Our Panchakarma cleanse

It might not be the traditional way to spend a honeymoon, but Tracey and I are not the traditional type! We booked into the Oneworld resort in Bali for a “Panchakarma”, where we hoped we would be able to reset both mentally and physically from an extremely busy year of wedding photography, Zumba and renovating a house. The lure of the promise of total rejuvenation during a week long stay with treatments based on the ancient Ayurvedic principles sucked us right in. The location was a pretty big plus point too; 12 private guest suites, along with a state of the art treatment centre, Yoga Shala and traditional Ayurvedic kitchen, nestled in between the majestic rice terraces of Ubud.

It soon become evident that this experience would be more intense than we had thought and would be a life changing experience for both of us in different ways. Although staying in a double room and spending almost all of our time together, this was our own journey to navigate.

Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest medical systems in the world dating back over 3,000 years. Translated from Sanskrit it means “the knowledge of life’ – pretty deep! It’s not commonly talked about in Western culture, but in the East it seems like everyone is in on to this incredible natural science of living your best life.

So what happened during our 7 day stay? After a morning wake-up gong at 6am, we started with a doctors consultation to discover our “Dosha” type, this could be “Vata”,”Pitta” and “Kapha” or more usually a combination of these. They basically mean, air, fire, water and earth. They determine which one you are by looking at your physical appearance, any health conditions you have and an in depth questionnaire to find out which parts of your “Dosha” are unbalanced. You have a mini check over and have the opportunity to talk about any areas you wish to try and improve. That could be anything from knee pain, constipation or dry skin to anxiety, over thinking and depression. They say symptoms and stressors are borne from an imbalance within your Dosha and that’s what a Panchakarma is said to improve. Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked here and Ayurvedic medicine looks at the whole picture for healing which makes a lot of sense.

Next, somebody came to our room to dress us (that’s something we eventually got used to) into our white ceremony clothes for our “intention ceremony” with spiritual leader Wayan. There is no need to leave the resort as the temple is on the grounds and somewhere you could visit any time to process your thoughts. We both wrote our intentions for the week on a piece of paper which was folded up into a small square and wrapped in a banana leaf and tied to a tree. It was amazing seeing everyones intentions hanging there and some looked like they had been there for years. There was also a lot of holy water splashing, incense burning and chanting. It was a lot to take in on the first day and we probably looked like a pair of rabbits in the headlights.

The breathtaking view over the jungle and rice terraces from the yoga shala was an incentive for a 6:45am start, although I am usually not a morning person, especially with jet lag! I have only done a limited number of yoga classes in the past and certainly none for several years so I was wondering how I would get on. Even though a few of the other residents were clearly well practised (there were even some yoga teachers there), I was supported to get the most out of the class based on my abilities and over the week I could see improvements in my flexility and breathing. It helped me to channel my thoughts as well as discover different poses to help with aiding the detox process, digestion, headaches and clear thinking. We learnt about breathing techniques, and meditation was a big part of the sessions. The twice daily Yoga classes soon became something I looked forward to and a private lesson helped me to form a plan to continue yoga when I got home.

The food was beautifully presented at every meal and everything on the plate had a function as well as being delicious. We ate a vegan menu with no alcohol, caffeine or processed foods, but we never felt hungry. We could eat in our room on the terrace or at the communal table with some of the other guests, which at any time was a total of just 16. We met some very interesting and inspirational people, and over meals and shared stories of “detox” day and the various treatments.

Along with the caring staff and other guests, I felt like we all part of a big family and the feeling of safety and nurture was a big part of the experience. It was so liberating to not wear make up or straighten my hair (it was usually soaked in oil from the treatments). We usually all wore our white tunic and pants set and there was something so unifying about us all being stripped back and letting go of any ego.

One the the most anticipated parts of the week for me, were the twice daily treatments which mostly included different types of massage, usually with two therapists at the same time – what bliss! Other treatments I tried were medicated baths with a stunning view, steam pods and hair pastes as well as having warm oil dripped in my nostrils! I’ve had plenty of massages over the years, they are one of my luxuries, but I’ve never quite had an experience like a “Ayurvedic massage”.

To start every treatment, there would be flower offerings and incense waved along with some chants from the therapists who are suggested to be the best in the world (and I can believe that). It was like they were tunnelling healing energy in to my body with every treatment, I’ve never felt anything quite like it although it did take a while to get used to the “tarzan pants” we wore during the treatments – not very romantic!

