Ayurveda As Sādhanā

Dr Madhuri Patil completed her BAMS from the Smt. K. G. Mittal Punarvasu Ayurveda College, Mumbai, MD (Ayurveda Samhita & Siddhant), and she's been an Integrated medical practitioner, an Ayurveda physician and a consultant for over 25 years. She's based at Seawoods Navi Mumbai and also works as the co-founder of BitVedas.com. Her unique approach to restoration of health and healing is completely based on the foundational principles of Ayurveda. She recently did an AYUSH Talks session with the Center for Ayurveda Studies and we caught up with her for an interview as well…

Sophia: How did you become interested in Ayurveda?

Dr Madhuri: Things happened purely by chance. I can say, looking retrospectively, I was chosen.

Sophia: How can an ancient science like Ayurveda be applied to our modern lifestyles?

Dr Madhuri: Ayurveda is timeless wisdom about life and living. It tells us how to live healthily without causing destruction of the environment. These values are very relevant to modern lifestyles. 

Sophia: Tell us about BitVedas and what inspired you to start it?

Dr Madhuri: This blog was started for educational purposes, as well as for the people who may wish to connect with me for health and healing.

Sophia: What are some of the biggest health issues of today and how can we use Ayurveda to address this?

Dr Madhuri: The biggest health issue is wrong food and lifestyle choices which lead to chronic disorders for which modern healthcare has no proper cure.

Sophia: Who have been your gurus and inspirations along the path of Ayurveda?

Dr Madhuri: Acharya Charak of Charak Samhita, and the whole universe. My parents showed me the path and I am always grateful to them. 

Sophia: How does the science and philosophy of Ayurveda complement the science and philosophy of yoga?

Dr Madhuri: They complement each other because even though the paths are different, the destination is the same. 

Sophia: What are some of your favourite books on spirituality?

Dr Madhuri: Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogi Pramhamsa Yogananda

Sophia: Any advice for young practitioners and students who want to pursue a career in Ayurveda healing?

Dr Madhuri: Please learn the 73+ Ayurveda Siddhants mentioned in Brihat Trayi, as they are in Sanskrit. It is not a profession but a practice that lasts a lifetime. Ayurveda is a sadhana to be healthy.


For further information about Dr Madhuri’s work, visit BitVedas

Natural Healing For Natural Joy

Dr Paulo Meira is the Professor of Ayurveda & Sanskrit at the University of Lisbon. He is also an Ayurvedic Practitioner offering consultations in Lisbon and Torres Vedras (Portugal). His Ph.D. in Sanskrit (Ayurveda) is from the Tilak Maharashtra University (Pune, India) and he completed the Ayurvedic Medicine Course, later specialising in Ayurvedic Dietetics and Nutrition. He is a researcher in the area of ayurvedic plants (Dravyaguna) and also of Ayurveda in the treatise of Garcia de Orta. He’s the author of several articles and books, and he is a speaker at several international conferences. He has been doing Yoga regularly since 1999.

The Center for Ayurveda Studies recently hosted an AYUSH Talks session with Dr Meira and this interview is an extension of the in-depth knowledge that Dr Paulo so generously shares Ayurveda and Sanskrit are his life’s work and passion…

Sophia: What inspired you to study Sanskrit and Ayurveda?

Dr Paulo: My interest in Sanskrit and Ayurveda goes back to the beginning of my Yoga practice. I was so fascinated that I felt the need to know the sources from which all this knowledge sprang and, for that, I felt the need to learn Sanskrit because, as it is known, Yoga texts (and Ayurveda) are written in that language. At the same time, I felt an enormous need to maintain and enhance my health and, if possible, to use this knowledge to help others. And then, the study of Ayurveda naturally arose because it has an intrinsic connection to Yoga.

Sophia: Why is it important to integrate Ayurveda with a yoga practice and lifestyle?

