My Panchakarma Experience in Mexico
When I first heard about Villa Ananda, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mean, from their website I could tell that it was an Ayurveda health spa, and that the grounds were gorgeous. The thought of having a four-handed tandem massage after morning yoga next to the ocean was definitely enticing. I’d also heard that this was the secret go-to place for supermodels and designers to recover after Fashion Week. But I’d never been anywhere that the main focus was on restoring their guests back to a state of balanced and perfect health (or where their primary focus was health – period!) I’d also never been anywhere that sat me down and listened to my long list of relatively minor health complaints and followed that with a completely customized week-long (or three-week long) list of daily spa treatments (including, if I wanted, enemas), fresh teas and food made with ingredients specially formulated to treat my body, and a prescription for relaxation and rest. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. In fact, I had one of the most fulfilling and helpful weeks of my life ahead of me.
Ten days before our trip, we were instructed to purchase some Ghee and Indian Triphala pills and start the “Purva Karma” routine. The purpose is to get our bodies into better shape and prepare for the “Panchakarma” that was to come. It is an “essential” process that loosens up toxins lodged in the tissues for their further elimination from the GI tract. It’s actually something that would be good for everyone to do, regularly, as a mini-detox. The instructions are pretty simple:
1) Internal Oleation: For the last five days, prior to your Panchakarma, take 2 Tablespoons of warmed ghee preferably early in the morning or late afternoon on an empty stomach. May drink ½ cup of light ginger tea. Wait two hours before taking any food. If ghee is not available, or you’re vegan, you may use flaxseed oil.
2) Diet: Follow a light diet consisting mainly of steamed vegetables, some fruits, and a few grains and seeds. Avoid refined sugars and flours, carbonated drinks, caffeinated beverages, junk foods, red meats and dairy products, except for ghee. Eat in a calm atmosphere and chew the food well. Encourage peaceful and loving sensory stimuli.
3) Triphala: Every night 1 hour before bed take 4 tablets of Triphala with ½ cup of warm water. If taking Triphala powder (it tastes awful, so I don’t recommend it), use ½ to 1 teaspoon dissolved in ½ cup of warm water. This balanced herbal blend helps to cleanse, strengthen and rejuvenate the GI tract. You can purchase Triphala at a health food store or on Amazon.
If you’re doing this at home, you’d follow with a colon cleanse or at-home enema. Yup, you read right.
Our Arrival to Villa Ananda Health & Yoga Retreat
We arrived via a non-stop flight from NYC. We were picked up at the airport, and eagerly hopped into the rugged Jeep that would take us to the resort. Taking in sights in along the way, we cruised through the windy and beautiful roads just north of Puerto Vallarta, finally arriving at the private gated community where Villa Ananda is located. Our first thoughts (besides ‘When can we explore the area?’ and ‘Wow, there are a lot of gorgeous vacation homes around here!’) were that it looked a lot more beautiful in person than photos could ever capture. Our second observation was that the energy of the place was immediately relaxing. And not just because we’d escaped the cold and crazy of New York City, but because for decades this health resort has been restoring even their most stressed and crazed guests back to a sense of calm and serenity.
The first thing we did was take our delicious Hibiscus tea and unpack in our Casita (which is basically a little villa on top of the spa, facing a private terrace, and looking right out over the ocean.) Here, everything smells, looks, and feels like a spa. After dinner, we went for a long walk on the beach. That night, in a bed so comfortable it rivaled the most plush and luxurious 5-star resorts in the world, sleep came easy.
The next morning, instead of the typically constant sound of angry drivers honking with the occasional siren sprinkled in, the ocean was the first thing I heard upon waking. As we ate breakfast, we watched whales and stingrays jumping and paying in the ocean (I kid you not!), amazingly close to the shore. It reminded me how lucky I was to be the only journalist in their long history ever invited to stay at, and write about, Villa Ananda. Until now, everything had been word-of-mouth. This made me feel especially good because Mindy, the owner, saw something in me that told her I would understand what they were doing here – and why.