Reaching the Hispanic community: interview with Amalia Arango | Representation Matters

Hispanic Heritage Month is honored mid September through mid October to promote the contributions, culture and history of Hispanic-Americans. We celebrate our Hispanic students and wish to shed some light on their experience. We interviewed Amalia Arango, Ayurvedic Counselor graduate, who practices in Bogotá, Colombia and will be studying the Ayurvedic Practitioner Program next. Amalia’s goal is to introduce Ayurveda in the Hispanic community, bringing health and wellness to all.
In the U.S., Hispanic-Americans are the largest ethnic minority group, but have disproportionately low health insurance coverage. Their healthcare is shaped by language and cultural barriers, as well as lack of access to preventive care. According to the CDC, the leading causes of illness and death within the community include heart disease, cancer, accidents, stroke, diabetes, asthma, obesity, suicide and liver disease. Latin Americans have relied for centuries on plant-based medicine, mysticism, spiritual rituals and home remedies, like onions for sore throats and honey for cold sores! Ayurveda, as a form of preventive medicine, can help given the use of CAM (Complementary and Alternative therapies) is 50-90 % higher within the population.
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Tell us about your career path

How did you discover Ayurveda?

The first time I heard the word Ayurveda was five years ago when I read it in a book. A friend of mine had been diagnosed with MS and I got really interested about the different ways in which she could cure herself. I found out about a woman in Colombia who had also been diagnosed with MS. She wrote about her disease journey, and how through Ayurveda, she found a lot of helpful tools to manage the disease. As soon as I finished reading the book, I gave it to my friend. From that day onwards, I began to research more about it and fell in love with this science.

I couldn’t believe that all the information I found was almost everything from the KAA website, the place in which I would be studying five years later. This was such an incredible coincidence! As I started to read more and more about Ayurveda, I thought this was exactly how healthcare should be for me. Natural, holistic and people oriented. I knew there was something special with Ayurveda for me. But wasn’t sure if the decision was to turn my professional career all over, or just keep it as a side interest.

My main career is Business Administration. I did a specialization in Marketing Management and worked for eight years in Marketing and Retail. I am also very passionate about the environment, so recently I completed a Masters in Sustainability thinking that this would be my career switch (but it wasn’t). When I decided to move ahead with Ayurveda, I was a little sad because I thought I was not going to be able to put my sustainability studies into practice. But while studying, I was delighted to hear Dr. J [Vaidya. Jayarajan Kodikannath] talking about sustainability,  the organic farms in Kerala and the importance of taking care of the environment to take care of ourselves as well. Knowing that, made a lot of sense to me and made me realize the reason by which I got interested in sustainability as well. 

Photo of Amalia Arango smiling sitting on a rock next to a light blue river

When you first studied Ayurveda, what resonated with you?

I have always been very passionate about nutrition and food, so the first thing that resonated with me from Ayurveda was the phrase ‘let your food be your medicine.’ I believe that is the key. Also, I am very curious about the mind and its potential, so mental health is another topic that resonates with me very hard. And I can not leave aside kids. I love them and love their intuition that little by little is lost as we grow up. So in the future, I would definitely love to work with them and encourage them to maintain that natural instinct that we all have for the food and lifestyle that balances ourselves.

What was your earlier experience with health and wellness? 

As I mentioned earlier, I am very passionate about food, and mindful about what I eat because I know the way you eat influences a lot the way you feel. Interestingly, five years ago I experienced very intense stomach aches. I didn’t pay too much attention to this, thinking that I was the kind of person who had a sensitive stomach and had to live with it. Several months passed, but magically one day, I realized the pain was not normal and I didn’t want to live like that. I scheduled an appointment with an acupuncturist and TCM doctor who told me I had an inflammation in my colon, stomach and my liver was highly intoxicated. This was kind of a surprise for me, because I thought I was very healthy. since I was eating a lot of salads and I exercised almost every day.

Looking back I can see that despite being mindful about what I ate, it was very restrictive. I was eating inappropriate foods for my body, exercising way too much and not sleeping enough. My focus was mainly on the way I looked rather than on the way I felt. The kind of ‘healthy’ I thought I was, was not contributing to my overall wellbeing, also because I was not taking into account a crucial part: my mental health. Thankfully I addressed this stomach issue on time, because I don’t know what would have happened if I kept thinking that the stomach ache was normal. (There is no one single pain or ache which we can consider as normal.) And that was when I realized the huge importance and magic of prevention. 

Discovering Ayurveda and understanding that to achieve balance, I should walk through the middle path was mind blowing for me. I thought that discipline was the key, but later I understood that discipline needs to take into account how the body feels and what the body needs, and that enjoying the good things in life was much more important than the other things I was doing. I learned that extremes are never good and pursuing the middle path was the most important lesson given to me for life.

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Practicing Ayurveda in Colombia

Traditional medicine and Ayurvedic practice

Colombia has its traditional healing with plant-based folk medicine, home remedies and rituals. People used food as medicine, but through the generations, traditional medicine was lost and western medicine is now the most popular. Indigenous people still practice but mostly within their community. They are in remote places and the practice is not common or easy for people to seek them out. In daily use, leaves or spices are used for cooking but not healing. Once in a while someone may drink herbal preparations for digestion, allergies, cough or flu, but it’s mild and infrequent. 

Ayurveda is recognized as an alternative form of medicine like TCM. It is not restricted or illegal (in Colombia) and is easy to practice.

How do you culturally translate the practice of Ayurveda?

All my consultations and seminars are in Spanish. I try to use simple language so people are not intimidated.  I also talk about common and local foods so that people can easily relate.

There are a lot of ‘modern issues’ related to sleep, digestion, and so much misinformation related to food. People are not very certain about what to do, they have many theories. Also, especially in Latin America and Colombia, women are very focused on how they look and body image is a big issue with rogis [clients]. The culture and media increase this pressure; it’s incredible. I didn’t know I would deal with this issue until I started consulting. No matter what the natural body constitution looks like, how light or heavy the person is, most of us (I am also working on it) are concerned about body image and are always seeking for a model-like body, which is, of course, very frustrating and exhausting. It makes me wonder how we are wired.  I’m very concerned about this, so I’m trying to give a message of health from the inside out; feel better first and then you will have the outcome without effort.