Dr Paulo: I think that Ayurveda and Yoga have a very strong connection and help each other to boost the individual's abilities. And, this must be done daily. Ayurveda even advocates a daily routine in which it gives a set of indications (what time to get up, what to eat, and so on), and the yoga practices which can and should be included. So, the goal is that the person has maximum energy and well-being in order to have a long and healthy life that allows them to fulfil their spiritual goals and beyond. That's what I try to do on a daily basis. For the Yoga practitioner, Ayurveda can help a lot, eliminating their problems that make it impossible to improve their practice. Let's take, for example, a person who has rhinitis and wants to deepen his prāṇāyāma practice. So, you can turn to Ayurveda to eliminate this imbalance and thus, do an adequate practice. Ayurveda can also help with many other health issues.

Sophia: Tell us about your work researching Ayurvedic plants? Is this for medicinal purposes?

Dr Paulo: My research work consists of identifying the Portuguese plants that are described in ten main Ayurvedic treatises to compare their properties, effects and applications. Later, I will make a comparison between what Portuguese traditional medicine says and what Ayurveda refers to. And it is so interesting to see the number of plants that exist in Portugal and which are also Ayurvedic. I myself have heard comments like “Ah, that plant doesn’t exist in Portugal” for years. But now I can say, “That’s not true. Yes, it does”. And, yes, we can use it for medicinal purposes, of course. At the same time, I’m looking for references to the various plants in the work of Garcia de Orta (16th century), which is probably the first medical-botanical treatise in which Ayurveda is mentioned and which marks the foundations between Portugal and India with regard to Ayurveda. It was always believed that there was no historical relationship between Portugal and India with regard to Ayurveda, which now we’re seeing is not true.

Sophia: Who are your mentors and inspirations?

Dr Paulo: I've had some inspiring teachers but I'd like to highlight Dr. Ghanashyam Marda who taught and guided me in the real and authentic path of Ayurveda for more than 15 years, always bearing in mind the teachings of the great Ayurvedic sages. In particular, the authors of Ayurvedic treatises like Vāgbhaṭa, Caraka, Bhāvamiśra are a real inspiration. When I have doubts or want to know more about a topic, I go to them. 

Sophia: What does India mean to you?

Dr Paulo: I feel a strong connection with India, namely with Indian knowledge systems, which are so vast and so deep. I'm talking specifically about Ayurveda, Yoga, Sanskrit and, more recently, Indian classical music. All this is part of my daily life. In this way, I get to know myself and others better. Consequently, I can be more tolerant, more helpful and reach my spiritual goals. I also think the geography, the culture, the food and the people are excellent. Sometimes, I daydream and travel back in time in my mind and revisit India. For me, it means love and freedom.

Sophia: With yoga and Ayurveda now being recognised and practised globally, how do you maintain authentic teachings and find an authentic teacher?

Dr Paulo: I think my quest has always been to go to the source and drink from it. That's why I defend that the true teachings are found in the treatises. If we connect more and more with them using the Sanskrit language as much as possible, and with those who use them regularly, then we will not lose the essence of Ayurveda nor the connection to the authentic teachings. On the contrary, it will increasingly strengthen this connection.

Sophia:  What are some of your favourite books on Ayurveda/spirituality?

Dr Paulo: Well, I come back to the treatises again: Aṣṭāṅgahṛdaya, Caraka Saṃhitā, Bhāvaprakāśa and also the Bhagavadgītā.

Sophia: What is your advice to young students and spiritual aspirants who want to study Ayurveda? 

Dr Paulo: The study of Ayurveda is something quite serious and time consuming. These days, people are carried away by fads and trends, there’s a myriad of unofficial  training courses available online. Thus, I would advise the student to choose a long training course in which there is a constant presence of treatises, the Sanskrit language and experienced teachers. Or he can find a mentor and study with him as much as possible. However, if you want to know just for yourself, then you could choose one of the treatises with which you feel a greater affinity and study it more deeply. And be aware that the study of Ayurveda will accompany you for many, many years to come.

Dr Paulo recently conducted an AYUSH Talks session for the Center for Ayurveda Studies…

Born Into Ayurveda

Nidhi Pandya is a third-generation Ayurvedic Practitioner and carries generational Ayurvedic wisdom from her grandfather, an Ayurvedic healer from India. She has classical Ayurveda training from the scriptures, she is a TEDx speaker, teacher and writer. Her work was featured in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, the Times of India, and she is the creator of The Inner Climate™, a revolutionary approach to wellness. Nidhi is currently working on two books and lives in NYC. We caught up with her to find out what it was like growing up in an Ayurvedic family and how it shaped her life and work.

