An Ayurvedic practitioner is a person who practices Ayurvedic medicine and holistic techniques as mentioned in Ayurveda, the ancient, complete medical system of India. The word ‘Ayurvedic’ denotes the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It is the oldest system of medicine which originated in the Indian subcontinent. In simple language, it is called Ayurveda. The word ‘practitioner’ means a person engaged in the practice of a profession or occupation.
Let’s take a look at what an Ayurvedic practitioner does, what their training is like, Ayurvedic professional associations and what the ancient Ayurvedic texts themselves say about practitioners. Here’s what we’ll cover in this article.
What’s An Ayurvedic Practitioner?
Ayurvedic Practitioners In The U.S.
State Approval In The U.S. And Ayurvedic Practice
Ayurveda Associations In The U.S.
Ayurvedic Practitioner Training In India
What The Ancient Texts Say
Who Is A Good Ayurvedic Practitioner?
Qualities Of A Royal Physician
Six Qualities An Ayurvedic Practitioner Should Have
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Ayurvedic practitioners are concerned with promoting, maintaining and restoring health. They help people to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eliminate impurities from the body, reduce stress and fight against various health problems.
An Ayurvedic practitioner focuses on the interconnectedness between body, mind and spirit to attain the entire well being of the individual.Ayurvedic practitioners are also known asVaidyas,particularly in the Indian subcontinent where Ayurveda originated.
An Ayurvedic practitioner can apply therapeutic treatments according to the Ayurvedic system of medicine. They utilize a deep knowledge of disease diagnosis according to constitution orprakriti, Ayurvedic pathology, Ayurvedic anatomy, three dosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), agni or digestive fire,panchakarma (purification therapies),dravyaguna (Ayurvedic herbal medicines), other Ayurvedic formulations and pharmacology, srotas or channels and eight branches of Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic practice requires both a detailedknowledge of the academic disciplines and a decentcompetence in its applied practice.
Both the role of the Ayurvedic practitioner and the meaning of the word itself vary around the world. Degrees and other qualifications also vary, depending on country and state. Let’s take a look at the criteria for practitioners in the U.S. and also in India.
According to Dr. Marc Halpern, the founder and president of the California College of Ayurveda (CCA), in the United States the quality and curriculum vary widely across the country. Ayurveda training programs in the United States fall into four categories.
Some of these programs offer internship while some do not.
Correspondence programs: In correspondence programs students can study at home and correspond with questions to the school. Correspondence courses may include internet based study or reading a textbook provided by the instructor.
Assignments and tests can also be part of these programs. There are many correspondence courses available in the United States.
The National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), which we will discuss below, does not recognize correspondence courses towards national certification.
Full time training programs: In the United States, there areseveral institutions which offer full time study of Ayurveda. They include the California College of Ayurveda (CCA) and the Ayurvedic Institute (AI).
The California College of Ayurveda is directed by Dr. Marc Halpern and is located in Nevada City, California. The Ayurvedic Institute is directed by Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc and is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The length and curriculum of each institution’s program varies. In recent years, additional training programs have emerged including programs offered at Bastyr University, Southern California University of Health Sciences and the American University of Complementary Medicine.
Weekend training programs: In the United States, there are roughly ten weekend training programs. In a weekend training program, students usually have to attend school one weekend per month, over a predetermined period of time. The length of the program may vary. This length is also broken up into levels. Programs vary from 12 weekends on the shorter end to 35 weekends at the California College of Ayurveda.
Short term seminar courses: These courses may vary in content and quality. Some seminar courses are introductory while others may focus on a particular topic. Ayurvedic practitioners can attend these according to their interest. These courses are popular among massage and spa therapists to gain knowledge in various aspects related to Ayurvedic massage and beauty care.
In addition to the above mentioned programs, various institutes or schools in the United States offer internship training programs. Internship training can be in health counseling or in a clinical setting or in both. In an internship, it is up to the institution whether the student is allowed to observe client care or to practice under supervision.11
Most of the Ayurvedic schools and institutions require state approval to operate. State approval is mainly based on financial stability and professional operation. Schools or institutions have to apply for a state license or state approval so that they can provide education. The rules may vary from one state to other.
A handful of U.S. states including California, Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico and Rhode Island have made specific laws known as “Health Freedom Acts”. These were passed to protect the practice of alternative medicine and the practitioners who provide these services. The practice of Ayurveda is protected within these laws.
Ayurvedic massage is regulated through the massage law of most states. Ayurvedic practitioners cannot call themselves doctors in the United States, even if they have a valid Ayurvedic degree from India where it is natural to do so.
Ayurvedic practitioners cannot make a diagnosis according to allopathic medicine unless they are also medical doctors. Instead, they will refer to pathology according to Ayurveda using the classical texts and they will use the Sanskrit terms to describe pathology which are mentioned in their classical textbooks.