This is a very unequal country. Some people are conscious about health and have access to good quality food, economic facilities, regular exercise and healthy options. On the other side, there is malnutrition, poverty, diseases and that concerns me a lot. I want to provide simple, easy to apply education about healthcare and spread it to all kinds of people regardless of their economic capacity. 

We can educate people to de-stress, sleep on time and have a better lifestyle. I try to communicate Ayurvedic principles in my talks so people change their perspectives. People think that well-being is complicated and expensive, so my message is: we don’t need expensive foods and imported goods and supplements or complicated calculations to eat; we can eat local, fresh food, cultivated close to our house and very intuitively.

The agricultural industry is an important part of the economy. Since we have great weather, we can access a huge variety of fruits, vegetables and spices. Depending on the city, exotic or traditional fruits grow, like watermelon, papaya, bananas, guanabana, guava, lulo, tangerine and apples. I love to buy my fruits, veggies and spices from small local farmers who deliver them  to my house. 

Eventually, I want to have a partnership with NGOs (non-government organizations) and the government to communicate basic Ayurvedic principles, so despite the inequity, people can apply it and improve their health and quality of life.

Amala Arango Ayurvedic Practitioner makes healthy meals

Amalia’s Ayurvedic practice

Tell us about your practice

I started my practice in April 2022. People are very receptive and surprised by the new things they learn about Ayurveda and themselves as well. They find Ayurveda easy to understand and it makes a lot of sense with natural, holistic concepts. I have been practicing in Spanish, online and in person, both from my home. My rogis [clients] are from Colombia and they’re all Spanish speakers, so I translate all the information I learn in English.

In my consultations, I noticed that people understand Ayurveda, but the difficulty is in changing and implementing the habits. So I schedule one or several follow up consultations to support them and meet them where they are.

Since we are a coffee producing country, most of us are used to drinking coffee even since childhood. Of course when I see there is an issue where coffee might be aggravating, I suggest to reduce it. (Some people can drink up to eight cups per day!). For some people, it’s very difficult to change the habit. Others say they were just drinking coffee because they didn’t know it was harmful for them, so they can easily make the correction.

How do you plan to grow and market your practice?

I have started my business little by little and am doing it from my house. Eventually, I plan to make this economically sustainable and reach more people with the complementary practice of Ayurvedic Practitioner disease management. I experienced my own first Abhyanga [external therapy with oil] recently and realized how important bodywork is as well, so I would love to study and practice Panchakarma, and the Ayurvedic Doctor program eventually.

Ninety percent of my clients are family, friends or very close people. I share some of my daily recommendations through social media and word of mouth helps a lot. People reach out through Instagram or Whatsapp because they know I’m practicing or people recommend me.

When I ask them whether they know anything about Ayurveda, 80% don’t and I have to educate them. When I told my parents, I had to explain the basics and do a consultation with my father because he had never heard about it before. It really helped to explain what I was doing now.

I’m doing in person seminars for free in social clubs. I have done two. One in Bogotá and another one recently in Medellín. I am also giving online wellness talks to companies. I love it because this educates people about Ayurveda, helps networking, and contributes to my main goal which is to share Ayurveda and wellbeing with millions of people.

Amalia Arango giving an Ayurvedic presentation to the Hispanic community in spanish

What are the barriers to growth for you? 

Language is one. The fact that I have to translate everything to Spanish from English makes it challenging and difficult for others who may not know English to know more about Ayurveda. Travel is also a barrier. Milpitas is ten to twelve hours and 1-2 flight stops away from Colombia for in person requirements. So it is very time consuming. Cost of travel is another one, because I have to pay in dollars and make the conversion from Colombian Pesos (a highly devaluated currency) for the flight and travel expenses, as well as the academic tuition. Availability of herbs for consultations or bodywork are another barrier. Only common, popular ones are available. I may need to import them and investigate regulations and duties. Even though I don’t feel excluded and feel very privileged about being able to study this amazing science, I think that the in person requirements are not convenient enough for an international student in Latin America.

What are your future plans?

The health and wellness industry has grown in the last few years and became popular in Colombia. I would like to have my own center with consultations and a massage space for PK [Panchakarma] treatments and bodywork therapies. These will complement each other very well and would be like a wellness center. You can see (laughs) that I like a lot of things and am enthusiastic about Ayurvedic nutrition, mental health, working with kids, studying the PK Technician class, pursuing the Ayurvedic Doctor program, and will have to decide later in the path how things go. I have really enjoyed the fact that I could start to practice Ayurveda while studying. It is very enriching since it helps understanding and applying different concepts in the meanwhile.

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Growing Ayurveda in the Hispanic community

How do you recommend we encourage study and practice of Ayurveda within the Hispanic community?

  1. Currently, I don’t think there are enough Hispanic people in Ayurveda. I know only about 3-4 people who are practicing in Colombia and Ayurveda is not well known. There is an academy, but I preferred Kerala Ayurveda’s content, curriculum and methodology.
  2. Address the language barrier. The KAA website is completely in English. It would be good to have more content in Spanish online and translate concepts. Translations even of basic qualifications like Counselor or Practitioner are not precise.
  3. Address geography while translating seasonal practices. In the northern part of South America there are no seasons, so there aren’t any seasonal practices in terms of transitions. Here, we can indicate a certain type of Desha (geography) and what regimen to follow, (for instance dry places are Vata aggravating). 
  4. Travel to California is a barrier for Hispanic people outside the U.S. It would be good to have internship options in an allied center in Colombia. 
  5. We could have a network of Hispanic Ayurvedic professionals to share experiences and provide mentoring.

How can we encourage the Hispanic population to seek Ayurvedic care?

People are more likely to seek Hispanic professionals. We need to understand barriers of equity, language and that people have misunderstandings about healthcare. Educating people about Ayurveda will help. We don’t need to normalize indigestion, stress and anger. Ayurveda helps us know ourselves. We need to educate people about prevention and the importance of following nature. 

