For people who are interested in learning more about Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of the Indian subcontinent, we offer this guest post by Jennifer Rioux, PhD. She is a Doctor of Ayurveda, a Certified Yoga Therapist, and an M.Div. Candidate in addition to being an anthropologist. Dr. Rioux has spent years, as she describes below, studying Ayurvedic medical practice.
How I Got Interested in Ayurveda:
I began my involvement with Ayurveda as a medical anthropologist, studying the development of the profession as part of my doctoral training. This powerful healing paradigm encompasses a mind-body-spirit approach to resolving the root causes of disorder and disease (rather than just treating symptoms). My fascination with the paradigm led me to pursue clinical training during my doctoral research. My background in qualitative, ethnographic and whole-systems research has provided me with the skill set to publish numerous articles on Ayurveda and Yoga in the peer-reviewed medical literature, covering theoretical advancements, systematic reviews and clinical trials. After 20 years practicing in the field, I am recognized at the highest level of Ayurvedic Doctor, one of the first twenty providers given this recognition in the United States. I am also a certified Yoga Therapist through International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), whose curriculum encompasses another 1,000 hours of training.
Anthropology and Ayurveda:
Between 2002 and 2010, I taught at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the Anthropology Department, developing the first social science course devoted to the study of Ayurvedic medicine. Subsequently, I was awarded an NIH fellowship to pursue further research on Ayurveda at the University of Arizona and to participate in collaborative patient care through Andrew Weil’s Center for Integrative Medicine. I have taught medical students, residents, and interns about Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga Therapy at two medical schools in the Southwest and have worked with hundreds of patients experiencing a variety of conditions at various stages of the life cycle. This work has been challenging, satisfying and transformative. Results for patients are overwhelmingly positive and life affirming.
Ayurvedic Medical Practice:
As a two-time Board member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), I take my role in educating the public about this powerful health care system very seriously. I have been a practicing Ayurvedic clinician and Yoga Therapist since 1998 and the profession has undergone lightning-speed changes in the past 20 years. NAMA was founded in 2000 and I was originally elected to the Board in 2004, just after we held our first annual conference in 2003. This past April we held our 13th annual conference and our offerings were focused on enhancements to clinical practice and building our evidence-base through research initiatives.
Since 2000, NAMA has developed educational standards for the Ayurvedic schools training our practitioners. These educational standards take the form of scopes of practice, curricular guidelines, hourly requirements for certification, a newly formed accreditation board and credentialing committee.
The Ayurvedic profession now has three levels of certification. The first level is the Ayurvedic Health Counselor (750-1000 hours) and these professionals focus on education, health promotion and preventive self-care. The second level is Ayurvedic Practitioner, whose scope of practice includes assessment and treatment of disease and understanding of Ayurvedic herbal medicines. These professionals have approximately 1500-2500 hours of study and have undertaken a clinical internship.
The most advanced level of Ayurvedic certification is the Ayurvedic Doctor, who trains for between 3000-4500 hours and not only has a complete scope of practice in terms of disease management, but a more comprehensive understanding of Ayurvedic science, materia medica, research competencies and many years of clinical work with patients.
How Can You Find a Qualified Practitioner?
As someone who chaired the Standards Committee for several years and played a key role in developing standards for Ayurvedic medical practice, I am proud to say that our profession is populated by well-trained and committed professionals who adhere to ethical standards of practice and are required to complete annual continuing education requirements. However, not all individuals who say they practice Ayurvedic medicine meet these rigorous standards, nor are they certified by NAMA. As a consumer, it is important that you do your homework by visiting the National Ayurvedic Medicine website when searching for a practitioner in your area and determine that you have found someone who meets the standards and scope of practice required to treat your condition. Many Ayurvedic professionals are also trained in Yoga therapy, our sister science and a valuable body of therapeutics. However, again, not all those offering yoga therapy meet the standards of IAYT and we have partnered with IAYT on many occasions to increase the training in our allied fields.
Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy:
Most recently, I have been involved in the development of our newest certification in Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy, a curriculum that integrates the complementary training of the Ayurvedic Health Counselor and the Yoga therapist, thereby providing an enhanced skill set for the assessment and treatment of disorders that can benefit from a synergistic application of these two related healing disciplines. NAMA has begun the implementation of national exams for two of three provider categories, as a necessary step towards licensing our health professionals. All of this work in professionalizing the discipline means that health care consumers can feel confident in seeking out Ayurvedic care and understanding the training and credentials of available providers. I have continued to develop my practice and have branched out into: Ayurvedic TeleHealth – where I can counsel patients on Ayurveda and Yoga via skype; Ayurvedic group visits – where individuals with similar conditions can benefit from a hybrid of condition-specific and tailored-to-the-individual health care; and the development of a powerful Ayurvedic public health paradigm focused on prevention, self-care and a communal commitment to addressing the social precursors of disease. You can find some of my research cited by NIH at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/weightloss-science#yoga
I am available for Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga Therapy consultations, mentorship of students and providers, workshops, retreats and the traditional intensive Ayurvedic detox and rejuvenation therapy, known as Panchakarma. My website can be viewed at https://www.integralayurvedayoga.com and I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 520-302-8568.