Ayurvedic practitioners are not allowed to interfere with prescriptions given out by licensed healthcare providers. Clients should not stop their medicines to start their Ayurvedic protocol and should always follow the guidance of their healthcare provider.
Ayurvedic practitioners are not allowed to perform any kind of surgical procedure in the U.S. They are not allowed to perform any procedure which penetrates the skin or any orifice of the body.
These regulations are the same for any India-trained Ayurvedic practitioners working in the United States.11
The National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), founded in 2000, is the largest association ofAyurvedic practitioners in theUnited States, representing and supporting the Ayurveda community. NAMA establishes educational standards in the United States along with competency guidelines for practice. They operate a yearly professional conference and their website includes a practitioner directory.
According to NAMA, Ayurvedic Health Counselor students will complete a minimum of 600 hours of a NAMA-approved Ayurveda program to qualify. Ayurvedic Practitioners must complete a minimum of 1500 hours training in an approved program. After completion, both health counselors and practitioners can be listed in the organization’s online referral directory and have access to practitioner-only events.
In some cases, graduates of non-approved programs may also qualify for practitioner membership if their programs meet NAMA’s standard.
NAMA also lobbies for national standards forAyurvedic colleges and practitioners as well as standards for state license forAyurvedic practitioners. They promote professional liability and offer insurance coverage for Ayurvedic practitioners.
They also support research into the study of Ayurveda.
The Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America (AAPNA) is another professional organization for Ayurveda founded in 2007. It is a non-profit corporation and its mission is to unite Ayurvedic and integrative medicine health professionals, students, academic institutions and organizations.
Hopefully this article is helping you understand the Ayurvedic practitioner, general information related to the Ayurvedic practitioner, and how one can become an Ayurvedic practitioner along with the eligibility criteria to do so.
In India where Ayurveda is regulated in a government branch called AYUSH, some Ayurvedic practitioners focus their practice on specific methods of treatment, particular health issues or particular types of patients. They are known as specialists.Others may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing comprehensive medical care to individuals, families and communities. They are known as general practitioners.
Criteria for being a legal Ayurvedic practitioner differs from country to country.
In India, Nepal and some other Asian countries there is a professional degree offered called the Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery (BAMS). The word ‘surgery’ in BAMS denotes para surgical procedures likekshara karma,kshara sutra karma,agnikarma,siravyadaha,jalukavacharana (leech therapy), et cetera. These may be utilized in such disease conditions like fissure, fistula, piles, pilonidal sinus, non healing wounds and more. These procedures are performed and described in the ancient Ayurvedic texts by Sushruta who is known as the father of surgery.
The degree of BAMS has been awarded after five and a half years duration. This five and a half years duration includes one year of internship.The curriculum includes Ayurvedic subjects such asrachana shariraor Ayurvedic anatomy,kriya sharira or Ayurvedic physiology,dravya gunaor herbal pharmacology,svastha vritta(the state of being healthy) and yoga,roga nidanaandvikriti vijnana(Ayurvedic pathology),kaya chikitsa(general or internal medicine),kaumara bhritya(pediatrics according to Ayurveda),stri avum prasuti tantra(gynecology and obstetrics according to Ayurveda),shalya tantra(explanation of surgery according to Ayurveda),shalakya tantra(eye, ear, nose and throat according to Ayurveda), history of Ayurveda and more. Students also study humananatomy, physiology,pathology and Ayurvedic diagnostic procedures, principles of medicine,pharmacology, toxicology,forensic medicine, ophthalmology and principles of surgery from modern medicine. The syllabus also includes ancient and medieval classics, sometimes inSanskrit. Many colleges offer translation of ancient Sanskrit textbooks in Hindi or English along with the original text.
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After receiving the BAMS degree the Ayurvedic physician or practitioner is also known as Ayurveda acharya. At this time, they can either continue general practice or pursue higher studies such as MD Ayurveda and PhD. A practitioner awarded with MD Ayurveda is known as Ayurvedic Vachaspati.
An MD in Ayurveda in India is available in concentrations like kaya chikitsa or internal medicine,pancha karma therapy or purification therapies,kaumara bhritya or pediatrics according to Ayurveda,stri avum parsooti tantra or gynecology and obstetrics according to Ayurveda, yoga and more. An MS in Ayurveda is also available where various para surgical procedures are taught according to the classical Ayurvedic text books. These procedures includekshara karma or caustic therapy,kshara sutra or medicated caustic thread (medicated with Ayurvedic formulations),agnikarma or thermal cautery,sira vyadaha or bloodletting,jaluka avacharana or leech therapy and more.
After MD Ayurveda or MS Ayurveda the PhD in Ayurveda is also available. This is a three year research-based doctorate level degree program in the field of Ayurvedic medicine and its therapeutic effects. However the course time may vary from three to five years.
This is the highest level academic certification in the field of Ayurvedic study. The minimum eligibility criteria for admission into a PhD Ayurveda program is post graduate level qualification or Master of Philosophy in the concerned subject.
