a running goal and pick up healthy habits along the way. This year has been one of consolidation of some of these habits – along diet, sleep & mileage. Moving away from “English” medicine to getting back to traditional kashayas and Ayurvedic medicines and home remedies.

I signed up for the Chennai marathon, to run this after a gap of 5 years, in a bid to fill the void after the Bengaluru marathon. I was looking to extend the benefits of a good training season this year, keep my weight in check and take another shot at a Personal Best.

I had 6 weeks to train, but was struggling with congestion in the chest for most of this period. The weather had turned quite cold and the rains were incessant.

2.       Live your life, Live in the present – I wear multiple hats; each day I’m an amateur athlete, a cook, a maid (what is the masculine for this?), a chauffeur, a business analyst, a father, a son and husband. I break stereotypes – we don’t have a maid, a cook, a driver, a baby sitter (do you know professional cuddling is one of the highest paid jobs?). We upkeep the house, cook & do the dishes, the laundry, the pressing, a wipe down the car ourselves. I even do my own haircut (and now my son’s) for the last 10years. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should lead yours. Don’t lead the life that your mom wants you to lead, your kids, your spouse or your boss wants you to lead. Live your life.

As always, I took the train, an open/unreserved ticket in the general compartment to Chennai on Saturday morning. I love the vibrant energy that is in a Gen compartment. There is no room for pretensions here, no flab, stripped down to the basic need of getting to the destination and whatever comes with it. Super crowded, not crowded, adjust-ments, suborn fights, smiles, laughs, stories, new perspectives – all of it at a cheap ticket cost. (See, no mobile phones and no tablets)

Right from the 4am start, I tried to run mindfully. I’m also mindful of my breathing nowadays, after reading ‘The Oxygen Advantage’. I only breathed through my nose, except for the last km or so during this run. I kept an easy pace, although a bit slower than target, almost right from about 15km or so, I tried not to worry about the finish time.

For most of the run, till 36km, I kept pace with the lead woman runner (in black stripes tee in the pic) who had a couple of bicycle escorts, made sure I wasn’t bored. I had 2 Fast and Up gels for this run and constantly fed myself bananas and chikkies. The HMers merged with us at 32km, I must have lost focus on my form about here. From 36km, I slowed down a bit to keep off some cramps. In hindsight, I should have tried to run through it, I had nothing to lose. Another day, perhaps.

3.       Count your blessings – I finished the marathon in 202mins, 2mins over my target. But I try to focus on the 180mins that I ran well and not on the 20mins that I didn’t run so well. I feel His love and blessings. I tried to smile, wide, ear to ear on many stretches during the run. Amongst other things (like a good running pic), it helps with running economy, you tend to use oxygen better. I ended up finishing 26th overall. After the finish, a colorful medal and good hot breakfast (of idly upma, Pongal, sira and sundal), I was able to run up the steps (on the double) to the train station to catch the local to the parking lot. Again, I took the evening train back to Bangalore that very evening (was lucky to hop on to a sparsely crowded train and stretch my legs).

4.       Build relationships / Connect – Any marathon is a great occasion to catch up with the running fraternity. I met Suresh, Partha, Bobby, Sampath and Vatcha after the run, in addition to many familiar faces during the run itself. Chennai runners (the club) – the soul of the Chennai marathon, volunteering at every water station made sure there was a lot of cheering and motivation en route. I love the support that I get as my in-laws putting all sops to make me feel comfortable, pre-race and post.

5.       Make a bucket list – Next year, I will make an effort to build some bridges, I plan to invest more in relationships. I’m not where to start, but I will try to put a bucket list up!

Thanks Dr. G, to have made the effort to drop in and spend time.
Coming Soon - Long Hair and Lean Muscle. Stay Tuned!!!