Sophia: Tell us about your childhood and what it was like growing up in a home with vaidyas?

Nidhi: I grew up in Mumbai in a household of 14 people, and my grandfather was an Ayurvedic practitioner and healer. My father got into Ayurveda much later when he founded an Ayurvedic Cancer Research Institute called Rasayu Clinic in Pune. We were raised Ayurvedically and it was a liberating experience. People would imagine that in a household where Ayurveda is so prevalent, we would have rules and rigidity, but the opposite was true. I learned health as a very gentle, loving value system, one that brought freedom that comes from being well rather than the fear of disease. We were taught Ayurveda through loving practices that everybody in the family followed. There is power in numbers. When everybody is doing something, it doesn't feel like a chore. So we had heavier lunches, lighter dinners, yoghurt was not consumed at night, we never had processed bread or cheese. Because it was done collectively, it just felt really easy and we felt good. The other thing that really supported me growing up was that my grandfather used terminology that made us aware of our own body's tendencies. For example, he would say, “Ruchi is more prone to heat or Shubha (my sister) is more prone to getting a phlegm.” So we were always encouraged to tune into our own bodies and see the properties of our symptoms. In Ayurveda, we call it the gunas. So it made us self-aware at a physical level and at a psychological level. We are a family of self-aware people and I find that very unique.

This is also what made it possible for 14 members in a joint family to live in harmony under one roof. I often say that my family of 14 people was my research laboratory. I became obsessed with identifying patterns and seeing how we all respond differently to the same stimulus. So it was a hugely beneficial place.

Sophia: Tell us about the inner climate method that you developed?

Nidhi: People often get lost in the jargon of doshas. The inner climate is a proprietary method of wellness that I have worked on using the concept of doshas, but also going deeper into our bodies. Let me explain it a little bit further. Kapha is too cold, right? It's too cold. The antidote to kapha, for example, is warming kapha. But if you warm kapha too much, then it can become pitta. So you cannot take it to a hot place or you'll have another imbalance. Kapha is also humid. If you remove that humidity from kapha to balance it, you can't go to extreme dryness because that would take you to vata. So you have to stop at a place that is moist. You come to a place of warm and moist, and that's how kapha gets balanced. 

So basically, whenever we seek to balance doshas, the point at which we stop is the point of equilibrium, the point of homeostasis is warm and moist. That is the inner climate of our body where all doshas are balanced. We are warm-blooded beings. Just exhale onto your palm and sense that. What you exhale on your palm is warm and moist. Our blood is warm and moist. Our reproductive fluids are warm and moist. Our urine is warm and moist. Mother's milk is warm and moist. Everything in our body is warm and moist. Even the probiotic environment exists only in warm and moist places. Our agni is warm and moist. The agni has a liquid kapha component to it. It's not dry. If it was dry, it would burn out. So my inner climate method teaches people what this climate is. I've noticed that if people can naturally adopt a warm and moist lifestyle, they don't get sick. Sicknesses go away in three weeks. They're sleeping better, their skin is better and their hormones feel better. So Ayurveda is the science of life. To call it even medicine would be taking away 80 percent of Ayurveda. 

Sophia: As you rightfully pointed out on your website, Ayurveda is so much more than a concoction of herbs. Elaborate on that…

Nidhi: Ayurveda encompasses everything from prevention to treatment, to geriatrics, to paediatrics, to toxicology, to even sections of social and sexual conduct. If it has to do with human life, then it can be found in Ayurveda. 

Sophia: Can you give us examples of how an Ayurvedic lifestyle and diet has helped some of your students transform their inner and outer climate?

