We met Martha Soffer years ago on the tennis courts and her kindness and positivity made it a snap for us to become fast friends. Being the always humble person that she is, we had no idea that Martha was such a big deal in the Ayurvedic community… not that we knew much about that world at the time 😉 Martha is the owner of Surya Spa in Pacific Palisades, California and has been an acclaimed Ayurvedic doctor, therapist and Ayurvedic chef for over 24 years. It is at Surya that she specializes in 3, 5, and 7 day Panchakarma cleanses.
In Ayurveda, Panchakarma (PK) is the ultimate experience for cleansing, rejuvenating and detoxifying the mind and body. By removing toxins, the PK cleanse restores balance and well-being and word on the street is that Martha is the best of the best. We were honored when Martha graciously invited us to do a 5 day PK cleanse years ago at Surya and blown away by its transformative experience. For Sandy, there was no better way to get a healthy jump start on 2016 than with a PK cleanse and below is her recent 5 day experience at Surya Spa.
The Home Prep
Before beginning the PK treatments everyone must do a 5 day home preparation that includes a special diet, physical activity restrictions and ghee instructions. The diet consists of rice, fruits and vegetables (approved by Martha) water and herbal tea. All food must be cooked (free of oil) and eaten warm. Being gluten-free and an overall healthy eater, the diet was easy to follow. As you may have guessed, alcohol and caffeine are not on the PK diet plan! Exercise isn’t allowed either both during the home prep and during treatment days and was a bit more challenging but still relatively easy to live with for 10 days. There is no way around it, drinking ghee (fyi, clarified butter) on the other hand, was torture and I had to keep reminding myself to put my trust in Martha on this one for the greater good of my new detoxified self. So, I perservered and started Day 1 of the prep with 2 teaspoons of melted ghee and per Martha’s instructions, doubled the amount each day for 4 days 😦 Truth be told, all this ghee-drinking made me feel great and my skin felt very well moisturized. On the final day before my treatment I drank a concoction of castor oil and lemon and after the butter-drinking saga, I welcomed the castor oil and lemon concoction with open arms. Between the clean eating, the ghee and the castor oil, I already felt noticeably different in the best of ways and was eager to start my PK treatments.
TIP: Blocking my nose while drinking the ghee definitely came in handy, especially on Day 4 when I had to knock back 8 teaspoons!!!!
Lunch at Surya
Everyone doing Martha’s PK cleanse is invited to have lunch at Surya and I love how this adds to whole experience. I strongly encourage everyone doing PK here to make the time to come in before treatments or to stay and relax for an aprés treatment lunch. My treatments were in the afternoon and I arrived an hour before each day and joined my fellow PKers at the communal table for lunch and wonderful camaraderie. Lunch started with tea and the best gluten-free ginger pear bread that I have ever had! Being gluten-free, I have tested out a lot of gluten-free bread and most resemble cardboard more than actual bread. My search for the perfect gluten-free bread was over and taking some home was a must, so I purchased a few loaves for the road. After the bread and tea, Martha’s chef Jenny served dahl (soup made of mung beans and spices) rice and Japanese sweet potatoes. I sprinkled everything with tasty black lava salt and black sesame seeds. Funny, the food that Jenny prepared tasted a lot better than what I was cooking at home for the 5 days of home prep! Martha said that I could take food to-go for dinner after my treatments and I was quick to take her up on the offer.
TIP: The Surya bread is so delicious that even ghee may be tolerable if slapped on one of these little slices of heaven. However, if you don’t have self-control, and I quickly discovered that I don’t, this bread will disappear and my loaves were gone in no time.
The PK Treatments
The treatments began in warm, cozy rooms and I was instructed to completely undress, get on the comfortable massage table and drape a towel over me. Before beginning treatments, Martha took my pulse to get an accurate reading on what was going on with both my body and emotions. Don’t even bother trying to fool Martha, she is all knowing and what you don’t tell her she will surely feel in your pulse. Like the day she asked me what was going on with my eyes and I said that I had no idea (*I let a friend practice putting eyelash extensions on me and had an allergic reaction (one that you couldn’t see) to the glue but had no intention of fessing up to it.) Martha insisted that she felt something with my eyes and I had no choice but to come clean and admit that yes, I did actually let someone put glue on my eyelids.
After taking my pulse, every one of my 5 days started with a complete body oil massage. Prior to starting, Martha prepares special little sacks filled with herbs specific to my individual needs. The sacks are dipped in very warm oil and massaged by both Martha and one of her assistants over my entire body both front and back. This goes on for at least an hour. Usually not one for massages, I must admit that this was pretty close to nirvana and thoughts of moving right into Surya flashed through my mind.
