Dr. Pratibha Shah is an internationally renowned Ayurveda expert trained in Traditional Health Sciences (Ayurveda, Energy healing) as well as Public Health. She has founded two non-profits, and is a prolific speaker and educator in the community. Before moving to the US, Shah was a Chief Medical Officer with the AYUSH ministry in India.
She will be speaking about Ayurveda at the Diwali at Tower Hill - Festival of Lights being co-hosted by ISW. To attend event do register at ISW for promotional code for discount tickets https://iswonline.org/event-4532389
We interviewed her to find out a bit more about Ayurveda and how one might apply in everyday life living here in the West.
1) What would you say distinguishes Ayurvedic medicine from western medicine that someone here in the US typically is exposed to?
There are many differences between Western medicine and Ayurveda. I will share three key differences here.
- In Western medicine, an individual is being seen more and more as parts of a whole. There is a specialist for every body part. Seldom the person is being looked as a whole, as far as outcomes and long-term effects are concerned. Ayurveda has always looked at an individual as a whole. And here whole denotes not just the physical whole, but the trinity of mind body and spirit.
- In Western medicine, the approach is centered majorly on symptoms management. Whereas in Ayurveda, healing begins with root cause analysis and addressing the root cause as the first step of treatment.
- In Ayurveda, the protocols focus on capacity building. In Western medicine, since the primary aim is to manage the symptoms, the sick individual is likely looking at long term use of chemical drugs with inevitable side effects, and then too no resolution from the illness for which they originally sought treatment. Here I am talking primarily about chronic illnesses as they form the bulk of the disease load on the healthcare system.
To sum it up, Western medicine aims at mitigating disease and symptoms. In Ayurveda, the goal is to impart wholesome and complete health to the client, which is more than mere absence of disease.
2) Most folks think of a doctor when they are ill or hurt. Are there precepts of Ayurveda that one can apply in everyday life beyond treating an ailment?
Yes absolutely. As I often like to say, Ayurveda is the complete user manual of the game of life, where all guidelines and resources to live a wholesome life, reaching one’s full potentials, can be found. If I could define Ayurveda in 3 words, it would be:
- Prevention - tools for primary prevention from diseases, which include daily practices, seasonal practices, practices that help with life transitions, food guidelines and more
- Promotion - building upon the baseline of health and well-being with capacity building herbs, specialized bodywork, and anti-aging protocols
- Personalization - of health and well-being protocols and therapeutic (treatment) protocols
In my opinion, Ayurveda is one of the most complete systems of health and well-being. And that is why I do not like to call Ayurveda a system of medicine. It is a system that guides life itself, health and well-being comprising a big part of it, and of course detailed treatment protocols for diseases as well.
3) There is a newfound interest in natural and organic foods and ingredients. Yet Ayurveda is based on centuries of knowledge. Has the west accepted the findings and knowledge that Ayurveda represents? Do people look for scientific proof or clinical validation?
Ayurveda is one of the world’s most ancient continuously practiced healing science, which has not only stood the test of time, but continues to provide contemporary health solutions even today and will continue to do so till life exists. Because Ayurveda is a system that is organically and intimately connected and aligned with universal rhythms and wisdom. It maps the complexity and dimensions of the human entity quite completely and beautifully.
It is true that there is an increasing interest in natural wellness products and methods. However it would not be fair to compare the new age supplements with Ayurveda as some of these natural products, are not so natural and can be processed and altered themselves.
Now for the most pertinent question about whether the West has accepted Ayurveda. At a federal level, no. We must remember, it is sickness that generates the big bucks, not wellness. Hence systems like Ayurveda are not yet licensed in this country, even though evidence is building up regarding the efficacy of Ayurvedic interventions. But fortunately, people are waking up and I see an increasing number of people wanting to own and drive their own health for lasting benefits. My clientele has steadily increased over the years and as a senior faculty in two leading Ayurveda schools, I see that trend in the number of students enrolling to learn and study Ayurveda, as well. As someone who has dedicated her life to Ayurveda, my hope is to see Ayurveda licensed and regulated in this country, hopefully in near future.