After practicing Western medicine (Allopathy) for 25 years, I became disappointed with many aspects of the culture surrounding it – namely, the lack of emphasis on prevention, and the over-reliance on prescription drugs.
At the time, I wasn’t aware of the system of optimal health from India that is all about prevention. It’s a system that uses natural herbs instead of synthetics, a system that incorporates yoga for healing the body and mind. It’s called Ayurveda, or “the knowledge of life.”
Over the next few years, I discovered the ways in which Ayurveda can be a more effective approach to health, especially when it comes to treating mental unrest like anxiety and stress. Much disease can be prevented as patients learn how to de-stress. The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is a healthy physical body, a calm (sattvic) mind, and a heart connection with Spirit.
Allopathy vs Ayurveda
Both Ayurveda and Allopathy (traditional Western medicine) have their place in health and healing. “Allo” means opposite, and “pathy” means disease. In allopathy, pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed that have opposite effects to the symptoms. Sometimes, allopathy can be life-saving. Examples include the epi-pen (epinephrine injection) for a life-threatening bee sting allergy (anaphylaxis), and antidotes, like Narcan, for opiate overdose.
However, Allopathy has its shortcomings. It often treats symptoms more than it cures disease. Anti-depressants like Zoloft are prescribed for depression, and Xanax for anxiety. While they may relieve symptoms, they do not offer a cure.
Unfortunately, these synthetic drugs come with long lists of side effects, and can actually affect brain chemistry. Prozac was given a black-box warning by the FDA, the strongest caution given before a drug is yanked from the shelf. Why? Prozac made some suicidal patients worse, especially those in the 18-25 year old age group.
Dr. Deepak Chopra put it bluntly: “I think it was just the fact that there is a lot of frustration when all you do is prescribe medication, you start to feel like a legalized drug pusher. That doesn’t mean that all prescriptions are useless, but it is true that 80 percent of all drugs prescribed today are of optional or marginal benefit.”
Why Ayurveda? Treat Root Causes, Not Symptoms
Ayurveda is, in many ways, opposite to the Western approach. According to Ayurvedic master Dr. David Frawley, deep seated anxieties must be be pulled out by their roots. Both Ayurveda and Yoga do so with yogic breath practices and the practice of mantra. These practices are yoga for your mind. Pranayama and mantra are at the core of the Happiness Program and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, taught at the Art of Living Retreat Center.
All About Prevention
One answer to “Why Ayurveda” is its emphasis on prevention, or Sva-stha-vrit-ta.
Svasthavritta means “the protocols by which one can remain healthy.”
So much disease (heart attack, stroke, cancer) could be prevented by awareness of these Ayurvedic protocols:
• Treat organic fruits and veggies as medicine. You will be prescribed specific foods and healing spices based on your body-mind type, or dosha.
• Develop a healthy exercise pattern like Yoga or Tai Chi.
• Learn how to de-stress with mantra and pranayama (breath practices).
• Learn the principles of Ayurvedic detox. Put no junk food in your body and no junk food in your mind. Try an Ayurvedic cleanse with superfoods like kitchadi.
Connection With Spirit
Another thing I love about Ayurveda is how it addresses our connection to Spirit. Allopathy seems dry in comparison to the holistic healing traditions of the East, that are steeped in prayer and meditation.
Connection with Spirit is essential for complete health. Treating the body-mind without addressing Spirit leaves us dry, and often unhappy. Connection with Spirit helps us to realize our place in the Universe beyond time and space.
Of course, a spiritual path is a deeply personal decision. Dr. David Frawley tells us that spirituality is a big tent. He wrote that the Divine can be looked upon as a father, a mother, a brother or a friend — or as Nature, a saint, or the one divinity within us all: the higher Self.
In Your Hands
Take charge of your health today. Don’t wait until something breaks. See an Ayurvedic practitioner and discover your dosha (body-mind type). You will be then be prescribed a lifetime of better health: Svasthavritta — Ayurvedic essentials for staying healthy: right food, right exercise, right herbs, right sleep and right actions.
Don’t forget: many Ayurvedic treatments are also fun. Steam bath therapy sweats away toxins. Shirodhara (bliss oil therapy) can calm the mind and expand the awareness. Abhyanga, healing massage with medicated oils, can work wonders. For more info, contact the AOLRC Spa.
No Quick Fix
Ayurveda is not about the “quick fix” or taking pills. Ayurveda is about discovering the root causes of disease, then treating it. Root causes may be related to a toxic diet, a dysfunctional relationship, stress at work, or repetitive thoughts. Yoga, Ayurveda and a contemplative lifestyle, including self-inquiry, are the keys to success.
Choose Ayurveda to stay healthy and prevent illness. Choose Allopathy when it can be of benefit. These two approaches can be complementary, and not mutually exclusive.
Interested in learning more about the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.