 

KAA is grateful for students like Amalia who study with us from remote areas of the globe and are torchbearers of Ayurveda. We hope Ayurveda plays a role in healing and eliminating healthcare disparities which impact quality of life, longevity, economic opportunities and healthcare access for the Hispanic community.

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Amalia Arango Ayurvedic Practitioner in Colombia
CONNECT WITH AMALIA

Follow Amalia on Instagram @amaliaarangoc.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Amalia was interviewed by Anuradha Gupta, a Content Specialist at Kerala Ayurveda USA, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and Ayurvedic Doctor in training. She is an Engineer, MBA and 200 hour YT with her own practice, Ayurvedic Footprints. Anu is an LGBTQ+ advocate who represented the Human Rights Commission at the U.S. Senate in 2021; she is a Board Member of PFLAG SRV, and a volunteer with many organizations including the Art of Living Foundation and Free Mom Hugs.

FEEDBACK + WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR DIVERSITY SERIES?

We welcome and appreciate your feedback so we can continue expanding our efforts to address prejudice and systemic racism in a meaningful way.  If you or someone you know should be interviewed for our Representation Matters series, please let us know!

Contact: help@keralaayurveda.us.

Ayurvedic principles for lasting beauty

Ayurveda defines the three pillars of beauty, and the secret to beauty is mastering these three pillars. They are: outer beauty (roopam), inner beauty (gunam), and the beauty that lasts (vayastyag). Outer beauty is personified by radiance, energy and immunity; inner beauty by a pure, clear and calm mind; and everlasting beauty by the feeling that age is only a number. Ayurveda’s approach to beautiful skin doesn’t rely on products or treatments for temporary results, but instead focuses on habits to maintain these pillars.

 

In this article, we’ll introduce you to Ayurvedic beauty as an aspect of the Vedic lifestyle, starting with an overview of Ayuveda’s Skin Care Theory, and then moving on to specific diet and lifestyle practices for generating beauty from within.

 

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest forms of holistic medicine, developed thousands of years ago by ancient scientists who observed and learned the healing powers of nature. Ayurveda sees each individual as the healer and guides everyone toward a state of health and wellbeing by suggesting a unique path formed by diet and lifestyle behaviors. There is no “one size fits all” approach in Ayurveda. Nature created a “unique,” balanced you, and if you follow her laws, health and beauty are sure to follow!

Ayurveda skin care theory

Ayurveda takes a two-prong approach to mindfully managing and reversing both the effects of time and external factors on the skin. The approach is holistic (body, mind and spirit) in nature, and consists of a number of diet and lifestyle recommendations.

Feeding beauty from within – the Inputs (Ahara)

Skin is nourished from the inside out through the concept of Ahara which includes intake of food, water, breath and perceptions.

Food

Food feeds skin from within with appropriate foods such as cooked, leafy greens and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. Rich in natural antioxidants, these help protect the skin (twak) from damage by free radicals, reactive oxygen based chemicals, which are widely linked to disease and aging.

Water

Drinking plenty of water helps maintain skin’s elasticity and flushes out impurities while helping to minimize wrinkles and soft lines. Water should be warm and sipped continuously throughout the day for optimal hydration and plumpness of skin.

Breath

The practice of pranayama or breathing techniques, such as Alternate Nostril Breath, helps calm the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce stress which causes chemical reactions in the body making skin more reactive and sensitive.

Perceptions

Spending time in nature and/or meditation brings deep relaxation and a heightened state of awareness allowing you to be mindful of stressors and make adjustments to avoid bodily reactions manifesting on the skin.

 

Rear view of woman applying oil to body in darkroom at home

Live life beautifully through your actions (Vihara)

Vihara are the activities that influence your daily lifestyle and include proper exercise, adequate sleep and components of your daily routine like washing your face and abhyanga or Ayurvedic massage. 

Proper exercise 

In moderation, exercise increases circulation, improves metabolism, releases toxins and impurities and keeps the skin soft, supple and clear. It also helps to firm the skin and keep the body toned while strengthening the dhatus or deeper tissues.  Healthy tissues provide bountiful Ojas which gives the skin a healthy glow.

Sleep

Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself. During sleep, your skin’s blood flow increases and collagen production is initiated to help repair sun damage, wrinkles and age spots. Ideally, you should sleep and rise with the cycles of the sun, resulting in the optimal 7-8 hours of sleep needed each day.  

Daily routine 

Begin each morning by washing your face to remove secretions produced during the night. Next, a full-body massage (abhyanga), with an oil suitable for your skin type, to increase circulation, flush out toxins, and keep the skin looking soft, smooth and supple.  

Determining the proper components and amounts of Ahara and Vihara for your specific body and skin type is dependent on your body composition (prakriti). To learn more about your body constitution, check out our blog article, Ten Ways Knowing Your Individual Constitution or Prakriti Can Empower You.  

 

Study Ayurvedic beauty with us!

True beauty begins within and the secret to finding it is simply making a few adjustments to your diet and daily lifestyle. Would you like to learn more about Ayurveda’s approach to beautiful skin and hair? Join us for our 2-day workshop on Ayurvedic Skin and Beauty, June 25-26, 2022. Click here to learn more and register for the workshop.

Pulse assessment as a diagnostic tool

“Pulse resides on the fingertips of the Vaidya, not on the radial artery of the client – and Ayurvedic Professionals live on their fingertips!” says Vaidya. Jayarajan Kodikannath, Kerala Ayurveda Academy Director and Lead Faculty teaching Pulse Assessment.

What is pulse assessment?

Pulse Assessment in Ayurveda and TCM (commonly used in Acupuncture) is a major diagnostic technique. Similar to Western medicine – listening to the heartbeat with a stethoscope and checking pulse – it serves as a quick, non-invasive assessment method used by trained health care professionals. 

For thousands of years, multiple levels of the pulse or Nadi have been used in Ayurveda. Pulse assessment holistically interprets the individual’s constitution, imbalances, and mental/physical health. Ancient texts like Sharangdhar Samhita mention pulse analysis, while Yogaratnakar provides a detailed description of this science carried forward as part of the traditional lineage of Ayurveda. Emphasis of pulse assessment varies amongst practitioners and schools of thought may vary.  