Nidhi: I had some students transform their inner and outer climate just by eating right. So firstly, we recommend eating according to the clock of the sun. We are diurnal mammals. When people start eating with this warm and moist prescription, that's all they have to do in the beginning, Start eating warmer foods, freshly cooked foods, spiced food that brings in the warmth. Moist comes with good fats and just making moist choices, which means, for example, choosing a zucchini or a loki over something that's really dry. So when people start eating like this the first thing that happens is that they have better bowel movements, which is remarkable for some people who've been constipated their whole life. Women will have regular periods, better sleep. But the other thing that happens as you start tuning in to these little properties is that you actually become more self-aware and you transcend beyond the body and reach a higher place. 

Sophia: Who are some of your life’s biggest spiritual inspirations?

Nidhi: I don't follow just one guru, but I would say my grandfather. I think the one person that I think about every day of my life is my grandfather. Not only was he an Ayurvedic vaidya, he actually lived his life in equilibrium and compassion and his presence was healing because it was non -imposing. He worked and volunteered with patients till he was in his 90s. He taught what the word spiritual means. You can't be rigid. Rigid is dense. Spirit is light. Rigidity is closer to matter. Spirit is etheric. So he was lighthearted and accepting of everything. I don't think I have found a bigger spiritual inspiration. I do go back to the Vedas constantly. Another inspiration is Guruji Yogi Shiva. 

Sophia: How has an Ayurvedic lifestyle affected you on a personal level?

Nidhi: It has made me a much more self-aware person. It has allowed me to infuse this knowledge into my children by just living like that. I think one person who lives Ayurvedically can actually shift a family. I think a family can shift a community and a community can then collectively influence the world.  It's a beautiful science. You know, I can eat almost everything. The only thing I don't eat is processed, stale and extremely cold foods. But I will eat a pizza, I will have my bag of chips... It teaches you that if you want to indulge, do so but balance your indulgences so you actually live better. You actually enjoy the world even more rather than less. 

Sophia: What is it like practising and teaching Ayurveda in the West which is so focused on allopathy?

Nidhi: It is actually a wonderful experience because the West is so focused on allopathy. There are so many helpless and lost people who've tried and tested the system and they've been frustrated with being in this box. So people are a lot more open and a lot more receptive. People want a solution, an alternative solution, because mainstream allopathy has not worked for them. Everybody's treated the same way. So to have a customised, loving approach is received tremendously well. 

Sophia: Any advice for young students and practitioners of Ayurveda who want to turn their practice into a career?

Nidhi: Ayurveda chooses its agents to keep the knowledge flowing. You just have to be open and let it flow. I know that's what happened to me and I see that happen to others. It's a path of great trust and gratitude.

For further information visit https://nidhipandya.com/

The Sound of Healing

Angela Hope-Murray MSc (Ayur), MA, BSc (Ost) D.O, HCPC reg Pod. is an Ayurvedic practitioner with a background in osteopathy, podiatry nutrition, spagyric medicine and marmapuncture (Ayurvedic acupuncture). She specialises in musculoskeletal conditions and nutrition but her passion and main area of interest is Ayurveda. She has had the privilege of studying with Dr Vasant Lad and Dr Rober Svoboda, and she tells the Center for Ayurveda Studies about her incredible journey and how this practice became her way of life.

Sophia: How did your spiritual journey begin and how did you find Ayurveda?

Angela: I think there's a point in time in everybody's life that you'll come across your destiny, and it happened to me when I went to live in America, because my husband was posted there, and I went with him. So I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare, and I'm a podiatrist. When I was in Boston, I decided to do a master's degree in nutrition and health counselling.That took me to the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital where I interned in the pain relief clinic. That was a really marvellous experience; working in a multidisciplinary clinic with complementary medicine. So we had osteopaths, we had acupuncturists and psychotherapists because there's always a huge mental dimension to people who are in chronic pain.  Anyway, that was in 1979, so it's a long time ago. Fortunately for me, we had occasional lunchtime meetings in the hospital, and one day, this man walked in his name was Dr Vasant Lad, and he gave a talk about health, and it was like lights just flashing. My whole body was saying, ‘Oh my God, this is real health to be established in the self.’ Listening to Dr Lad talk about health, I knew I wanted to study and find out more about Ayurveda. This was also when I received initiation into the Advaita Vedanta tradition and I have been meditating every day since then. I think that is the bedrock to healing. So whatever state you're in, you must meditate. 

