We are living through a unique and surreal time with the COVID-19 pandemic, grappling with a number of challenges, both personally and professionally. Someday, we will look back at how we navigated these waters. What impact do we wish to make?
This may be a defining and inspiring moment for us as Ayurvedic professionals. For now, a lot of us are worried about the future as it has been two months of managing what is a new normal?, being sheltered in place, introspecting, finding new ways of working, and connecting. As health and wellness specialists, we know that every problem also presents an opportunity, and we can tap into our Sattva. What are some concrete steps we can take?
Our heritage and mission
We are holistic healers operating from the lineage of a 5,000-year-old Vedic science which has stood the test of time, diseases and previous pandemics. Our mission is to make the world a healthier place with greater self-awareness, and we have an important role to play in reviving this traditional practice at a poignant time.
Pioneers in sustainability and adaptability
Ayurvedic professionals have a variety of practices. You may have an ongoing practice with existing clients, or be involved with an integrative wellness practice with other medical professionals, Yoga and Marma therapists. You might be a business owner, have a health resort, spa or beauty spa, or work in the manufacture and distribution of herbal products. Some of us are focused on marketing and writing, education, offering seminars or perhaps have a full-fledged academy like KAA. Some of you are students or practicing Ayurveda for yourself and our family.
Most of you overlap amongst these roles and backgrounds, for as Ayurvedic professionals we are pioneering a new way of living: one which bridges gaps between personal and professional, work and home life – mind, body and spirt. Ayurveda offers the world hope for the future, as well as a framework for the present. Take heart and deep breaths – we got this!
The end of our ever-expanding space
Is unknown even to the divine
Just as the worth of gifting health and healing
Is limitless for humankind
Ayurveda is the answer everyone is looking for
Whatever be the nature of our practice, we often have to educate people about Ayurveda and inspire them to attend to their wellbeing. As the world grinds to a halt during this pandemic, a new focus for many is on staying healthy. While modern medicine races to find a cure and vaccine for COVID-19, people do realize that prevention is better than a cure (that is yet to be found), and naturally are concerned about their immunity. People are also minimizing services like going to the doctor because they don’t want to be exposed to contagions.
With more time on hand, they are interested in holistic health, on how to manage stress, and how natural means can be used to do so. When we talk about trends in COVID-19, individualized medicine comes to mind to determine how and why one person is vulnerable to the disease and presents with certain symptoms compared to another. Also, with studies on pre-existing conditions and how COVID-19 leads to hyper-inflammation and the cytokine storm, causing rapid deterioration in symptoms, the link between lifestyle disorders, inflammation and susceptibility to diseases is being revisited. Ayurveda’s forte is the area of holistic, preventative, individualized health with a focus on lifestyle based interventions.
Ayurveda also focuses on our connection to community, and this is another insight we have now: how important our interdependence is in health. We also recognize that we are an extension of nature but have been very destructive as a species. As we are indoors, nature is healing and we need to recommit to sustainability to promote the health of our planet.
The Ministry of AYUSH in India that governs Ayurveda and other forms of traditional medicine has set up a task force to kick-start clinical trials on some Ayurvedic herbs which can be used to boost the immune system and control COVID-19 at different stages. In an article in the New Indian Express, the Ayurvedic Hospital Management Association (AHMA, India) acknowledged the loss of business in resorts and spas but noted the silver lining to this: the attention to immunity measures with clients from all over the globe enquiring about possibilities in Ayurveda.
Ours is indeed one of the foremost health systems that is as comprehensive in prevention as it is in the management of diseases and in being an all-encompassing Science of Life. Ayurveda offers the answers everyone is looking for. Ayurveda survived 5,000 years of cultural, economic and political shifts because it’s both timeless and adaptable. You can operate confidently from that framework!
What and how – can we adapt to the new paradigm?
A pandemic can make or break people. There are many positive transformative actions we can take during this time to enhance our work, skillset and our own health. Here’s are top 12 suggestions.