Some Ayurvedic Doctors (or Vaidyas) may focus mainly on the pulse examination; but at Kerala Ayurveda Academy, we educate our students to use pulse as one of many assessment tools

We receive lots of questions from prospective students about pulse assessment training. Here are the top Q&As to help you understand what it is and what it’s not. We also share how you might be able to use it in your Ayurvedic practice.

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How is pulse assessment practiced?

Sitting across from Vaidya. Sheena, the student, closes her eyes. At a class practical, she’s gone through a health intake and is now having her pulse assessed. Vaidya. Sheen listens to the pulse and begins to tell its story: the student has a tendency to be over productive and burn out. To be more specific, she will follow up over productivity by sitting around like a couch potato, and even more specifically, binge watch shows. Vaidya. Sheena also confirms her irritable bowel symptoms to round off this assessment. 

Much is revealed during pulse assessment

The vibration of the radial artery can reveal seven layers downwards to ascertain health, disorders and even their prognosis.

The other layers reveal:

  • Imbalances (Vikrati) 
  • Balance of the Subdoshas
  • Metabolic fire strength (Agni)
  • Toxicity levels (Ama)
  • Status of organ systems and tissues (Dhatus)
  • The deep pulse indicates Prakriti (body constitution).

The Ayurvedic professional is trained to hold the client’s hand and feel for the pulse with their index, middle and ring fingers. Each respective finger feeling for the Vata (snake), Pitta (frog) and Kapha (swan) pulse, dubbed as such because of their characteristic rhythms. 

When to take the pulse

Pulse is often assessed following the health intake during a routine assessment as the client is usually more relaxed at that time. The pulse often confirms findings and may provide additional subtle insights for the Vaidya. Some Vaidyas primarily use the pulse, others may not, depending on their approach, experience and paucity of time.

Side view of swan swimming in lake

Can a pulse assessment provide all the information needed in an Ayurvedic exam?

Vivan is a quiet teenager. He sits with his Mom across from the Vaidya for a consultation (read more about what happens in an Ayurvedic consultation on our Wellness site). It feels like he’s relating the story of his life: his daily routines, diet and lifestyle, bowel habits, ailments, and his genetic, physical, physiological, psychological and social history. He sticks out his tongue, shows his nails, and bursts into laughter as the Vaidya takes his pulse (he’s ticklish!). 

Ayurveda examines the entire person, rather than piecemeal symptoms. It assesses the root cause of disorder and disease.

Types of assessment

When you could go to an Ayurvedic professional with IBS or knee pain, for example, there is a standardized 3-step assessment including questioning, observation and touch – which includes pulse. Another type of assessment is the eightfold method, which looks at attributes like pulse. tongue, eyes, skin etc. A ten step examination also includes constitution evaluation, imbalances, age, physical strength and more.

All of these assessment methods and steps help a practitioner to understand the client’s total state of health. A thorough case analysis leads to a comprehensive protocol with dietary and lifestyle guidelines, formulations, suggestions for pacification or cleansing as needed and follow-ups.  

Limitations of pulse assessment

While pulse assessment can technically provide all the information needed to assess an individual’s constitution and imbalance, relying on pulse alone is not necessary. There are some scenarios when taking a pulse is not viable. For example: virtual consultations, in areas where an individual is not legally able to touch their client (this varies based on state in the U.S.), and in special circumstances such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic. There are also times when pulse assessment is not recommended, such as right after a meal. That’s why it’s important to utilize all the assessment tools available, including detailed case history review and examination of the client’s eyes, nails and tongue. 

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What are the advantages of pulse diagnosis?

Pulse is the rhythmical movement of blood as it is propelled through the arteries by the heart.  Measuring the pulse provides important information about your current health status and possible future health problems.  Pulse diagnosis is beneficial as it:

  • Is non-invasive and can indicate disorders without the use of x-rays, endoscopies and other diagnostic tests 
  • Helps assess digestive, metabolic strength and immune resistance
  • Is a quick and subtle way to assess imbalances when there is paucity of time
  • Is holistic in nature, factoring in both mental and physical health 
  • Provides insights when a physical assessment doesn’t help and a subtle one can indicate certain imbalances
  • Provides clues on what further diagnostics may be required 
  • Predicts future disorders and can provide guidance on how to prevent them
  • Indicates the prognosis of disorders; simple, chronic and/or incurable 
  • Exposes causative factors of a disease, helping map the cause to a management protocol
Photo of students learning how to take their pulse

Want to learn more about Ayurvedic assessment and pulse diagnosis?

“To be able to tell a person’s health from their pulse is a skill, an art and a science; it is a privilege to study this from a Master Vaidya such as Jayarajan Kodikannath.” – Anuradha Gupta

The key to mastering pulse assessment is study, practice, practice and more practice. And that’s what you’ll do in our Ayurvedic Assessment and Pulse Diagnosis Workshop! In an action packed three days, we delve into Ayurvedic assessment, narrow in on pulse diagnosis and engage in live cases to understand the complete mapping of disease.  

Learn more about our Ayurvedic Assessment & Pulse Diagnosis Workshop.

Traditional Ayurvedic cleansing 101

Our bodies are constantly confronted with toxins, whether they come from our environment or our own natural cellular processes, which create metabolic waste from the digestion of our food. As these toxins accumulate in our various body tissues, subtle energy channels and mind, disease and imbalance result. An Ayurvedic cleanse is the solution to release toxins and restore the body to its natural state of health.

In today’s world, cleansing has taken on many forms, so you may wonder what exactly is an Ayurvedic cleanse, how does it work, what are its benefits and is it right for you. In this blog post we’ll cover many of the frequently asked questions surrounding a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse.

Top view of woman laying on bed in bad mood. Unhappy female at home alone.

How do I know an Ayurvedic cleanse is needed?

The following are a few of the signs and symptoms which can indicate that it’s time for a cleanse

  • You’ve gained weight and it’s not going away
  • You feel generally tired or fatigued
  • You don’t get a restful night’s sleep, insomnia, frequent and/or difficulty waking
  • You feel exhausted and/or have no energy
  • You are struggling with digestive difficulties 
  • Your bowel movements are inconsistent
  • Your mind feels fuzzy or you are experiencing lack of focus

When should I do an Ayurvedic cleanse?

