Ayurvedic medicine came to Asheville at least 12 years ago, when Vishnu Dass opened Blue Lotus Ayurveda, a Panchakarma clinic. Back then, “There was nobody practicing clinical Ayurveda in Asheville and very few in this entire region,” says Dass, who started teaching the art at various yoga and clinical herb schools in the area, including the Asheville Yoga Center, Blue Ridge Schoolof Herbal Medicine and others around the Southeast.
This fall, the growth and popularity of the practice and art comes of age: The Asheville School of Massage and Yoga has collaborated with local practitioners like Dass to develop the city’s first Ayurveda wellness counselor certification program, a 600-hour curriculum approved by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.
“Developing the curriculum for [the program] was a natural progression of my love for this great path,” says Shala Worsley, director of the Asheville School of Massage and Yoga. The curriculum is laid out in 12 weekend workshops, weekly conference calls and a supervised Ayurveda internship, she explains. The new program suggests a significant growth in the popularity of Ayurveda as a professional alternative to traditional health care in this area, and Worsley hopes it will have a positive impact on our community.
“The intention behind [the new program] is to spread the word about this amazing method of natural healthcare, so that our community can grow and thrive,” says Worsley. “Ayurveda empowers people to take charge of their own health and well-being and prevent disease with the help of diet, daily and seasonal routines as well as purification and rejuvenation practices.”
Worsley notes that the growth of Ayurveda locally will have a positive impact on the health of the community, “as more and more of Asheville’s citizens become aware of the principles of Ayurveda and apply them to their lives by making simple, inexpensive, but deeply effective changes; our community will become stronger and healthier.”
But why Asheville?
One local practitioner, Uma Thomson, co-owner of Living Alchemy Ayurveda, explains that she was practicing the art in Boulder, Colorado, before her husband, Marek, convinced her that a move to Asheville would be good for them. Her husband had lived in Asheville before, she says, and he “basically wore me down over the course of several years to move to Asheville, a more grassroots, affordable and conscious, creative town.”
And how did many local practitioners make their way to the Ayurvedic approach? Some became interested in Ayurveda as a natural extension of their yoga studies. “I was already a massage therapist and yoga teacher, and Ayurveda was like an umbrella, unifying and deepening these holistic healing arts.” says Thomson, “Although I am drawn to many forms of holistic health, Ayurveda was the system that worked the best for me to understand my unique constitution and how to orientmy whole life toward health and balance.”
Dass found the art through the encouragement of his yoga guru and notes that Ayurveda was attractive because “it starts with how we wake up, how we start our day. It is essentially about self-care, working in the foundation of our health rather than trying to wrangle ourselves back to health with herbs and supplements.”
Worsley says, “I’m a total Ayurveda nerd. I love studying it, talking to my friends and massage students about it, and putting it to practice in my own life.”
A glance at the program curriculum demonstrates the holistic nature and scope of the Ayurvedic system — in Sanskrit, “Ayurveda” means the science or knowledge of life, so naturally, workshops cover Ayurvedic history, cooking, nutrition, case-taking, herbs, cleansing and rejuvenation, fertility, body treatments, and marma points — all to provide students with a solid foundation in the fundamental principles of Ayurveda. The curriculum also serves to empower them to begin taking charge of their health with a natural and practical approach.
Says Worsley, “Potentially, our community will spend less on health care costs and have more funds available to use for other purposes like education, the environment, social needs and so on.”
For more information about Ayurveda and the new Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor Certification Program go to ashevillemassageschool.org, bluelotusayurveda.com, livingalchemyayurveda.com and joyfulbelly.com.