1. Commit to self-care
On flights adults are told to wear their own oxygen masks before helping their kids. The same is true for Ayurvedic professionals and those in the healthcare sector but sadly, health providers have a tendency to neglect ourselves. Just resetting that intention to take care of ourselves helps, as Vaidya. Jayarajan Kodikannath, Kerala Ayurveda Academy Director says, “You can only give what you have.” This is a good time to introspect on our own healing journey, increase our Sattva and do what we recommend to our clients: attend to the three pillars of Aahar, Vihar, Nidra and align with the rhythms of Dinacharya and Ritucharya, do some Yoga, Pranayama, exercise and meditation, take appropriate herbs, maybe do a mild Shodhana and at the very least start daily Abhyanga. Take care of yourself like you are your own client! Studies indicate it takes a 40 day cycle to change habits, so set those health goals you have been meaning to and effect long term changes.
2. Conduct online consultations
We can continue to see our clients through online platforms like Vsee and Doxy.me. In fact, it’s a great time to proactively follow up as they may have more time for consultations or to attend to their health in general, and some may be anxious and need the support. While the Sparshana assessments like pulse diagnosis can’t be done online, remember the level I Counselor scope of practice: Darshana and Prashana (visually viewing, assessing and most importantly, questioning). You can also devised and revise protocols. It is good to use HIPAA compliant online tools; while Ayurveda is not a licensed practice yet in USA, we should be ahead of the curve and make sure our practice is ready.
3. Improve your home office and work from home ethic
As NAMA President, Margrit Mikulis advises, “implement a remote working environment.” Set up a home office if you don’t have one. Stick to a routine as you work from home, managing time, adhering to work hours, taking breaks and truly ending at a set time. In a study of 2,500 remote workers by the online brand development agency, Buffer in 2019, it was discovered that loneliness is one of the top challenges resulting in decreased motivation and productivity. Make sure to continue networking and connecting with people.
4. Plan your year ahead strategy
Whatever is the nature of your practice, this is a great time to plan or revisit your strategy. Here are some questions to help you get started:
- What is your core competence (e.g. is it innovation, cost leadership, relationship building) and how can that be a niche in Ayurveda?
- What is the vision and value proposition of your business?
- Where do you plan to be in 5 and 10 years?
- How will you get there?
- What do you offer in terms of products and services?
- What are the legalities in your state; is it a Health Freedom state or not, and what are those implications?
- What capabilities and finances do you need to achieve your goals and how do you plan to acquire them?
- Who is your target audience and who are your competitors?
- What do you need to do this year to set yourself up for success towards your 5 and 10 year plan?
- What’s your contingency plan?
5. Update your technology skills
Business capabilities include IT systems, logistics and automation and social distancing has made that a priority for us. How do we work remotely, teleconference and stay digitally connected with colleagues and customers? What technologies does our office need and how do we efficiently maintain records? It’s a good idea to explore solutions relevant to your business, network with friends and colleagues for more information on how they operate, maybe do an online course and read up to update your technological skills. Here is a quick start guide about strategies for secure remote work and a look at best practices in preparing infrastructure.
6. Develop your brand and website
For many of us: websites can be challenging. If you have put your website and branding on the back burner, get to them! Even if you already have one, refreshing web content improves its rank and performance. Some questions to ask yourself:
- How does your brand reflect your core values?
- Does it create a good impression and stand out?
- How does it flow into the overall experience of your clients?
- Does it gel with your strategy, positioning and messaging across platforms?
- Does it show you care?
To effect change, simple updates like font, headers, imagery, graphics can do wonders. Adding blog content, a live chat feature or a newsletter portal can enhance your engagement and lead generation. While you’re at it, make sure links to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google and other social media pages are included.
7. Create content for blogging and media
Educate, inform and inspire. We need to spread awareness of Ayurveda to build business. Online content attracts and converts your potential clients. Chances are, you need more of it, and the world is more ready for it than ever. This is a great time to explore your content strategy, including networking with fellow writers and online event hosts if you need help. If you’re planning your book, what better time than this to start organizing your thoughts! Starting with the common buzzwords like immunity, Dinacharya, cleansing, inflammation, Yoga and Ayurveda or nutrition. There are so many topics people are Googling for advice and you have the answers.
8. Do more with social media
Social media is a huge part of our marketing strategy and how we present ourselves and share ideas. What is your presence on different platforms? Do you have a strategy? Whether you’re going live with health counseling, hosting a watch party, an event or sharing an article, the way to optimize our message is something you can experiment with now. With more and more people online now, this is a great opportunity to be visible.
