AYURVEDA IN THE US

Native American medicine shares Ayurveda’s philosophy of healing, based on the re-establishment of harmony between self and environment.

May everyone be happy;

May everyone be healthy;

May everyone be holy;

May there never be disharmony of any kind anywhere.

This is the ultimate message of Ayurveda.

Despite the stunning advances in modern medicine, the world is becoming increasingly aware of the limitations of mainstream health care. Americans too are realizing that Western medicine has some answers, but not all the answers.

It is in this scenario that Ayurveda—along with yoga and meditation—has entered the American consciousness.

Ayurveda’s holistic modus operandi—that mind, body, and spirit are intimately connected—is revolutionizing the way Americans understand health. According to Ayurveda separating the mind and spirit from the body creates physical imbalance, which is the first stage in the disease process. It naturally follows that re-integration is the first step toward healing. Based on the principle that disease is the natural end result of living out of harmony with our environment, Ayurveda views symptoms of disease as the body’s normal way of communicating disharmony. With this understanding of disease, Ayurveda’s approach to healing becomes obvious: to re-establish harmony between self and environment and create an optimal environment for health.

Meanwhile, the emerging integrative medicine movement—which calls for restoration of the focus of medicine on health and healing and emphasizes the centrality of the doctor-patient relationship— also reflects the basic tenets of Ayurveda. It is no wonder that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) summarizes the present status of Ayurveda in America quite well, identifying it as one among “Whole Medical Systems” that ought to play an important role in the present Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) scenario. I am a personal witness to this since I had the opportunity to lead a delegation of NIH who came to India few years ago to visit Ayurvedic industry Dabur that proudly boasts of the its biggest research foundation with the most advanced and well-equipped research lab in the country. We also took them to Ayurveda’s leading Hospital and Medical research Institute, AryaVaidyashalaKotakkal in their east Delhi branch in Karkarduma.

Many doctors and research scientist were so fascinated to see the specialized branch of Ayurveda massage modalities known as Panchkarma and their healing effects on the human body with simple method of treatments of purification and rejuvenation of the body which gave them new meaning to understand health from preventive healthcare approach.

I have had the opportunity to introduce Ayurveda in various leading massage schools in America. I  graduated as a professional massage therapist from the state of Florida and now I am an eligible teaching faculty there and has introduced Panchkarma modalities as a module of Ayurveda of which the western world was not aware of before.

This is very fascinating for many massage therapists, chiropractors and osteopaths to know that this  healing modality  uses more than 400 types of oils during massage applications for  the management of various diseases.

 

THE EARLY YEARS

Interest in Ayurveda emerged as Americans started to question the tenets of their own health care system. Today, nearly three decades after it was first transplanted in American soil by Indian pioneers such as Dr. Vasant Lad, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Ayurveda is still struggling to establish roots as well as legitimacy.

In the late 1980s Dr Deepak Chopra wrote for the public his famous book,  “Perfect Health”. This opened the door of India’s ancient healing science to many westerners. Furthermore, several American pioneers helped attract attention to Ayurveda and influenced its growth.

The dissemination of Ayurveda in America continues as a result of the confluence of several trends: Indian and American doctors and health scientists approaching the tradition on a more scientific basis; Western doctors and researchers recognizing that Ayurveda offers much that they do not know; Ayurvedic doctors (vaidyas) from India setting up consultations; and patients seeking non-Western healing modalities.

Most importantly, the signing of the Health Freedom Act (SB 577) in California was seen as a landmark event towards the legitimization of Ayurveda and other forms of CAM in America. The bill, which became effective in January 2003, allowed trained practitioners of alternative and complementary health care to legally provide and advertise their services. It provides that a person is not in violation of certain provisions of the Medical Practice Act (that prohibit the practice of medicine by anyone who is not a licensed physician) as long as that person does not engage in certain specified medical acts. Similar laws have also been passed in Rhode Island and Minnesota.

Today, many American medical colleges offer introductory Ayurvedic education in the form of seminars and workshops. Many renowned medical hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, offer courses in Ayurvedic therapies. Hundreds and thousands of yoga practitioners are partial towards the Ayurvedic lifestyle. There is an increasing demand for Ayurvedic products and massage procedures. All these are signs of Ayurveda gaining acceptance in the United States, and hence revitalizing the health scene.

But getting Ayurveda licensed is the need of the day, says Dr. David Frawley (VamadevaShastri), author of Ayurvedic Healing and co-author, with Dr. Vasant Lad, of the first book on Ayurveda published in America, The Yoga of Herbs (1986). Frawley agrees that the main obstacles confronting Ayurveda in America is the lack of proper recognition and limited acceptance by the public. Meanwhile, medical researchers recognizes  a great potential for integration of Ayurvedic therapies into the healthcare system in the United States.

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A MODERN MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE

Because of increasing interest and evidence of its efficacy, it is in America that we may be witnessing the first tentative attempts to integrate Ayurveda into the mainstream establishment.

That’s exactly what Dr. Michael J. Balick and Sarah Khan of the New York Botanical Garden projected when they examined clinical studies relating to 166 medicinal plants from a standard Ayurvedic repertoire. Their results, published in the 2001 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine contradict the generally held notion that herbal remedies used in Ayurveda have not been evaluated in human or in vivo trials. The problem, as they pointed out, was one of accessibility, because the findings are not published in Western journals and are not available in English. According to Balick and Khan, the clinical studies already available do suggest that at least 100 of the 166 plants studied are appropriate for larger and better-controlled clinical trials. As if to prove this point, our recent survey of Medline and Pubmed databases reveal that over the past decade a large number of clinical studies on Ayurvedic plants are being published, not only from US and Indian laboratories, but also from research centers in China, Japan, and Europe. Surprisingly, it is China that is most aggressively pursuing research into Ayurvedic plants.

