What’s Old is New Again: Complementary Medicine and Ayurveda Wellness
The ancient Rishis of India gave humanity the greatest gift. This gift was a detailed road map to living the most optimal, vibrantly healthy and spiritually aligned human life. The gift they gave was the Vedas, Caraka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Astanga Hridaya, and the Yoga Sutras. Through these detailed books, the wise seers imparted the knowledge of two sister sciences, Yoga and Ayurveda. These roadmaps offered profound guidance for the conscious fulfillment of a soul’s human life here on earth. It is estimated this ancient wisdom dates back some 5,000 years. Though very old, it is a potent and extremely valid form of either healing from disease, or cultivating one’s best health. In contrast to the promise of this ancient form of holistic healing, modern allopathic medicine promises a scientific evidence based, pharmaceutically and surgically supported form of disease treatment. Each of these medicinal paths has their strengths to support health and wellness. Ayurveda has the potency of a system based in natural living, whole foods diet, balanced with yoga and meditation, while modern conventional medicine offers the scientific method which has led to a rich and deep understanding of human anatomy and physiology as well as the disease process, diagnosis and treatment. Though modern allopathic medicine has its strengths in the scientific method, it is by no means a perfected method of health care.
In the September 2013 issue of The Journal of Patient Safety, it stated that the number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm done in hospitals was estimated at more than 400,000 people per year. And, serious harm seems to be 10 to 20 fold more than lethal harm. There is a large percentage of modern Americans who have grown completely out of touch with their individual responsibility for their own health, with devastating results. Many have become so reliant on the illusion of conventional medicine and pharmaceuticals to solve the health problems resulting from an indulgent lifestyle, that Cancer, Heart Disease and Diabetes are killing people at an alarming rate. The CDC states that approximately 40% of American citizens are obese, one half of the population is on at least one pharmaceutical medication, approximately 1 out of 5 four year olds are overweight, and it is estimated that 1 out of 3 people in America today will develop Diabetes in their lifetime. With numbers like these it is no surprise that people in our culture are beginning to feel disillusioned by their lifestyle and medical treatment, and so are seeking out alternative forms of healing.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) recognize Ayurveda as one of many adjunctive medicinal modalities to be used with conventional allopathic medicine. On the NCCAM website it states “Many Americans, nearly 40 percent, use health care approaches developed outside of mainstream western or conventional medicine for specific conditions or overall well-being”. From the ashes of despair and dissatisfaction with a form of medicine that leaves 400,000 people dead yearly from its mistakes, there is a new form of health care emerging that draws from the relatively new, but widely accepted form of conventional medicine, combined with complementary and alternative medicinal modalities such as Ayurveda which has thousands of years of history behind it.
The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit to help prevent illness and promote wellness. Ayurvedic medicine can be a powerful healing modality to bring balance to a person who has developed illness in their body. Mostly though, the primary focus is teaching individuals how to create their optimal health. Ayurvedic medicine uses the awareness of the individual’s unique body constitution to understand specific vulnerabilities based on how the basic elements of life are expressed either in balance or out of balance. Specific dietary recommendations are encouraged to nourish each unique body constitution. A variety of herbal remedies and techniques of daily and seasonal cleansing along with massage and specific treatments to address imbalances are employed to cleanse the body and restore balance.
This philosophy of health and healing is coupling with the more widely accepted western model of medicine to use both approaches for diagnostics and treatments of illness and disease. We are seeing Wellness Centers open their doors in replacement of traditional doctors’ offices. In some of these Wellness Centers clients will find MD’s, and DO’s working alongside Ayurvedic Wellness Counselors and Practitioners as well as Ayurvedic Doctors. With collaborative medicine, the western allopathic trained doctors which are the ones accepted by the laboratories, hospitals, and insurance companies can prescribe these alternative modalities. So that now, many insurance companies are paying for services received from Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Naturopath Dr’s, Massage Therapists, Midwives and Doulas and even some times Yoga. Thank heavens!
