Paving paths for Integration of Dermatology and Ayurveda
Dr. Raja Sivamani
Throughout his childhood, Dr. Raja suffered from IBS but when he went away to college, he noticed his digestive issues quickly went away. He wondered why? Years later, it all became clear when he studied Ayurveda.
In college, Dr. Raja studied dermatology at UC Davis and when he graduated he felt something was missing in his education. With only one class on nutrition he felt that too little attention was paid to its importance in the foundation of health. His Indian upbringing had upheld the importance of food in creating better health in their bodies and minds. This is the point when Ayurveda entered his life.
On a tip he received from his mentor, he signed up for a practitioner course at California College of Ayurveda and his life changed in more ways than one. He started realizing that what we eat makes a huge impact on how our body and mind respond, sometimes within minutes! He realized that his IBS during childhood had been triggered by all the spicy foods he ate. When he moved to college the IBS stopped because now he was eating heavy, bland food which was not necessarily healthier but suited his constitution more. He also learned that diets need to be customized to every individual. He considers this Ayurveda’s most powerful teaching.
He came back to the Bay Area armed with his Dermatology degree and Ayurvedic Practitioner qualification ready to share this integrated knowledge with the world. However, he was not prepared for the initial response he got. He was surprised to note that some of his non-Indian clients found Ayurveda to be religious and he got pushback from them. Determined to find a solution, Dr. Raja noted that when he used Sanskrit terms it created barriers to communication. So he tried something new. He replaced the Sanskrit terms with English terms which were much more relatable to his patients. Instead of saying Vata, Pitta, Kapha, for example, he now says dry, sensitive, or oily skin. He supports clients to see patterns on how we are different from each other.
“He asks if all the members of their family like the same food and soon they start understanding the need for an individualized solution to their health issues. He customizes their diet, massage oils, and treatments. This engages them. They feel happy, heard, and honored for their uniqueness.”
Sometimes, he gets clients who are on the other end of the spectrum. They chide modern science and insist on only being consulted the Ayurvedic way. Because of his training, he can see the benefit of both systems and will employ Western medicine when it is necessary and appropriate and recommends the Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle to help correct the underlying cause of the imbalance.
Believing that Ayurveda is bigger than any accreditation, Dr. Raja’s dream is that Ayurveda becomes a way of thinking for all medical professionals. He trusts that the more medical professionals learn about it, the more it will garner critical mass and become popular, just like yoga. He sees that once you break down the central tenets of Ayurveda, anyone can quickly understand it and implement it in their individual style. Since we are all motivated towards a common goal – health for all, he hopes we start building bridges with other medical sciences and don’t see each other as a competition.
Today, Dr. Raja is doing extremely well in his practice. He works with a team of doctors at Pacific Skin Institute and has authored several research manuscripts and textbooks. When asked about how one can join hands with medical professionals he says it takes time and the right attitude. He advises that if you are finding a lot of trouble connecting with them, take time to step back and look at how you are interacting with others because your energy out there is just as important as the energy that you get back. When you put out more positive and kind energy it softens people and he has found that they become much more positive and kind towards you.
His words of wisdom to fellow Ayurveda Professionals “Don’t let the fear of yourself hold you back. We have our own set of preconceived notions of what we can achieve, or where we think something can go. I had them too till I stopped fearing about what people will think of me and I started talking about Eastern medicine in Western medicine circles. More than being accepted, I wanted to find the best path to health. When we do something the first time it is termed ‘weird’, second time ‘kind of weird’ and third time someone will say ‘It was my idea first’. So be confident to pursue what is right to you and don’t let the fear of yourself stop you!
Dr. Sivamani was interviewed by Anumeha Gupta. Anumeha is an Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor, continuing student of Ayurveda practice, and a CAAM volunteer.
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