Pancha Karma
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Basti, What’s the Point?

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I will of course get into this more once I complete the program in June, but since there are so many kinds of enemas in the world, I thought it would be nice to elaborate on the differences.

In Āyurveda, there are many types of Basti – some are cleansing, some are nourishing, some are large in quantity, some are small in quantity and thus meant to be held longer. Though they invigorate the Adho Bhāga (lower body), which is home to Vāta – they can be used to interact with any of the doṣas that may invade the area. 

Thus, some Bastis are sharper and can do scraping in the area, for example. This would be useful when Kapha is involved with Vāta and established in this lower region. (Again you can see why identifying as a doṣa leads to complications. What happens when they mix?! Which they often do!)

In terms of Pañca Karma or Śodhana as it is often called, each doṣa is to be removed from the exit or mouth (mukha) closest to its location of origin. Thus, Kapha, which lives (and should collect) in the Urdhva Bhāga (upper body) should be removed from the mouth via Vamana (vomiting therapy). Pitta, which collects in the middle is removed by Virecana (purgation therapy). And Vāta, which is established in the lowest chamber, is removed through Basti

Each of these karmas (therapies) as they are called, have purva karmas (prerequisite actions) that need to be done – like preestablishing some digestive capacity, doing appropriate oil and sweating therapies etc – so it is not recommended to do this without supervision from an Āyurvedic practitioner.

The Challenge with Vāta

As Vāta is caused by lightness, dryness, roughness – in food, activity, season, age – we cannot “cleanse it” the way would do so for Kapha and Pitta, which are caused by the presence of more gross substances. Thus, to engage with Vāta, and thus also Vāta’s sthāna (home site), we must always keep in mind that Vāta requires tarpana (nourishment), even if it requires cleansing. 

So, if we were to put a coffee or water enema in the homesite of Vāta, without following it (at least!) with anything else that is nourishing (ie. oil-based), then though momentarily the person might feel a “clear colon,” it will aggravate the qualities of Vāta and lead to chronic dryness, constipation, pain, etc in that area and eventually elsewhere in the body.

This is to say, using qualities of Vāta to clear the homesite of Vāta, which is made of the same qualities as Vāta, it will cause a disturbance of this very testy doṣa and lead to more, longstanding problems with it. 

I was speaking with a friend on my trip to Redlands this weekend and we were discussing how Āyurveda practiced piece-meal and without complete understanding leads to large issues. From that little peek into the world of enemas, you can see why!

Like increases Like. Thus, to treat a problem with the same qualities that caused it, will only lead to more suffering. 

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