Our culture is at a time when the peace loving hippies of the sixties with their slogans of “drop out, tune in”, and “question authority” are in their age of wisdom. They are a strong political voice with the power to support positive changes in field of medicine and healing. As well, many of the children of these free thinkers and challengers of the accepted norms have grown up eating lentil soup, brown rice and kale, while drinking tea and taking herbal tinctures when they got sick. This combination of cohorts is a commanding force for creating a new paradigm in the field of health, healing and wellness. They are a group of people who believe that their level of health and wellness is directly correlate to their diet and lifestyle. In our commerce based society where money talks, these health conscious individuals are choosing complementary medicine and third party pay from their insurance company to cover the expenses of their consult with their Ayurvedic Practitioner, and Yoga Therapist.
The face of the healing center is beginning to take on a whole new persona. All across our nation, we are beginning to see people turning to the old ways of healing, but with a new twist. Modern medical doctors are teaming up with Ayurvedic practitioners, Acupuncturists, Massage Therapist, and Yoga Therapists to assist people in cultivating their greatest health. The focus has shifted from chasing symptoms of a disease to empowering clients to live vibrantly healthy based on a balanced lifestyle. One such medical practice was highlighted in the documentary film “Forks Over Knives” produced by Brian Wendel. Matthew Lederman MD and Alona Pulde MD from Transitions to Health work with their clients to improve their health by getting them off of their pharmaceutical drugs and onto a whole foods plant based diet. They are having great success with their clients by establishing their baseline health through physical examination and blood work, then assisting people in a 12 week program of eating a plant based diet. Their clients are reducing body weight, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars as well as reducing their potentials for heart attack and cancer. In Woburn Massachusetts there is a thriving example of this new form of healing center. Zanjabee Integrative Medicine and Primary Care offers a powerful combination of practitioners including, Basmass Ali, MD, Prathiba Shah, Masters in Ayurveda, Natalia Epstein, Masters in Acupuncture, and Jen Eddinger, Shirodhara Expert.
The Zanjabee mission statement says that “you matter, food matters, movement matters, mind and spirit matters, up to date medical knowledge matters, and time proven medical techniques matter”. Their philosophy on integrative medicine states that, they “cherry pick the best from western and complementary medicine to develop treatment options that are maximally effective, minimally invasive and tailored to the individual needs of the patient. It is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit). It emphasizes that lifestyle (nutrition, stress management and exercise) is integral to wellness. It actively recognizes the healing power of the doctor-patient relationship”.
There is a large wave of strong renewed interest in the field of Ayurvedic Medicine as a viable complementary healing modality here in the west. With this rediscovery of interest in this ancient form of holistic medicine there are now schools in the United States that are bringing this wisdom to the west for the benefit of our society that is hungry for alternatives to a lifestyle that has produced such rampant ill health. One such school is Kerala Ayurvedic Academy (KAA)whose programs meet the requirements mandated by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA). They offer two main courses which are the Ayurveda Wellness Counselor & Ayurveda Wellness Practitioner, 6 specialty courses, 10 short-term courses, India Intern Program, U.S. Clinical Internship, Indian Doctor Mentor Program, and a Masters of Ayurveda in collaboration with the Vedic Hindu University. According to the KAA website they have a wide range of Ayurvedic doctors and advisors including David Frawley who is one of the world living masters of vedic knowledge. KAA, along with other Ayurvedic schools such as The Ayurvedic Institute headed by Dr. Vasant Lad are training practitioners, counselors and Ayurvedic doctors to meet the need of individuals seeking the support of this time tested form of healing.
As consumers of health care, our voice is being heard. That voice is screaming “we are sick and tired of being sick and tired”. There is a better way, new way that is drawing from both old and new medicine. So if your voice in part of the choir, and you are looking for guidance to assist you in cultivating your greatest health in body mind and spirit. Look into the holistic health alternative of Ayurveda, it just might save your life.