A conventional health practice isn’t the only professional pathway available to Ayurvedic students. In addition to the 9 ways to build a career in Ayurveda we penned in our blog, the sky is truly the limit. The world needs innovative, heart-centered and holistic-minded people to transform all industries. Studying Ayurveda can be a seed for sowing this change, one individual at a time.
We connected with alumnus, Maria Radloff, an Ayurvedic Practitioner (AP) graduate to find out what her journey of self-discovery was like combining Ayurveda, design and marketing.
You’re a proud Vata and embrace your constitutional qualities. What has your constitution taught you, and how do you strike a balance as a Vata in this “Vata-vitiated” world?
Yes! I’m pretty sure they have my photo right next to Vata in the Ayurvedic text books! Knowing how Vata functions and what it is capable of doing has brought some compassion and entertainment about my own tendencies. Now I can laugh at (rather than berate) my dirty little habits like staying up late, overbooking myself and traveling too far on the hiking trails.
What I have learned about my personal Vata-vitiation is that it drives choice. The world is a candy shop of opportunities with no shortage of sweet things to experience. But since Vata can only endure so much, I journal now rather than jump on an idea. I limit my activities each day. I value my time and energy over money. I choose peace over activity and I have learned to say no, especially to myself. And I Abhyanga a lot!
What have you studied on your Vedic journey, and how have you managed your curiosity and learning capacity?
I have studied Yoga, Vedic chanting, Ayurveda, Sanskrit (my true love) and philosophy. Being a graphic designer, I love organizing and styling all of my notes! That being said, I am a householder, and that comes with responsibilities. My studies over time greatly impacted these aspects of my life, causing overwhelm, depletion and neglect. I was an overachiever and it became clear I had to stop.
To still satiate my quest for Vedic knowledge, I hand-picked three teachers to continue learning from, which of course includes Dr. J [Vaidya. Jayarajan] at Kerala Academy. I also attend the School of Practical Philosophy once a week for meditation and discussion. I kept the most potent resources and discarded all of the rest.
For news and events, I keep an eye on NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association) and Kerala Academy updates because they are my community. I still log on for a few events and maintain the friendships that have developed over the years. The reason I mention that here is because I learn a lot from the conversations we have.
I still teach Ayurveda workshops for a few Yoga teacher training programs. Of course I love sharing the information with others, but it also helps me remember the information. So I consider it a win-win form of study.
What was the discovery process like for you when Ayurveda and Yoga came into your life? Was it clear what you wanted to do with it then or did this evolve?
Let’s just say I went into Yoga with resistance back in 2008. I was running a successful design studio in Phoenix, Arizona at the time and had no interest in relaxing on a mat, singing (chanting), or learning a “dead” language. I was very busy and all I was looking for was a great workout, which is how I ended up in Ashtanga Yoga. It is by a divine miracle that I ended up where I did.
Thanks to some very special teachers, though, my zest for sweat was soon replaced with a renewed curiosity about some very deep life questions. And Yoga had the answers. I was smitten.
I already knew back in 2009 that I wanted to study Ayurveda. My Yoga teacher advised against it, offering that I should travel instead. Actually, I think he told me to go surfing! At that time the only way to study was to move to New Mexico, which would have been impossible with work and three dogs.
Fast forward to 2018, I was finally able to commit to an online Ayurveda school. My dream was to become a Yoga and Ayurveda professional. I wanted to teach, consult and write. But I couldn’t sustain my double life. I could barely handle one. After a few years of indecision and struggle, I had to make some seriously big decisions. I gave up the rest of my Ayurveda training and business. This was so hard because I had invested so much love, time and energy.
Oddly, the inspiration to make this change came from some of Dr. J’s [Vaidya. Jayarajan’s] classes because he always reminded us never to suggest a remedy that will further stress the Rogi (health seeker, or wellness client). I was the rogi and I was beyond stressed. I realized that by continuously eating knowledge without digesting it, there was no value. My medicine was to let it go.
I ultimately chose to remain a graphic designer. I remembered how much I loved designing the branding for my Ayurveda business. I spent hours designing artwork, writing copy and clever headlines, designing social media, creating PowerPoint presentations. Dare I even say that I enjoyed the creative work more than the Ayurveda consulting. I knew I had made the right choice.
I know I can better serve my community by helping Ayurveda professionals than by being one. It was a terribly difficult journey to accept that conclusion, but I am happier and my life is much easier. My advice to anyone considering an education in Yoga or Ayurveda is don’t get attached to the outcome. These sciences have so much intelligence that once you step in, they will protect and guide you until your final destination. My life is absolutely glorious now.
Are there any specific challenges and lessons you have experienced that provided wisdom you want to share?
Be discerning with choices. Don’t try and do too much. Niche yourself and stay focused. Have discipline with your plan. And most of all, keep it simple. Maybe those are just my own words of wisdom for myself, but we live in this candy shop world and you know what happens when we take in too many sweets. I haven’t had a greater pain than that of doing too much.