I also met Dr Robert Svoboda, and he was the first Westerner to receive an Ayurveda degree. I had met him when I had just graduated and I truly feel that God has gifted me these meetings with two of the most important names in Ayurveda. They have done so much to bring India to the West and vice versa. At that time, there were no colleges of Ayurveda in London (the first college I think was established in 1995). But Dr Lad and Dr Svoboda would visit often and teach us and it was just 12 of us. So it all started there.

Sophia: What was it like training with stalwarts like Dr Vasant Lad and Robert Svoboda? You said they're the pillars of modern Ayurveda and revival. So what was that like? 

Angela: It was tremendous. I knew that it was special and I knew about the purity of their teaching. Money was never an issue. Never. They never sold anything. I think it is only lately that money and business became involved with spiritual institutes. But at the beginning, nobody mentioned money or a fee. I have organised retreats with them in Spain, Turkey, France…and never once was money discussed. If we made any money by chance, then we gave that to the teachers but that was never the main criteria. These people did what they did with the deeper purpose of helping humanity. 

Sophia: What does India mean to you?

Angela: Everything (laughs). The second I get off the plane, there’s a part of my inner being that feels completely at home the aromas, the sounds, the colours…and the trees. I don’t know what it is about the trees in India. They have such unique arms. And the temples, I visited a lot of temples in the north and listening to the priests reciting Sanskrit put me in a dream-like state. When I visit these temples and stand there listening, it feels like 5,000 years ago. These traditions have been maintained for centuries and it's amazing to be in that energy it’s like the air is grooved with those sounds. And also India is the land of Sanskrit to me. Everything carries sound and the universe was spoken into existence. There’s research on hypersonic sound that studied the effect of the sound trees make on the human psyche. It affects our dopamine and serotonin levels so going back to nature is also always a good idea…but bringing that back to sound, Sanskrit is healing in its vibration. 

Sophia: What is it like to teach Ayurveda in the West which relies so much on allopathy?

Angela: You know, people don’t understand the depth of Ayurveda because they don’t know the philosophy attached to it. I feel that people who want to use Ayurveda must at least have a fundamental knowledge of Indian scriptures to understand the interconnectedness between mind, body and intellect, and how Ayurveda takes all into consideration. If people can appreciate that, you start to see Ayurveda as the way of life, a way of healing and it will work. This is one of the reasons I respect Dr Lad so much he opened this entire universe to me and helped me understand the idea of the great overarching universal self. So he helped me get rid of my obstacle of Western knowledge (laughs). 

Angela: What inspired you to write the books, Healing with Ayurveda, Ayurveda for Dummies and  Outline of Musculoskeletal Medicine in Ayurveda?

Sophia: The first one was a small attempt to try and systematise and explain Ayurveda to the West. In the 80s, when I told people I practise Ayurveda, they would ask me if Ayurveda had something to do with Darth Vader (laughs). I would tell them they both came from the stars but just not the same kind of stars. So that was the first book I wrote just to simplify the Sanskrit terms for a Western audience and make the subject approachable. The second book I wrote was about musculoskeletal disorders of the lower limb and I’m actually looking for a publisher for that.

Sophia: What does it mean to lead an Ayurvedic life beyond food? 

Angela: I think that it’s a great sadness that people have just picked out one aspect. It's almost like what we've been given in Ayurveda is a whole building and if you just pull one bit, the building collapses. You need to have all of the strands together. I mean, it’s not just about eating, is it? I think it's very difficult to really give a good Ayurvedic treatment if you're going to ignore all the other things that come with Ayurveda like dinacharya and ritucharya etc…

Sophia: What will be your advice to young students and practitioners of Ayurveda? 

Angela: I think you need to find a good teacher. Not a westerner to be honest (laughs). You need to have a teacher who's grown up with Ayurveda in the kitchen and as a lifestyle they're waking and sleeping on time, practising meditation…there are amazing vaidyas in india. Learn from the source. 

For more information, visit Angela Hope Murray