AMERICANIZATION OF AYURVEDA?

Sita Reddy, who wrote her PhD dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania on the reinvention of “Ayurvedic Medicine in New Age America,” makes an important observation: “Ayurveda’s spread in the United States relies primarily on its appeal beyond exclusively South Asian constituencies. Its uniqueness, in other words, lies in the fact that it is reproduced for non-Asian American audiences and clients rather than for immigrant South Asians.”

She adds: “… transplanted Ayurveda is marketed not simply as effective medicine but as a cultural commodity, as a uniquely Indian ethnomedicine for primarily Western audiences.” Furthermore, she notes that as Ayurveda gains legitimacy, the practice itself is being transformed into an American composite.

What I feel personally is that we must always walk in the spirit of sanatana dharma, honoring its essential teachings of truth and ahimsa, of reverence for the indwelling mystery within all things animate and inanimate, and of striving for lokasangraha, the welfare of the Whole.

 

FUTURE OF AYURVEDA

Today there are at least 15 institutions that teach Ayurveda in America—from certificate  to the masters degree level.

California College of Ayurveda is one of the oldest and premier institute  formed in United States in 1995. It has been one of the leaders in clinical practitioner training with intentions of training its students to be fully qualified practitioners capable of disease management as well as preventive medicine life-style training.

Some other Institutes like Hindu University of America in Orlando and Florida Vedic College are also taking efforts to bring about the training programmes even though  they are more oriented into the theory and philosophical aspect of Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic institutions claim that a well-trained Ayurvedic practitioner may choose to enter into private practice in compliance with the laws of the state where he resides, join other health care practitioners at a wellness center, teach public education classes on Ayurvedic principles, supervise a Panchakarma center, teach at an Ayurvedic college, and conduct workshops, seminars and retreats—everything short of a licensed independent medical practice. In this respect, one might say that Ayurveda’s current status in the United States is analogous to traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture during the 1970s.ayurveda-in-US2

“I am very hopeful that in time Ayurveda will become recognized, and Ayurvedic physicians will be able to enter into full professional practice,” says Dr. Sharma.

Dr. Akhilesh Sharma is noted as a qualified and experienced Ayurvedic physician who has travelled to 23 countries and is the first Indian Ayurvedic physician to travel to the west, earn a massage  degree in America and was formerly an associate of the father of Dr. Deepak Chopra in Moolchand  hospital in New Delhi and a Clinical  Research Associate and an Ayurveda hysician.

He even treated Dr. Deepak Chopra’s mother with amazing results.

Dr. Sharma now runs a small Ayurveda center named Pranaveda Foundation in Goa that provides  advanced clinical exposure on Ayurveda to both his students and patients.

He is convinced that Ayurveda is as valid here in America as it was 5,000 years ago in India. DrAkhilesh Sharma who is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and on Advisory Board of California College of Ayurveda predicts that It will be one of the main healing modalities of the next century in the US.

Already, Dr. Bharat Aggarwal’s prolific efforts are along those lines. He has become the first mainstream medical researcher to recommend that Ayurveda can be used in combination with modern medicine to provide better treatment for cancer. Referring to Aggarwal as “Spice Healer,” the February 2007 issue of the Scientific American reported that Aggarwal’s chapter in a new textbook is entitled “Curcumin: The Indian Solid Gold.” From the humble haldi (or turmeric, from which curcumin is derived), Aggarwal is now exploring the biochemical basis of a whole range of perennial favorites in Ayurveda’s repertoire of cancer fighters—including tulsi and all of the commonly used Indian spices—with astonishing results.

Nobel prize or not, with disease mongering on the rise, and with the hazards of modern medicine well documented, it is worth speculating that perhaps America is where Ayurveda’s 21st century avatar will emerge triumphant. In this context too it is worth noting that Native American medicine shares Ayurveda’s philosophy of healing, based on the re-establishment of harmony between self and environment.

May everyone be happy;

May everyone be healthy;

May everyone be holy;

May there never be disharmony of any kind anywhere.

This is the ultimate message of Ayurveda.

ABOUT DR AKHILESH SHARMA

AKHILESH-SHARMA

Dr. Akhilesh Sharma is a qualified Ayurvedic physician with experience of more than 25 years. He is on the advisory board of California College of Ayurveda and a teaching faculty at Hindu University of America. He is an internationally renowned physician, who received The Dhanvantari Award, highest honor in the field, given to him by President of India. He is a regular speaker at yoga and Ayurveda conferences. He has travelled to more than 23 countries spreading the seeds of Ayurveda far and wide. He was formerly an associate of Dr. Deepak Chopra’s father, Dr. K.L. Chopra at Moolchand hospital, Delhi. Dr. Sharma also served as Advisor to the Minister of Health Govt. of Delhi and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the All – Indian Medicine Graduates Association. Currently he is the Director at Pranaveda Foundation, an Ayurvediccentre for teaching training and treatments, in Goa, India.

Website: www.ayurvedatoday.org

Email: ayurvedatoday@hotmail.com

Skype: akhileshji

Phone: +91-9810360372

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