In the lead up to my detox day (day 4), my body was prepared by twice daily herbal medicines, prescribed teas made from their kitchen garden and by drinking ghee to line my intestines and activate my liver for the detox. I had a deep tissue massage and poultice treatment everyday which literally beat all the tension and toxins out of my muscles. This “patra pinda sweda” treatment involves a muslin cloth , filled with herbs made into ball shape and deep fried in medicated oil right there in the treatment room on a gas stove (the sizzle did slightly terrify me at first!). Then my body was pummelled and massaged with the hot compresses for an hour. I also had some “shiro basti” treatments which involves pouring a slow trickle of warmed mediated oil onto my forehead, I cannot tell you how it felt as I fell asleep each time! I also had “Nasya” drops in my nose and a mini enema as part of my individually designed program.

Daily visits to the doctor helped them asses how my detox preparation was going and they had a herbal medicine for everything from restless legs to mosquito bites. I had heard from the other guests (some had been on several retreats here), that it was natural to be very tired, or go through many emotions. After so many years of holding on to the toxins and them finally being released, your body has to work hard to process these and cleanse your body. If a toxin was stored during a difficult emotional time, these may come out as those particular toxins are released.

Personally I had a few tears and felt quite drained but also felt a lightness I had never experienced. I now understood why they didn’t recommend cold water swimming, sun or wind exposure, cardio exercise or using electronic devices. It felt indulgent and out of my comfort zone to spend the week focussing on my health and mental well being and using any spare time to to read, meditate or journal. You don’t leave the centre during the week, but we were never be bored as alongside the comfortingdaily routine, there are the options to have a daily walk on the rice terrace or listen to a talk, have a cooking lesson, singing class or even make your own flower offering.

Detox day involved no breakfast or morning yoga, instead I had a final poultice massage and drunk 30mls of castor oil…..you know what was coming next! I headed to my room to be close to the bathroom and luckily Tracey had a different type of detox treatment (an enema) and was staying at the treatment room so we weren’t fighting over the toilet! I was bought a big jug of hot ginger water and had to drink half a glass every 15 minutes (that’s a lot of liquids). The castor oil worked it’s magic serval times and I had a chart to document each stage of this – who knew there were so may adjectives to describe your toilet habits!

Tracey was back in the room by now and did an excellent job of reminding me to drink my tea, prepared a hot water bottle and gave good back rubs. It was a little uncomfortable, I had some sickness and a headache but all apparently very normal as you finally release the toxins that have been worked free. They recommend that you spend as much of your detox day in silence and contemplation as you can and they even give you a set of beads to let the staff and other guests know you that you are taking some silent time out.

By the evening I felt like a different person and was able to attend the evening yoga which was a more relaxing, restorative session than the wake up yoga. Tracey and I both had the detox dinner Kichiri dish which is a warming type of lentil dahl and it had never tasted so good. We didn’t always have the same meals as everyone gets a custom food plan depending on their dosha and symptoms. The other guests commented on how glowing we looked, I certainly felt scrubbed clean on the inside. The full body cleanse apparently continues after detox day for weeks or even months as your body can finally process the released toxins.

It’s not wine in the photo. They served the evening herbal tea in a wine glass for that fancy dinner feeling!!

On Sunday morning we took part in the sunrise walk of the rice terraces. It was quite energetic, well, it felt like that after the previous day! The views and scenery will stay with me forever. There were no tourists, just our group, our guide called “Swan” and a few rice terrace workers. The jungle almost appeared to glow in technicolour, I could feel the energy, love and this overwhelming peace within myself. The wonderful team had prepared a special treat of pancakes on the roof terrace of the resort and had to bring the tables and chairs a long way and past a precarious ledge so we could dine with a view.

On our penultimate day we took part in the “letting go” ceremony with Wayan where we wrote what we were letting go of on a piece of paper that was burned over an offering basket with copious amounts of incense being wafted (this was a bit of the theme for the week). We then covered up the charred papers with beautiful flowers and Wayan chanted and said some positive affirmations of letting it go to be in the past where it belonged. This symbolic ritual was so powerful and again another tear was shed, this time a happy one.

The week helped me physically and re-enforced the relationship between food and feeling as well as helping me let go of the some mental blocks and readjusted my thinking. I felt re-set and thoroughly cleansed. Although the western lifestyle is not comparable to living in Bali, I am optimistic that I will take some knowledge and skills back with me to continue a more holistic approach to daily life. A life where my physical and mental heath are in balance and are a priority, not an afterthought squeezed into a busy timetable. We found it it to be the perfect way to start to married life and by experiencing it together, we discovered more about ourselves and each other.

If you are looking for a stunningly beautiful place to reset your physical health and to get to know yourself better, I would recommend the Oneworld retreat to anyone. We will keep in touch with the centre team and the people we met who were on their own journeys and no doubt we will be back one day 💜