Cleansing can be done at any time, but is especially beneficial at the junction between seasons, or Ritusandhi. During this transition time, the Doshas of the approaching season begin to accumulate so we must adapt our diet and lifestyle to prevent accumulation and aggravation, thus warding off potential disease.

How long does an Ayurvedic cleanse last?

Cleanse length may vary depending upon the conditions and circumstances surrounding each individual and can range from several days to weeks. Irrespective of the duration, all cleanses should dedicate an equal number of days to the preparation, active cleansing and restoration stages. At Kerala Ayurveda we offer supervised cleanses during the Fall and Spring season transitions.

indian lentil dhal with vegetables and basmati rice on the table. healthy vegan Ayurvedic cuisine

How does an Ayurvedic cleanse work?

Ayurvedic cleansing involves three distinct phases or stages. The preparation for the cleanse (Purvakarma), the actual cleanse (Pradhankarma) and the post cleansing rejuvenation (Rasayana). Each phase should be included, no matter the length of cleanse, as it helps to ease the body into and out of the cleanse and leave tissues in a nourished state.

Stage 1: Preparation (Purvakarma)

During Purvakarma, you’ll clean up your diet and modify your lifestyle in order to prepare for the active cleansing phase. Your diet will focus on consuming simple, whole, organic foods while eliminating fast and processed food, meat, refined sugar and sweets. Additionally, you’ll work to eliminate or significantly reduce alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. Digestive herbs and teas are also consumed during this phase to help support the elimination of toxins as well as increase your overall digestive strength.

The suggested diet is rich in nutrients but also easy on your digestive system, making it more efficient. As your digestion becomes more efficient, less energy is consumed. That energy can then be shifted to the elimination of toxins or ama during the next phase.

Dietary changes should also be accompanied by a more sattvic lifestyle bringing calm to the physical body as well as the mind. (Afterall, Ayurveda is a holistic science based on the balance of the body, mind and spirit). The goal being to minimize external stimuli (yes, an electronic cleanse as well), get plenty of rest and engage in daily pranayama, meditation and gentle yoga practice.

Stage 2: Active Cleanse (Pradhankarma)

The active phase of cleansing begins with Snehana or the oiling of the body both internally and externally. Oiling helps to lubricate the body’s channels and loosen the impurities in your body. Internal oleation is performed by consuming herbalized ghee, or clarified butter, and external oleation through self-Abhyanga or massage.

During this phase you’ll eat a nourishing, easy to digest, diet of mung dal and basmati rice, otherwise known as Khichadi, well-steamed vegetables and stewed fruits.

Once the body reaches optimal oleation, sudation begins. Sudation involves heating the body via a sauna, sweatbox, steam, hot bath and/or shower. The intention is to cause Swedana or sweating which pushes the loosened toxins into the digestive tract for elimination. A natural, herb-induced purgation (virechana) follows, removing the toxins.

Stage 3: Restoration (Rasayana)

While the active part of cleansing is complete, your system now needs to be rejuvenated before resuming your normal activities. During this stage you will slowly transition back with a simple, clean diet and gentle lifestyle while your system regains its strength. Nurturing and strengthening herbs may be recommended and massage, restorative yoga and massage help you complete the last phase of the cleanse.

Is Ayurvedic cleansing recommended for everyone?

Cleansing is not recommended during pregnancy/postpartum, nursing, weakened conditions following surgery, illness or trauma, for children under 13 years of age or the elderly.  Where there are any underlying health concerns or conditions, cleansing should only be done under the guidance of an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner.

Before embarking on a cleanse, it’s very important to know and understand your body constitution (prakriti), imbalances (vikriti), and the state of your digestive fire (agni) and toxins (ama). Meeting with an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner is recommended so that they may help you assess each of these components and customize the cleanse accordingly.

What should I expect while cleansing?

Cleansing is a time of self care and nurturing. A time to slow down, relax, recharge and restore your body. For many of us this means substantial shifts in our diets and lifestyles. As a result, during the cleanse you may feel less energetic, emotional, and at times physically uncomfortable as your body focuses its resources on both the physical and mental detoxification process. But not to worry, the best is to come as you complete your cleanse and find a renewed purity, clarity and lightness of body and mind.

What are the benefits of an Ayurvedic cleanse?

“The strength and complexion of the person, knowing the suitable diet and regimen for every season and practicing accordingly, are enhanced”. -Charaka Samhita

An Ayuvedic cleanse has many benefits that range from general improvement of health and immunity to alleviation of disease and disorders.  Cleansing detoxifies the body by removing ama (toxins), brings balance to the doshas and resets your digestive system to optimal operation. 

Ayurvedic cleansing can also help you to:

  • Calm the mind and nervous system by reducing mental/physical stress
  • Increase your energy levels
  • Find more balanced sleep cycles
  • Gain mental clarity and groundedness.
  • Reduce and/or maintain healthy body weight.
  • Restore regular and balanced elimination.
  • Prepare the tissues for deep nourishment and rejuvenation.
  • Promote optimal health

    Fall is a great time to prepare and protect your body and mind for the upcoming Vata season and the imbalances it will bring. Give yourself a little extra support and immunity boost by joining our Fall Rejuvenation. Let our Vaidya’s customize a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse just for you and provide you with support every step of the way.  Learn more about our Personalized Ayurvedic Fall Rejuvenation here.

New certification formats – from 100% online to NAMA-approved

We run our certification programs every spring and fall, and we continue to adapt them based on our students’ feedback, as well as to accommodate the latest requirements for accreditation. One of the challenges we encounter as an Ayurvedic school is to balance this spectrum of needs, as higher levels of requirements dictate certain restrictions on our program’s format, and impact the cost. We feel that our fall 2022 lineup is the best set of program options yet. Here’s why.

Industry standards – what, why and how

Kerala Academy team standing on the stage at NAMA conference

 

Alignment with National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA)

Our Academy aligns with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), the largest Ayurvedic organization in the U.S., to provide industry standards. NAMA association by schools, and membership by professionals, are both optional. We opt into this alignment as we believe that standardization of the profession and licensure offers benefits to professionals as well as clients, making Ayurveda more accessible.