After every oil massage, an Ayurvedic treatment followed based on what Martha felt was necessary from my pulse reading and whatever my concerns were. Most were relaxing and enjoyable, while others were a bit more challenging but necessary components of my cleanse.
On my first Pk day I went into the steam tent for about 20-30 minutes. I love the steam tent so very much and it is one of my favorite parts of the PK treatments. It gets very hot with the lavender-infused steam and toxins seemed to pour out of my skin. I felt amazing after and each day following my oil massages I wasn’t shy about hinting about going back into the tent. However, Martha had a plan for me and I only made it in there on that first day. One can always hope!
The ionic foot device is something that you really have to see and feel to believe. The device is submerged in water and draws toxins out from the body simply by putting one’s feet in the water. Martha explained that the water would change color based on what organ the toxins were being released from. Admittedly, I was skeptical and would not have believed it if I didn’t see it with my very own eyes. My feet were put in clear water that slowly began to change colors. The water went from bright orange, to green and ultimately to a dark brown. When it was all over I felt fabulous and the water was thick and mud-like. Adiós toxins!
As someone who is always cold, the temperature can never be too hot for me. Martha explained that the reason for my hands and feet always being cold is because I have too much trapped heat within my body, in other words, I have too much pita (fire) in my doshas. I thought a lot of fire was a good thing 😉 but Martha said a hot milk massage would release the trapped heat and my body would feel much warmer as a result. The hot milk massage definitely fell into the “not so relaxing” treatment categories. Although the milk is hot, my body was freezing cold immediately after it was rubbed into my body. While it was difficult to endure, Martha was correct yet again because my hands and feet were warm for weeks to follow.
There’s no way around it, everyone doing PK at Surya will get a basti each day. That’s code for enema to you and me. During my very first PK cleanse Martha assured me that I would be thanking her after the basti. While this is a lot of information for Sparkle Bungalow readers, it is a necessary part of the cleanse and I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors by leaving this out. Each day Martha decides which one it will be (oil, coffee or chlorophyl) depending on the needs of the day. As a seasoned PKer, I’m always secretly begging for the coffee basti but feel incredible after regardless of which one is in the cards for me each day. Each serves a specific purpose and yes, you will be thanking Martha later.
TIP: An oil basti puts the snafu in any thoughts you may have of going anywhere but home after your treatment. Plan accordingly 😉
The final stage of each treatment is the shirodhara. Shirodhara is the Ayurverdic ritual of pouring liquid (in my case oil) across the forehead. The feeling one gets from having a shirodhara is indescribable and every time I have one I am in an Ayurvedic trance. Without fail, I fall asleep so deeply that I am often difficult to wake up. When I do, I feel completely relaxed and with a clear mind.
The Final Day of My PK Cleanse
My final day of PK at Surya was bittersweet. I felt amazing from the inside out yet also overwhelmed with emotion. As I was sitting and chatting with my new found friends during lunch, there was a certain sadness knowing that this peaceful little world within our world was coming to a close for me. Although there were rough patches along the way (i.e. the milk massage) it all went by way too fast and I was already missing my fellow cleansers and everyone at Surya. The bond that you share with one another as you go through this journey is a special one and every day we sat at the table together and shared our personal experiences. We had a common goal to feel better, become more aware of our bodies and minds and to make each of our worlds a more positive place. Egos were nonexistent and I am grateful for everyone that shared in my PK journey.
After hugging everyone goodbye, I know that this is only temporary. Someday soon I will be back to do it all over again. In the meantime, Martha is always just a phone call away should I need her.
TIP: Martha’s message is heard worldwide. The beauty in this is that Surya brings together people from all walks of life. Martha has the unique gift of being a true healer who wants to help everyone. While it’s commonplace to be having lunch and doing Pk with a celebrity or two, in Martha’s eyes (and everyone’s at Surya) we are all stars in our own right and everyone gets the magic treatment. We can all learn from this.
TIP: Surya Spa is very busy with few open spots, so if you would like to do a cleanse the sooner you call the better. Surya’s success is truly the result of happy clients and the the word has spread like wildfire. If you can’t make it to Los Angeles check the Surya Spa website for Martha’s occasional pop-up spas, such as the NYC pop-up.
Without a doubt, Panchakarma at Surya will leave you feeling like your very best you 🙂
All services at Surya Spa are by appointment only at 310-459-7715