9. Offer free, paid or donation classes
A lot of people are offering free classes right now on topics like nutrition, cooking, Yoga, Pranayama, Dinacharya and different aspects of Ayurveda. Free classes help people in need and is part of our Dharma. They also generate new leads and cultivate loyal clientele. You could generate a new revenue stream via paid classes or modules like cleansing, nutrition and lifestyle tips. Be strategic and offer what people want and what supports your services. Don’t forget you can help others help others! Raise money for a cause from your proceeds, or give people the option to make a voluntary donation to, say a service for raising money for PPE for frontline health care workers.
10. Continue your education
If you need help in any area of your business, like technology, marketing, social media, market research, or administration, look online. Many institutes and YouTubers offer free classes that may have always wanted to take.
There may be requirements for your Ayurvedic certification or professional membership like NAMA or Yoga Alliance which you can catch up on, or perhaps you want to join for the first time. Investigate what’s required and which online courses now might help you fulfill the obligations (our Continuing Education programs are all NAMA PACE-approved). It’s always helpful to review material. KAA Certification Alumni: remember you have continued access to weekly virtual classes. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for access details!
11. Network! Connect, hold study groups, chat groups and forums
Connection is vital in this time for bridging the gaps and innovating together. You may want to set up study groups to complete classes or just connect informally in chat groups and forums to exchange ideas, cases and articles.
Connecting with other professionals can be done collaboratively. In Ayurveda, we trust in the abundance of the universe and support each other, knowing there’s no true competition. Consider gaps in your strategy and who can help you. You can explore synergies that may generate business later, work on research and referrals and new partnerships. Opportunities will evolve as we all redefine ourselves.
12. Offer your service
A lot of people are not going to doctors for fear of contracting any contagious disease at this time, COVID-19 or anything that may reduce their immunity. A lifestyle-based science can help them. For simple health issues, we could suggest changes in diet, lifestyle and home remedies. I started offering a free one hour a weekday service. One of my clients with arrhythmia said her doctor had said it was harmless. She showed all signs of aggravated Vata, panic and fear. We are not diagnosing or treating illnesses, but we can do simple Ayurvedic assessments in such cases; sometimes, even just talking it out helps the individual, and simple suggestions like forming a routine; three regular, warm, unctuous meals; hydrating, oleation and Yogic breathing, alternate nostril breathing can make a lot of difference. We have to be careful to ensure that anyone with respiratory or other symptoms do consult their primary care.
Coming out of anxiety and into possibility
Life moves in the direction of growth and progress. Innovation and adaption through the tips above is one way forward. As we introspect and take stock, we can draw strength from the ground we have already covered and tap into the resilience of our spirit.
What if your business is impacted?
It is a tough time financially for a lot of people but there are many ways to innovate and keep your business afloat. Small businesses like spas or manufacturers of herbal products may be hit the hardest and can look to the government for replacement of income. We may still have rent, overheads and have employees who work for us. While some can apply for unemployment, others need to study whether they are eligible under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act). There is a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that has been established to help employers replace income and avoid future layoffs. The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low interest loans and the Treasury Department is deferring the deadline for annual tax payments by 90 days. Research and enquiry can help you plan for supporting your employees and keeping your business afloat.
Using Sattvavajaya and invoking the legendary Healer
No one is immune from anxiety. Yet we know how to overcome adversity with Sattva, with the positive, pure, truthful quality of consciousness. The best tip for everyone at this time is to be kind and loving, and remember the words which inspire us. Chanting affirmations daily is a tried and true method for maintaining a high vibration and calm attitude.
Here are two beautiful ancient chants for this time:
Om Asatoma Sadgamaya,Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya,
Mrityorma Amritamgamaya, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi
Om, lead me from the unreal (transitory material existence) to the real (Eternal Self); from darkness (of ignorance) to light (of wisdom, truth and spiritual knowledge); from the fear of death to the knowledge of immortality. Om Peace, peace, peace!
Namami Dhanwanthari Aadi Devam, Surasura Vandit Paada Padmam,
Loke Jara Rugbhay Mrityu Naasham, Daataaram Eesham Vividhaushadhinaam
I surrender to Lord Dhanvantari, requesting your grace. Please give me your blessing and remedies to heal the ailing. Your grace is valued by all, the Devas and Asuras for freedom from disease.
Let us set the intention to be strong and invoke Lord Dhanvantari whom we bow to for everyone’s wellbeing. To tap into our transcendental selves… and to be part of the world’s healing journey.