Pancha Karma therapy begins with proper preparation. This includes several days or weeks of a special diet and herbs which begin the process of loosening up the ama and bringing it back to the digestive system for elimination. While the person is eating special foods and taking special herbs and ghee (clarified butter), oil and heat therapies are applied. These include the deeply relaxing therapies of Shirodhara, Abhyanga, (Ayurvedic massage), and vastis, (warm oil applications).
Shirodhara is a unique therapy where the client lies down upon a massage table with their eyes covered. Then, a specially prepared warm herbal oil or milk is poured in a thin steady stream through a spicket directly onto the forehead and sixth chakra. This blissful therapy purifies the mind, alleviates anxiety, reduces headaches and expands awareness. Shirodhara can be administered by itself or as part of a Pancha Karma regime.
Abhyanga can be administered by two practitioners who perform a choreographed hand dance upon the body. This massage can also be given by one practitioner. Using oils blended with special herbs, this abhyanga specifically loosens up the ama stored in the tissues so that it can move back to the digestive system. Not only is it cleansing, but it is deeply relaxing. Ayurvedic massage can be administered by itself or as a part of Pancha Karma.
Swedana is a full-body steam therapy. Special herbs are fused into the steam and together the heat and herbs dilate the channel systems of the body allowing the stored ama to move back into the digestive system.
Once all of the ama is back in the digestive system, the next phase is to eliminate it from the body. This is achieved by the administration of a purgative to cleanse the small intestine and herbal enemas to cleanse the colon. A special form of cleansing is applied to the sinuses called nasya. A warm saline solution is passed through the nostrils using a neti pot. After this, oil and heat are applied over the sinuses, followed by herbal oils that are administered directly into the nasal passages. This procedure not only eliminates ama but is helpful in the treatment of chronic allergic sinusitis and sinus headaches.