The focus of the course curriculum is on imparting practical level skills. The students are then able to practice the traditional medicine for therapeutic purposes. The PhD program in Ayurvedic medicine is available in various subjects includingkaya chikitsa (general medicine),brih trayi or three Samhita (basic principles),panchakarma (purification therapies) and more.
In a PhD course of study, Ayurveda students areprovided with in-depth insight into the their subject along with all possible dimensions which the subject can inculcate. The students are indulged in research and practice on Ayurvedic medicine and other aspects related to the domain as a part of their academic curriculum.
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Thesis or report submission are some of the methods through which doctorate students are assessed in terms of their learning capabilities. At the same time, practice and fieldwork are also utilized. An Ayurvedic physician with a PhD is also known as an AyurvedaVaridhi.
Post-graduate diplomas in various subjects such aspanchakarma(purification therapies), balarogaor children’s health, certified yoga instructor or research work in Ayurveda are also available after BAMS. After completion of the Bachelor’s degree the Ayurvedic practitioner can use the title of doctor,vaidya or Ayurvedaacharya in front of his or her name in India. Outside India, the Ayurvedic practitioner can not use the title of doctor alongside his or her name.
Outside certain South Asian countries where Ayurveda is not integrated with the national health system, it is punishable by law to practice unless, in some cases, the practitioner holds a license as per the norms of that country for Ayurvedic system of medicine.
Usage of Ayurvedic medicine also varies from country to country. Along with herbal formulations, some Ayurvedic formulations contain minerals, metals, animal products or mercury. Every country has their own rules on which Ayurvedic formulations are allowed and which are not allowed for what is deemed safe for use.
In addition to Ayurvedic practitioners there are those who practice traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy, Tibetan medicine, Siddha medicine, Unani medicine and acupuncture. These are sometimes confused with Ayurveda. These systems of medicine are separate from Ayurveda but also fall under alternative systems of medicine. Again, every country has their own rules and regulations regarding all these systems of medicines.
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Let’s now take a look at the qualities of an Ayurvedic practitioner or physician according to the renowned Ayurvedic textbook, theCharaka Samhita. In the ninth chapter of the section called Sutra Sthana in this text, there is a description of the four basic elements of Ayurvedic treatment. All these qualities are necessary to fulfill the purpose of treatment: abhishak which is an Ayurvedic physician, anaushadh dravya which is Ayurvedic medicine, aparicharaka which is an attendant like a nurse and arogi which is the client. These four basic elements further have their own qualities. When all these have their requisite qualities only then diseases are cured.1
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These are the four essential qualities an Ayurvedic physician or practitioner should possess.
There are four basic elements of Ayurvedic treatment, each with four essential qualities totaling sixteen. These sixteen qualities are responsible for success in treatment. The practitioner has been considered the most important of the four elements. The practitioner has knowledge of disease and its management, administrative power over the attending care taker or nurse, and the ability to make a management plan and diet plan.3
In the Charaka Samhita it is mentioned that it is better to leave your body to a fire than be treated by a quack or ignorant or unknowledgeable physician. An ignorant physician suggesting Ayurvedic medicine or management without knowing it completely is just like a blind person who is moving in fear with the help of his hands or a stick.
An ignorant physician or quack can treat people by chance, but it can be dangerous or fatal to people if they are not getting proper management for their problem.4
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These are the qualities of a good Ayurvedic practitioner according to the ancient Ayurvedic teacher Charaka.
A good Ayurvedic practitioner engages himself in the study of text books related to his field. A good Ayurvedic physician understand the actual meaning of textbooks. A good Ayurvedic practitioner gives importance to practical experience and right application of practical experience. A good Ayurvedic practitioner also watches and understands all management and procedures as many times as he or she can.5
In ancient times there was trend of royal physicians serving the king and related royalty. So the qualities of a royal physician were also mentioned in theCharak Samhita. He should be able to know the cause of the disease. He should be able to know the signs and symptoms of disease. He should be able to provide a management plan for the disease. He should be able to provide preventive measures for the disease so that it would not occur again.6
A weapon, scripture and water always want a holder. The merits and demerits of the weapon, scripture and water depend upon the holder which holds them. So a physician should make his intellect and thought process pure and clear with the help of a good teacher and good textbooks.7
Classically, a practitioner who possesses these six qualities can cure all treatable diseases.8
An Ayurvedic practitioner should possess education and knowledge of the texts, intellect, observe management related to Ayurvedic medicine, take practical experience, expertise in a field and should accommodate fellow good physicians. The vaidya or Ayurvedic practitioner who has all these qualities together, has the ability to distribute comfort and happiness to all living beings.9
The other three elements of medicine, attendant and client are dependent upon the physician. So it is the responsibility of thevaidya or Ayurvedic practitioner that he should always strive to have all the required qualities.10
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