An Integrative Approach to Health
In 2012, I gave myself the gift of a few days of R&R at Kripalu, my go-to yoga center in Stockbridge, MA, and happened upon a lecture about Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine. The dean at the time presented this holistic science, which translates as “The Study of Life”, so practically and intuitively, that I was in her office directly following her lecture expressing to her that this was an “a-ha” moment for me and I had a burning need to learn more.
Ayurveda incorporates the healing elements of individualized diet, lifestyle, and natural medicine and is the sister science of yoga, all of which have been essential elements in my own self-care over the years. I enrolled in Kripalu’s School of Ayurveda two weeks later and spent the next three years as a student soaking up as much as I could. Ayurveda offered so much that my western medical training and practice lacked and so I began to integrate its 5000-year-old practices into my clinical work with pleasure and success.
Fast-forward to December 2017, after years of integrating Ayurveda into my life and feeling a bit adventurous, I jumped on an opportunity to go to Southern India for our friends’ wedding (the real-deal three-day beautiful Indian extravaganza) and decided, when-in-India, to experience Ayurveda first hand. I got lucky enough to make a last minute reservation at Ayurvedagram, an Ayurvedic Wellness Center outside of Bangalore, the week before the wedding.
I started with twice daily oil treatments, had rejuvenating herbs delivered twice daily to my cottage door, and was prescribed yoga, meditation, and breathing classes daily. I couldn’t believe the beautiful setting in which I landed— the forest of trees labeled with their medicinal properties used by the Ayurvedic physicians (referred to as Vaidyas), the coconut trees whose coconuts are used as electrolyte replacements following some of the treatments given (a classicaI IV for potassium replacement), the nourishing vegetarian menu individually designed for each guest, and of course, the sunshine to warm my originally Florida and now Boston bones. As I read and journaled in the garden by the cottage moving the lounge chair to catch the sun rising while listening to the ensemble of birds, sipping my hot coffee delivered to my cottage right before sunrise, a deep conflict set in.
Why is it that healing could feel so right, just like this, in this serene and nourishing environment, where my nervous system is soothed just enough to allow my body to soak up the mind-body-soul medicine provided, while illnesses in the US are treated in hectic, buzzing, beeping, pricking/prodding, cold, often foul-smelling, off-white or god-forbid pale-yellow or green walled hospitals. The Western hospital setting can be so upsetting to the nervous system, it’s enough to put us into sympathetic overdrive (fight, flight, or flee), which can trump the healing process and ability to get the most of the brilliant medicine and surgical procedures we have available to us in this country. This needs to change.
We need to figure out how to fully integrate the two worlds— bringing together the best of advanced medicine with the ancient wisdom of traditional medicine to instruct us on best practices in diet, lifestyle, and environment— while nourishing the soul— so the mind and body can fully heal. This is where my energy will go in the decade to come. And this post kicks off my commitment to widening my reach beyond the office to those interested in learning about integrative approaches to mental health, mind-body medicine, and wellness.