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          Wednesday, June 20, 2018


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This column is an eclectic mix of articles drawn from Ayurveda, mind-body medicine, yoga, spirituality, contemporary research, ancient Indian culture and timeless treasure of Vedic legacy.

Ayurveda in America Today

In early ‘70s North America witnessed a new phenomenon in the art of medicine, which was the spread of acupuncture throughout the continent. Today, when it is licensed in over half of the US, what is in race for recognition is the ancient Indian science of healing, Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is already popular among the press and people and in part among various medical establishments, and critics say it is only a few steps short of being the next frontier in complementary and alternative medicine. It is a different story, however, that it is the world’s oldest system of healing.

One reason why Ayurveda has picked up in the US is because it has several therapeutic and preventative approaches, which are based on the comprehensive understanding provided by the classical texts of the pathogenesis, symptomatology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. But the progression has not been overnight.

“Another reason,” says Dr John Douillard of Lifespa at Boulder, “is that America, while being the world’s most creative society, is also the most stressed, fast paced, and out of balance. Ayurveda offers a solution to this stress through living in harmony with one’s individual nature and with the changing cycles of nature itself.”

The Ayurveda we see in America today is years of painstaking work by a number of Ayurvedic scholars and a couple of organizations working towards its popularization through the last three decades.

According to Dr. Marc Halpern, founder and director of the California College of Ayurveda, Nevada City, the interest in Ayurveda in the US began in the 1970's largely as the result of efforts by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s organization of Transcendental Meditation. The interest was further strengthened by doctors like Vasant Lad, David Frawley, Robert Svoboda, Deepak Chopra, Subhash Ranade, Avinash Lele, Sunanda Ranade, Rajendra Deshpande and many more scholars and physicians who contributed towards amalgamation of Ayurveda in the North American communities.

Vasand Lad’s Ayurvedic Institute at Albuquerque was probably the first to come up in 1984 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as an educational, non-profit corporation. Today the institute is recognized as one of the leading Ayurveda schools and Ayurvedic health spas in the US.

Frawley, often referred to as ‘an Indian in an American body and America’s most singular Hindu’, also gets his share of being recognized as the continent’s foremost Vedic scholar and teacher. He is acknowledged as being one of the most important scholars of Ayurveda and Vedic Science today who have expounded the ancient wisdom of the Vedas with clarity and confidence. Frawley’s American Institute of Vedic Studies offers training programs and courses on Ayurveda and Vedic astrology.

“In the process,” adds Halpern, “a number of associations have come up.” “Two independent representative organizations formed to support the growth of Ayurveda in the US are the National Association of Ayurvedic Medicine and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine,” he states. In the same way, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), which is a national organization representing the Ayurvedic profession in the US preserves, protects, improves and promotes the philosophy, knowledge, science and practice of Ayurveda in the continent.

The purpose of the association is to provide leadership within the Ayurvedic profession and to promote a positive vision for Ayurveda and its holistic approach to health and wellness. The association’s mission is to create and implement a dynamic strategic plan to ensure the professional growth and success of Ayurveda. NAMA is organizing its National Ayurvedic Conference, Ayurveda in America Today, from October 16-19 at TradeWinds Sirata Beach Resort in Florida.

While Ayurveda is increasingly at home with mainstream America, it has yet to gain the official recognition it has been long fighting for. You have to be a naturopath to open a clinic and practice as a doctor, but if you are a doctorate in Ayurveda from India, you don’t have rights to practice as a doctor. Most US states are loathe accepting Ayurveda’s “scientific legitimacy’ even at a time when the continent’s scientific bodies are taking an increasing interest in the system and its components.

Recently National Cancer Institute funded 11 separate studies on Ayurvedic herbal preparations, as agents to be investigated for their possible role in the prevention and treatment of cancer. World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, has created the first global strategy for traditional medicine. The strategy is designed to ensure traditional remedies aren't hijacked and patented by big business and that medicinal plants are not wiped out by over harvesting.

The United Nations health agency aims to bring traditional, or alternative therapies – of which Ayurveda is a part – out of the shadows by intensifying research into their effectiveness and safety, by promoting their proper use and regulation and by helping countries integrate them into their health care services.

As a result of stringent rules it is hard time for doctors to practice Ayurveda, and difficult for patients to find them. The only option they are left with is buying Ayurvedic products from companies based within and outside the US. The US-based companies, however, have been a little more snazzy and up market in their approach towards product development than their counterparts elsewhere.

"Most people are busy," says Jill Scoggins, public relations manager for the Houston-based Ayurvedic company Himalaya.. "If you can give them a product that helps them detoxify or boost immunity to cope with stress, they'll be more likely to buy that product." The idea is to develop ready-to-go formulas for people who don't know anything about Ayurveda," says Kush Khanna, director of operations at Bazaars of India Imports at Berkley.

While America has gradually accepted integrative approach to health as the best one you can have, Douillard feels that the message of Ayurveda is timely, and that it will soon be a household word in the US.

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