In the physical body, our cells can become bogged down with ama, which are essentially toxins or a buildup of indigestible material. These cause of all sorts of problems with digestion and can filter into all systems of the body.
But we have more than just the physical body to contend with. We also have our emotional/mental body, also known as the subtle body. In the subtle body we have over 72,000 nadis, which are channels for our prana to flow through. These connect to the 7 energy centres we all know as the chakras. Although there is no physical substance like ama in the subtle body, we do have a tendency to carry a “subtle ama” if you will. These can bog down the nadis and in a sense are indigestible by the mind and heart. This subtle ama is made up of all the emotions that rule us. Our past traumas, our worries of the future, our inability to stay in the present moment.
In the physical body we can undergo many different methods to rid ourselves of ama. During Pancha Karma, which can take weeks and weeks to complete, the body is prepared to withstand the proceduce of ridding the body of it’s toxins, and then is strengthened. This is accomplished via many different methods, some more desirable than others. All the methods however are safe and monitored, with indications of proper purging vs improper. Some of the methods include vomiting, inducing bowel movements, enemas, sweating, nasya, and rarely bloodletting (though this is admittedly not practiced in the west). At least buy me dinner first!
The great thing about these treatments is that you can’t work on the physical body without working on the mental/emotional and vice versa. There is a connection between the body and the mind. The breath, the prana, needs to be rid of ama, be it subtle or physical, so that the energy can flow freely. But removing ama is only the start. Restoring strength and rejuvenating is it’s ultimate end goal. This is why Pancha Karma is so great, as it gives the body that clean slate to move forward. After Pancha Karma, the person’s diet and lifestyle are integrated properly and monitored as to ensure that proper habits are being formed.
We know that physical ama is formed through our diet. Processed, inorganic, genetically modified foods, with little nutritional value, all create this. One might argue a peach is a peach whether it’s canned or plucked from the garden, but anyone who has tasted both would never say such a thing. There is no comparison. It’s not enough to just eat healthy foods unfortunately. The origin of that food is important as it literally becomes the cells of your body! How it got to your mouth is more important than what it is you are eating. Otherwise, ama will form. Intention is everything.
If intention is so important when fueling the physical body, then imagine what ama would look like in the subtle body. In the nadis, how does flow become bogged down by subtle ama? What is this subtle ama? Our thoughts and emotions play a huge role in our system. When one is worried, it is a problem of the mind. Yet, people who are worried can have physical problems in the gut. The body and mind are inter-related.
Just as we must be careful with the intention of our food to ensure no ama is formed in the physical body, we must too be concerned with the intention of our fuel for our subtle body : our thoughts. Our internal dialogue, if repressive or toxic, will create that subtle ama. If when we speak we are constantly judging or complaining, we will create subtle ama. If we have trauma, grief, depression…all these things create that ama. And you can bet on the fact that over time, we tend to repress these things and ignore them, just as we do with our food habits, until eventually we have problems that require more urgent healing.
It is a gift and a curse that our physical body and subtle body are so interconnected. I view it as a blessing: it allows us to have respect for both if we can see how one affects the other and vice-versa. When imbalanced, we can work on one to work on the other.
Unfortunately, these treatments are not always the most comfortable for people. But think about it, how comfortable are you with delving into your past issues and hashing them out? Going into your suppressed or ignored feelings and finally confronting them? That takes courage. Sometimes, so do the treatments, though not as much as you may think.
Enemas are a great example. For those with Vata vitiation, especially in the mind, doing a sesame oil enema (using any pharmacy enema kit) of 2-4 oz, slightly above body temperature , is a great stand alone treatment. It not only helps physically with vata in the colon, but it also helps with vata in the mind – anxiety, worry, grief, etc.
Another great example is inducing diarrhea. Purging via taking 1-2 tbsp of castor oil before bed will cause vata and pitta types to purge in the morning (be sure to have something to increase electrolytes handy , such as pedialyte. Not powerade). It is best for pitta. They may experience 5-8 bowel movements, but afterwards any pitta in the body and mind will be lessened greatly. This includes feelings of heat and intensity.
I understand that most people cringe at the thought of anything to do with their anus. It simultaneously inspires giggles and fears. No one wants anything unfamiliar going in or going out of there. Even typing that makes me giggle and cringe. But these are treatments that are very powerful and effective.
Ama is a powerful thing as well. It invades all levels of our existence. Ridding the body of it is the first step towards ultimately creating a healthier you.