That said, it will take time for the industry to progress, and it’s not possible for all of the current prospective students to meet these requirements. Access to in person training is determined by proximity to an Ayurvedic school, or the time and financial resources to travel for potentially multiple stretches of time to visit a school. We do not wish to inhibit prospective students from completing our training programs, so we set an intention for our fall 2022 lineup to meet the needs of everyone.

2021 program requirement changes

We introduced online learning to Ayurvedic education in 2012. At that time, we knew this would make an Ayurvedic certification achievable for more students across the U.S. in regions without access to Ayurveda. Our motto was flexibility – all classes were live streamed and recorded, and hands-on training was available for those who were able to come in person. With minimum live class attendance, this flexible format met the requirements set forth by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) for a level I Ayurvedic Health Counselor (AHC) program.

These requirements changed in 2021 to require a new minimum number of in person training and clinical encounters. For the level II Ayurvedic Practitioner program, in person training was already a requirement, though the number of hours increased in 2021. NAMA introduced these requirements to elevate the training benchmark, as part of an accreditation and licensure agenda. We support this agenda, and have modified our program to provide this benchmark. We also offer alternative formats that do not meet NAMA requirements, but offer students an opportunity to be certified.

Close up of graduation certificate from Kerala Ayurveda Academy

 

Explained: certification is not equivalent to NAMA membership

One of the most common questions we receive about NAMA has to do with how our programs qualify graduates. Key points to keep in mind:

  • Certifications are awarded by schools.
  • Professional Membership with NAMA is awarded by NAMA.
  • For NAMA membership eligibility, a graduate must have completed a program that is NAMA-approved and pass the NAMA Board Exam.
  • Our Academy offers program certifications for both NAMA-approved formats. The NAMA Track must be completed to be eligible for taking the NAMA Board Exam.
  • Enrolled students do not have to wait until graduation to pursue NAMA membership. They can apply for Student Membership.

Introducing our fall 2022 program formats

Some of our students prefer to take their certification entirely online, while others wish to complete the requirements for NAMA eligibility. One of our trademarks has been the added flexibility to choose between online and in person attendance throughout the year. We wish to continue offering this flexibility, with a clear pathway for meeting NAMA’s requirements.

Our answer is three tracks: Online, Hybrid and NAMA.

We introduced this approach to all of our professional certifications, beginning with the Holistic Ayurvedic Coach (HAC) program – which is equivalent to the first 6 modules of level I AHC, and therefore outside of NAMA’s requirement threshold. It also seamlessly transitions into the AHC program for students who wish to upskill.

The three tracks of our certifications

All Online Track
Hybrid Track
NAMA Track

All classes are attended via live streaming

Available for:

Holistic Ayurvedic Coach (HAC) – 300 Hours

Level I Ayurvedic Health Counselor (AHC) – 600 hours

Classes are attended in person and via live streaming

Available for:

Holistic Ayurvedic Coach (HAC) – 300 Hours

Level I Ayurvedic Health Counselor (AHC) – 600 hours

Level II Ayurvedic Practitioner (AP) – 910 Hours

Classes are attended in person and via live streaming

Practicums, Practical Immersions and Clinical Internships are attended in person based on NAMA requirements

Available for:

Level I Ayurvedic Health Counselor (AHC) – 600 hours

Level II Ayurvedic Practitioner (AP) – 910 Hours

close up of students engaging in class

The in person requirements: what to expect

A few important points about in person training with us:

  • Not all of the in person training available in a program is included in the in person requirements for the NAMA Track. This is because NAMA’s definition of these requirements is specific about the type of training the student receives – specifically, clinical training that is supervised.
  • The above point explains why our Hybrid Track exists – it offers in person training to the student based on what is convenient for the student, though it does not include the additional hours required to meet NAMA requirements.
  • In person requirements for the NAMA Track are unique to each program, so we recommend reading our Course Catalog to learn more about these requirements.

Transitioning to the NAMA Track

One of our prerogatives when designing the layout of these program formats was transitioning. We understand that circumstances can change, and want to offer options for students who complete the All Online or Hybrid Tracks and later wish to fulfill the NAMA Track requirements for NAMA membership eligibility. Our course catalog outlines the add-ons required for completing this transition as well as the costs involved. Both currently enrolled students and graduates can make this transition, and our team is available to support students in achieving this goal.

In short: what the new tracks offer

  • Track options are now crystal clear to help you pick what works best for you!
  • All Online Track is 100% online.
  • Hybrid Track is a blend of online and in person – flexibility!
  • NAMA Track is specifically designed so that you can meet all the requirements to be eligible for taking the National Ayurvedic Medical Association’s Board Exam.
  • Transition options are available for Counselor (AHC) and Practitioner (AP) students who wish to fulfill the requirements for our NAMA Track at a later time.

Ayurvedic plant medicine: a consciousness based science

Kerala Ayurveda is a source of Ayurvedic teachings, products, lineage traditions and healing services. Much of Ayurveda’s wisdom comes directly from nature and the plant world. Plant medicine is becoming increasingly popular across various industries – wellness, spiritual, food and pharmaceuticals. But what is true plant medicine?
This blog is inspired by the webinar, “The Healing Consciousness of Plants” with Vaidya. Jayarajan Kodikannath
Click here to view the webinar To take care of ourselves and our planet, working with plant medicine in a sustainable and respectful manner is important. It’s our goal at Kerala Ayurveda to preserve the ancient respect of the plant world embedded in the tradition practice of Ayurveda. As holistic remedies become more popular and trends lead to the increasing commercialization of plants, as well as the industrial manipulation of them, it’s all the more important we take cues from the ancient ways. Improper use of plant medicine is not only disrespectful to the plants, ourselves and the earth; it also diminishes the efficacy of the ingredients. Respect and healing potential go hand in hand – isn’t that beautiful? According to the history of Ayurveda, the wisdom of healing was gifted to the ancient sages by the plants themselves. To understand plant medicine in Ayurveda, it’s important to look at consciousness itself. Ayurveda’s wisdom is not considered to be derived from the “normal” human experience we have day to day. The true essence  of this wisdom is considered, according to Ayurveda, to exist beyond the material plane, at the highest state of awareness of Trikal Gyani’s – or, Enlightened Rishis or Seers who could see the past, present and future. That might seem intimidating, but from an Ayurvedic perspective: we’re all truly capable of accessing higher states of awareness, and connecting with this wisdom. When we recognize that plants possess another form of consciousness, we can begin to connect appropriately with that consciousness to facilitate effective, soul nourishing healing.