If you dream of being a Yoga / Ayurveda professional, know your “why”. Be authentic about it. Don’t do it to escape your life like I did or it can become a very dark path. Don’t do it because you are newly enamored with them. These sciences are a journey, so take your time to explore them. Take training programs. Integrate the knowledge into all that you do. If you are considering a career in Yoga / Ayurveda, heal yourself first. Going to a broken healer is like going to a broke financial planner. For me, I could never get my life stable enough to help anyone else. I spun my wheels for years and the only thing I have to show for it is exhaustion. And some really juicy stories. So if you are considering a career, be well established in your practices. Practice the Yamas and Niyamas. Be vibrant. Be peaceful. Love. Only then can you be ready to authentically devote yourself to others.
Being a dog mom is a huge part of your life and we understand that you apply Ayurveda to their health, too. What are some examples of interventions you use with them?
Oh do I love that you asked me this question! My first dog was a retired greyhound and she came with a vet who had just released a book on overall declining animal health. The reason? Food. There was no good dog food on the market, as it was all overly processed and made from inadequate ingredients. The solution? Cook for your animals. Sound familiar?
Before I ever set foot into Ayurveda, I realized the value of good food for longevity and health. My dogs have always eaten human grade, mostly organic meals. They get chicken, rice, baked pumpkin, yogurt, vegetables, ghee and much more. And Sunday is doggy omelet day!
Two of my dogs have had Ayurvedic consultations with Vaidya. Sheena at Kerala Wellness Center. One had a growing tumor in her throat, the other had epilepsy. When Chloe, my tumor dog died, one of the vets wrote in her sympathy card that she couldn’t believe how long she had lived since her diagnosis. She was on Kanchanar for the tumor, some Vata herbs, and a medicated oil for an injury.
Ginger, my appropriately named Pitta girl, takes herbs and medicated ghee for her seizures, as well as Ksheerabhala oil applied to her head. She has been on the protocol for a year, although since she has seizures pretty infrequently, it is hard to “prove” there is improvement.
We are all part of the same nature, which means the laws of Ayurveda apply. There is a branch of Ayurveda dedicated to serving animals. I sure hope this makes its way to the U.S. soon because people want natural remedies for pet health.
When it comes to animals, my advice is don’t treat them like animals. Feed them real food. Get to know them. Unconditionally love them, all of them. Care for all the animals as if it is your divine duty. Even the unwanted ones that sneak into your house or scare you.
And for pets, book a consult with an experienced Vaidya from time to time. (Hint, Vaidya. Sheena LOVES animals!)
It seems like a lot of professionals struggle with bridging a gap to potential clients. Do you feel Ayurveda is well-marketed? What could we be doing better or differently?
I think Ayurveda is very well marketed. It’s my opinion that Ayurveda professionals depend a lot on their thought leadership, so there are plenty of social media posts, articles, blogs, podcasts, books and newsletters.
I do see the gap in trying to launch an Ayurvedic business. I think the real problem here isn’t Ayurveda itself, but the fact that Ayurvedic professionals don’t know how to run a small business. Unfortunately there aren’t many jobs in Ayurveda, so self-employment is the only option.
I have worked with many entrepreneurs and it takes a special person to be successful. There are unique skills involved…like being both creative and logical. You have to understand the numbers. You have to be a good time manager. You have to be a visionary. And most importantly, you have to maintain your own health and balance because that is the heart of your services.
I think if we are to see Ayurveda grow as a career option, we need to define what a successful Ayurveda business looks like. Then we need to create a map on how to get there. I honestly think nobody knows yet.
My own personal solution is that Ayurveda professionals need to collaborate. They need to group with each other, especially at different levels (perhaps there is one BAMS with a handful of practitioners and counselors), all working with clients together at different levels. They hire support staff, like marketing and bookkeeping, sharing in the expenses.
Another option is to create an integrative approach, possibly including Yoga therapists, Jyotishas, licensed Panchakarma technicians, or expanding even further, collaborating with N.D.’s, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists and other licensed professionals.
I think what Ayurveda professionals struggle with most is marketing. Building a network can be time-consuming and difficult at first, but it is the best investment to make. I am speaking from experience as networking is what made my design studio successful. Twenty years later, it is still feeding my business. Get out of the house and meet people. Teach workshops. Get to know other small business owners. Mingle with local food producers, coffee shops, markets, Yoga studios, fitness centers. Approach other healers. Collaborate and connect.
Are there any more nuggets of wisdom you wish to impart to our community of Ayurvedic lovers and professionals?
Practice what you preach. Take care of yourself above all else. Never get too busy to maintain the practices that keep you balanced and healthy.
Be part of an Ayurveda community, either locally or nationally. When I lived in Utah, a small group of us would meet for tea or lunch to discuss our Ayurveda adventures. It was really nurturing and supportive. I was also extremely active in NAMA, chairing the student committee, going to the annual conference, and writing articles. It can be quite magical when Ayurveda people come together.
Volunteer. I know everyone is busy, but by keeping the higher purpose of Ayurveda alive, the whole world wins. Join NAMA or CAAM, or other state organizations and get involved. The friendships and opportunities that arise will blow your mind. Magic.
And always remember that Ayurveda chose YOU. (Famous words from Dr. J [Vaidya. Jayarajan].) Be open to how Ayurveda will show up in your life. We’re not all meant to be practitioners. We might sell products. Write books. Teach. Work in a hospital. Grow food. Or design! Regardless of where it takes you, it will always guide you and serve you. You are in the right place.