As the New Year approaches, you may be considering a cleanse or detox program. Amidst today’s cleansing craze, it’s difficult to know which path to take. The most popular detoxes include colonics (cleansing of the colon through enema) and various juice fasts, as well as The Master Cleanse. Widely practiced for decades, the Master Cleanse prescribes a 10-day diet of lemon water infused with cayenne pepper and molasses.

Now, it’s quite mainstream to take a detox holiday in an exotic location, partake in a weekend cleanse at your local gym or order a do-it-yourself kit online and detox at home. Some experts in the nutrition field recommend detox programs, but others feel they are unhealthy or even dangerous. The reason for the latter is the belief that many cleanses are harsh, do not properly prepare the body or mind and they tend to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

A detoxification system that is considered not only safe, but also curative and rejuvenative is Ayurveda’s Panchakarma. Panchakarma, which translates to ‘five actions’ is a detoxification program designed specifically for your individual Ayurvedic constitution. Completely aligned with your specific needs and natural rhythms, Panchakarma detoxifies and nourishes your whole being – body, mind, heart and spirit.

To determine your Ayurvedic constitution, or Prakriti, it’s best to consult with an Ayurvedic physician or practitioner. However, if you do not have access to an Ayurvedic professional, you can also do constitutional self-assessment through a questionnaire (Click here to download a questionnaire[download id=”3153″]). Although it’s possible to assess your constitution on your own, the process of Panchakarma must be guided by an Ayurvedic professional.

Based on your constitution, which is your unique make-up of the Earth’s five great elements, Vata (Air & Space), Pitta (Fire & Water) and Kapha (Earth & Water), you will receive Ayurvedic treatments to restore your inner balance, as well as bring you to a state of harmony with your environment.

Ayurvedic doctors, as part of their extensive medical training, take an oath to treat their patients as lovingingly as a mother treats her child. The philosophy and treatments of Panchakarma are deeply nourishing and great care is taken to prepare patients mentally, physically and emotionally.

Ayurveda’s philosophy is that our bodies will only let go of accumulated toxins when properly prepared to do so. Panchakarma begins with snehana, or oleation, which saturates the body with medicated oils. This involves both external and internal oleation. Abhyanga, or herbal warm oil massage, is used to oleate the body externally. This beautiful technique, which involves a full, rhythmic body massage, promotes relaxation, increases circulation and nourishes the tissues. Internal oleation is done through ingesting medicated ghee. An additional preparation is swedana, or therapeutic heat, which dilates the body’s channels so that removing toxins will be more easily achieved. The number of days someone receives oleation and swedana is determined by their Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, as well as the number of days they undergo a Panchakarma. Once the body is prepared, the five actions are introduced:

• Vamana, or emesis, is used to remove accumulated toxins and addresses Kapha-related disorders, which include lung disorders, bronchial asthma, allergies, chronic colds, diabetes and rheumatic diseases

• Nasya, cleanses and opens the channels of the head and increases the flow of prana to the brain. Nasya is used to treat dry nasal passages, headaches, migraines, epilepsy, glaucoma, hearing loss and conjunctivitis.

• Virchana, or purgation therapy, cleanses the small intestine. It is recommended for Pitta-related disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis, acne dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.

• Basti, or therapeutic purification and rejuvenation of the colon, is prescribed for Vata-related disorders, including chronic constipation, low-back pain, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and dystrophy and atrophy of the nerves and muscles.

• Raktamoksha, or therapeutic withdrawal of the blood, treats blood-related diseases, including many types of skin disorders such as itching, eczema and rashes. It is also indicated for an enlarged liver or spleen, gout and some types of headaches and hypertension.

Traditionally, a Panchakarma is done for 35 to 60 days. Although, you will receive therapeutic benefits from Panchakarma treatments that are shorter in length, such as seven, 10 or 14 days. It’s true, Panchakarma can be a commitment of time, and if you cannot make that commitment right now in your life, give yourself the gift of just a few hours of Ayurvedic treatments. Receive a warm oil massage, shirodhara (where a constant flow of warm oil is streamed onto the third eye) followed by a steam (swedana). These treatments are immensely nourishing and rejuvenative on their own.