Close up of tumeric plant

 

The story of Turmeric

To understand the depth of plant consciousness, let’s look at the story of turmeric as one example of the thousands of plant stories in the Ayurvedic knowledge base. Bhavaprakasha, the herbal dictionary mentions that turmeric:
  • Pacifies the Kapha and Pitta Doshas 
  • Enhances complexion
  • Helps with skin and urinary disorders, diabetes, blood-related issues, inflammation, swelling, anemia, and wounds
  • Enhances mental functions
  • Is efficacious in cardiac issues, vitiligo, jaundice and is an anti-toxic
  Turmeric transformed in recent times from a village girl to a city girl. The village girl was organic and true to herself, and the urban version developed from use of her extract: Curcumin. Scientists discovered Curcumin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps with metabolic syndrome, arthritis, mind, exercise-induced inflammation, but has side effects. It causes bleeding disorders, diarrhea, skin rashes, hot flashes, and itchiness. Turmeric does not cause side effects when used in moderation, though Curcumin can.  When using the modified turmeric as Curcumin, the whole and original turmeric is lost. In that process, we lose Ayurvedic tradition. Would you consider everything from plants to the human brain as merely a chemical cocktail? That’s how turmeric is perceived when the extract of Curcumin is isolated as a supplement. Turmeric is not alone – more than 90 percent of supplements are synthetic. Studies show that Vitamin E from natural sources is at least two times more efficacious than synthetic Vitamin E. There is something within the natural plant sources, something subtle and hard for modern science to pinpoint, which enhances their healing potential. Similarly, research on mantras reveals they aren’t mere superstition; they can transform mental and functional systems in human beings. Research on plant cells communicating like animal cells, using bioelectricity or neurobiology, is underway, but we have a ways to go. The world at large still identifies plants as material, and unfortunately denies subtle levels of consciousness.

Woman meditating on a rock in the middle of a stream

 

Embracing a broader definition of consciousness

The subtle layers of consciousness permeate everything in the universe, according to Ayurveda. Ayurveda translates to “the science of life” and offers more than a system for human health. It encompasses the entire cosmos, for it recognizes the interconnectedness, and resulting interdependence, of all existence. Nature is now teaching us a very challenging but important lesson: what it means to live in Adharma or unrighteousness. Our health, the health of many species, our water and our planet as a whole is under the threat of our own human industry’s fallout. When we treat everything for our convenience and consumption, including how large or quickly plants and animals grow, we assume earth and nature are created just for us. Ayurveda reminds us that we must learn to honor all beings and consider them our family. We would not manipulate our family members in a way that goes against their nature. The root Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita, talks about the wrongdoings of humans that contaminate and pollute air, water, earth and cause derangement of time cycles, climate change and lead to annihilation of communities through reduction of immunity and pandemics or Janapadadhwamsa Vyadhi where pathogens overtake us. The Covid19 pandemic happened because of our long-standing Adharma to ourselves, animals, plants, and fellow beings.  Studies suggest that we are reaching a point where it is difficult to go back to the normal sustenance of humanity, and have crossed the limit in damaging the environment. However, every transformation in human consciousness starts with a shift in awareness in one individual. This spreads to families, communities, nature, and ecosystems get transformed. You have the power to make the change for yourself, and the whole planet in the process. Ayurveda is here to guide you, by helping you tap into your innate knowledge.

Plant covered bridge

 

Three layers of existence and “One World Family”

Vasudev Kutumbhakam implies we are all a part of this cosmic vibration or “one world family.” All living beings, including plants, animals, birds, and humans exist in three layers and real existence is a union of these layers: 
  1. Physical, material, or structural layer which includes Dhatus, or tissues and the physical body.
  2. Subtle, functional, or energetic layer which includes Doshas and the mind. 
  3. Consciousness, casual layer, or spirit which is sometimes confused with the mind but is the quantum layer beyond energetics. We rarely access this in modern life. 
  Living beings are Stavaram (stationary, like plants) or Jangamam (moving). They have an individual consciousness and are part of the cosmic or collective consciousness. Every being has a tangible influence and contributes to other beings at a physical, energetic, and conscious level. If all honey bees go on a strike, many species can perish, causing extinction of the human race. Which is why we have rituals honoring animals and plants that support us, mantras are chanted in Panchakarma and if we ignore these practices, we lose the essence of Ayurveda.  We honor all beings as an integral part of us. Traditional Ayurveda is clear that we are part of the collective consciousness; if we can harness, align with, and honor every being with body, mind, and soul; with our physical, functional, and conscious existence, we will get the complete potential of nature for our sustenance to bring health, harmony, peace, happiness, and longevity for all, and fulfill our lives’ purpose.

Woman harvesting cardamom

 

