Is it possible to find balance? Practitioners of Ayurveda, India's 5,000-year-old system of health and healing, would say yes, and that the key to a long and healthy life is achieving a balance between body, mind and spirit.
Health problems occur, say Ayurvedic practitioners, when the pace of modern living does not allow us enough time to properly "digest" our life. Over time, this destabilizes our internal balance and causes us to store unnecessary toxins physically, mentally and emotionally. In Ayurvedic speak, the excess toxicity is called ama and releasing our body of this ama is key to maintaining health and vitality.
The Ayurvedic prescription to regain balance is a treatment called panchakarma, which means "five therapies." During panchakarma, you ready the body for treatment, then experience deep detoxification during a variety of treatments and eventually enter rasayana, a post-treatment phase meant to nourish the body and mind.
"Panchakarma is a conscious letting go of business-as-usual for at least a week, affording us a return to our naked, or more naked spirits and unadulterated rhythms," says Claudia Welch, an Ayurvedic practitioner, doctor of Chinese medicine and author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. "It restores health to the tissues and organs in our body, through the relaxation, cleansing and rejuvenating panchakarma therapies."
Each regimen is tailored to the individual and includes oil massages, enemas, purgatives and detoxifying steams in a cedar steam box called a swedana.
While Kerala, India, is still a major destination for travellers seeking panchakarma, Ayurvedic practitioners across Canada offer authentic treatments, too. If you're feeling fatigued, out of sorts or are suffering from a chronic imbalance, here are some excellent Ayurvedic options to choose from.
Transformation Ayurvedic Center in Montreal, Que.
Work with Bita Bitajian (she's a naturopath, an Ayurvedic practitioner and an Ayurvedic yoga therapist) in a serene spa and yoga centre in South Lambert, Montreal. Treatments start at $500 for a five-day plan. 426 Victoria Ave., suite 301, St. Lambert, transformationayurvediccenter.com
Ayurvedic Rituals Spa in Toronto
Spa founder and Ayurvedic therapist Andrea Olivera works with Babu Rao, a traditional Ayurvedic practitioner who comes from a family of Vaidyas in India. Together, they create effective panchakarma regimes that include an Ayurvedic-appropriate lunch (moong dal and lightly spiced seasonal vegetables) as well as a soothing Indian head massage. Treatments from $275 a day. 1081 Bathurst St., ayurvedaritualsspa.com
Jaisri Lambert in North Surrey, B.C.
Jaisri Lambert has more than three decades of Ayurvedic experience and is known for her comprehensive and personal approach. "A well-administered panchakarma can truly transform your life," she says. Choose from five- to seven-day treatments that include delicious khichadi, a healing spiced broth of mung beans and basmati rice, traditionally eaten during a panchakarma cleanse. Treatments from $650 a day, all inclusive. ayurveda-seminars.com
Vida Spas in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
Vida Spas offers authentic Ayurvedic treatments in a luxurious hotel spa environment. Traditional swedana boxes will cleanse you inside out, while spa therapists soothe your soul. Choose the three-day package to get a taste of panchakarma and therapists will send you home with herbs, recipes and teas to help you continue the rejuvenation process at home. Treatment packages from $666. Find Vida Spas at Fairmont Chateau Whister and Vancouver's Westin Bayshore, Sutton Place Hotel and Sheraton Wall Centre hotel. vidaspas.com