Panchakarma Part 1: Are you shitting me?
The preceding three days of my panchakarma cleanse at Dixit Health Clinic were spent mostly chillaxing on the rooftop balcony and drinking increasingly larger doses of ghee, aka clarified butter. This process is known as oleation, which sounds nice, doesn’t it? Like something a rainbow might do to a flower. I can tell you now that it is not nice at all, and that even though it’s been several weeks, simply typing the word “ghee” causes my gag reflex to involuntarily kick in, a trigger I imagine is similar to what Linda Lovelace must feel watching hot dog eating competitions.
Anyway. On the fourth day, after I had consumed 120 ml of ghee, followed by completely sincere and appreciated pats on the back from Dixit staffers, Dr. Manassa asked me how many times I had “gone to toilet” that day. I thought about lying. Since coming to India, I had been a regular companion to a great many toilets around Mysore, but on this particular day, I had somehow managed to fail my doody duty. But I’m a terrible liar, so I told her the truth, which was zero times.
“Maybe I ran out?” I said, a little too hopefully. Dr. Manassa looked at me as if I had just licked ghee off the floor. And that’s when I received the enema talk.
If you’ve never had a Third World enema before, allow me to horrify you in very few words. Two strangers, a bucket, and a tube shoved up your ass. They then remove everything in your lower intestine, along with what little remaining dignity you’ve managed to store up since puberty. I had yet to be subjected to this particular treatment, but I’d heard all about it from my fellow cleansers at the clinic. We were there for a week, after all, there was pretty much nothing else to do except literally shoot the shit. After hearing their stories, I decided that firehosing my colon was something to be avoided, if at all possible. But Dr. Manassa was indifferent to my suffering. She told me that if tomorrow was the same, I’d be given a one way ticket to ShitHose Town.
Panchakarma (five actions) is detox system that’s been around for at least a thousand years. It’s tailor-made to support your specific body/mind constitution (dosha), and to address the specific ama (toxins) that are partying in your GI tract and elsewhere. Mine was an 8-day regimen. I came to the panchakarma not for digestive reasons, but as a last ditch effort to cure a hamstring injury that’s been going on for almost three years. I’d tried just about everything at that point, short of leeches and surgery, so I figured I’d give Ayurveda a shot.
A few words about shit
If you don’t hang around that many yogis on a day-to-day basis, you might be surprised to learn that, along with giving too-long hugs and singularly keeping Nag Champa manufacturers in business, yogis love to talk about their digestion. I remember one time at Moksha Yoga in Chicago, a fellow yogi coming out of the bathroom after class, his eyes sparkling in triumph. “You guys,” he said. “I just took the perfect dump. Come look!” While I declined, many others did go and marvel at this supposed pinnacle of poop.
It can be refreshing at times, this kind of honesty. One is never permitted to talk about the activities going on in one’s intestinal tract, in polite company or otherwise. But it is an important signifier of health. And like the book says, Everybody Poops. Except women, obviously. Gross.
Hindsight is 20/20
The next day came, and still my insides remained stubbornly where they’d been for the last day and a half. I tried to mentally prepare myself for my impending enema on the rickshaw ride over by viewing it in karmic terms, and also as a writer and a masochist. When the world sends a tube toward your ass, sometimes you just have to trust that this is part of the universe’s Great Plan. Also, I was kind of curious. But when I got there, I was informed that Dr. Manassa had the day off. PRAISE SHIVA, I thought inwardly, but then felt a twinge of disappointment. I mean, I was already drinking butter, for crying out loud. I didn’t come halfway around the world to do this half-assed. If I wanted optimal health, then shouldn’t my whole ass be involved? But then I was like, “Are you mental? Is the ghee going straight to your brain, and not into your GI tract where it’s supposed to then easily eliminate ama? Stop romanticizing every awful experience like you’re Pete Wentz.” And then I bucked up.
To be continued…
Stay tuned for the next installation of A White Girl in India, where I will tell you about the Indian version of Granny Clampett and how she burned me with bags of hot herbs.