How to work with plants as whole, conscious beings

Prabhava is a concept in Ayurveda that defines how materials like herbs, gemstones or even mantras have an action that can’t be explained. While this might appear to defy science as you know it, keep in mind that Ayurvedic science is a 5,000 year old system and the oldest known documented healthcare system. It was formed in a time when humans lived closer to the earth and possessed more tolerance of the unknown, as well as a deeper awareness of subtle energy. What may look like a pointless ritual to some – like chanting mantras – is felt and experienced as a powerful transformative tool to the individual who uses it. Similarly, Ayurvedic plant medicine involves a variety of rituals designed to maximize the efficacy of a plant. When we bring the full material, energetic and plant consciousness through the right processes the plant will bless us with its fullest healing potential. Sharangadhara Samhita, the go-to text for Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals, explains how to harvest herbs and make formulations. It details what parts of specific plants to utilize, when to harvest them based on the seasons, weather and moon cycles, as well as what exceptions can be made in these processes. The text stipulates that you must hold positive intentions in the mind, possess a clean body and spirit, and perform the act on an auspicious day and time in order to create plant medicine. For instance, you may harvest the plant in the morning but not at dawn, facing the sun with silent prayers and mantra chanting, seeking blessings, plucking herbs grown towards the northern direction. Furthermore, you must connect with the plant and specifically request the plant to join you in relieving your suffering, and that of fellow humans.  When the above process is followed, your medicine won’t be limited like Curcumin. When you ask plants to help alleviate suffering and follow these traditions, the plant’s consciousness becomes an active participant, and in essence, sacrifice themself to join you in the healing process. Helping another being in pain is the highest Dharma or righteousness, and the plant takes this opportunity to transition to a higher self. The benefit of herbs harvested as per these traditions is far beyond the material. It is a spiritual journey between family members who happen to be different species. This explains the rituals at our Kerala Ayurveda formulation making unit and why we are so committed to tradition. It also explains why Pudikaranja merely tied to the waist of babies provides colic relief. If the consciousness science of Ayurveda can permeate industries and other healing modalities, we have much potential to heal ourselves and our planet.

Four steps to an Ayurvedically balanced meal

According to Ayurveda, life is supported by three pillars: food (Ahara), sleep (Nidra) and proper management of procreation (Brahmacharya). Of those three factors, food occupies the most important position for the maintenance of health. Eating is more than just putting tasty morsels in your mouth as fuel for the day. Food provides strength for your body, mind and soul and if consumed properly can help prevent disease.

 

Ayurvedic versus conventional nutrition

Have you ever heard the slogan, “You are what you eat?” This is part of the conventional approach to nutrition, which emphasizes healthy food choices based on the nutrition facts required on food labels. Ayurveda doesn’t agree with that slogan. In Ayurvedic nutrition, the appropriate mantra is, “You are what you digest,” giving the digestibility of the food most importance. Ayurvedic nutrition focuses on how your body processes what you eat. Meals are structured in accordance with your individual body constitution (Prakriti) and imbalances (Vikruti). Instead of focusing on calories and food groups, Ayurveda builds the diet using the elements and their associated tastes, or Rasas.

 

A dosha identifying paper quiz

 

Step 1: Identify your Dosha or constitution

The Doshas are energy patterns that govern your thinking, behavior and physical appearance. Ayurveda refers to them as Vata, Pitta and Kapha and you’re born with a unique combination of the three. Each Dosha is defined by its primary elemental characteristics or building blocks. According to Ayurveda, everything in the physical world is composed of these elements or Mahabhutas, including our bodies and our food, and you’ll use them in the upcoming steps to help build your meal plan.

 

How the Doshas of your individual constitution match to the elements
Dosha Elemental Composition
Vata Ether + Air
Pitta Fire + Water
Kapha Water + Earth

 

NOTE: There are many Dosha identifying quizzes out there, but it’s best to meet with an Ayurvedic professional for a thorough assessment and identification. Not only will the professional help you identify your Dosha, but they’ll also help you become aware of any potential imbalances requiring diet modifications.

The Ayurvedic elements depicted inside glass cups

 

Step 2: Understand the taste and element connection

There are four varieties of taste buds on the tongue with each perceiving either a sweet, sour, salty or bitter taste. The action of each taste is determined by its elemental composition.

 

Taste Elemental Composition
Sweet (Madhura) Earth + Water
Amla (Sour) Earth + Fire
Lavana (Salty) Water + Fire
Katu (Pungent) Fire + Air
Kashaya (Astringent) Air + Earth
Tikta (Bitter) Air + Ether

 

To maintain your Dosha balance and the proper functioning of your body, ALL six of the tastes should be consumed in each meal, BUT with proportions of each which are appropriate to your in-born body constitution (Dosha) and current imbalances.

 

 

Step 3: Match the six tastes to your Dosha

Matching the appropriate tastes to your Dosha is easy! All you have to do is use the elements as your guide.

Vata is composed mainly of air and ether elements, Pitta of fire and water, and Kapha of earth and water. Taking that into account, you can determine which tastes will bring balance and which, if consumed in abundance, may aggravate your digestion and overall health status.

 

Referring back to the chart above:

If you have a Vata dominant constitution, you’ll want to avoid an abundance of food with bitter, pungent and astringent tastes

If you have a Pitta dominant constitution: you’ll want to avoid an abundance of pungent, sour and salty

If you have a Kapha dominant constitution: you’ll want to avoid an abundance of sweet, sour and salty

 

A close up of Saag paneer

 

Step 4: Choose food to keep you balanced

Using the elements once again as your guide, you can easily evaluate your recipes to make sure they contain food and spice choices appropriate to your individual needs. Foods predominant in the earth element are heavy or grounding (sweet potatoes, beets, pumpkin, mangos). Water element foods are more liquid, moist and mobile (milk, fish, seaweed, soups). Hot, sharp foods (pepper, garlic, lime, ginger) contain the fire element and help fuel digestion. The air element contains foods such as certain varieties of beans, leafy vegetables, and crackers. And ether, subtle, light, clear foods such as greens, bitter melon and fenugreek.

Let’s look at a recipe for Saag Paneer and how it can be modified to accommodate all Doshas. The original recipe was tailored to the Kapha Dosha, but simple substitutions remove the heating (fire) element for Pitta and add a more nourishing (water) element for Vata.

 

Saag Paneer

 

Ingredients Vata Pitta Kapha
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups mustard greens Reduce to 1 cup mustard greens
Spice blend Ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg Coriander seeds, mint, dill and turmeric Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, red pepper, black pepper
¼ cup liquid Increase to 1 cup milk ¼ cup coconut milk ¼ cup vegetable broth
2 tbsps ghee
¼ cup paneer

Creating an Ayurvedically balanced meal is easy and elemental, pun intended. It just takes a little planning in terms of understanding the individual(s) you are cooking for.

 

Would you like to learn more about the elements, Doshas and Ayurvedic nutrition?

Start learning in our Holistic Ayurvedic Coach certification! It includes classes dedicated to helping you learn how to choose the foods right for your body and consume them in a way that will result in optimal digestion and health. Learn more about our Coach certification here »