Once the province of only Deepak Chopra and a few exotic but remote Indian masters, Ayurveda has gone mainstream via Dr. Oz and others — and its appeal continues to grow.
Dr. Marc Halpern, president and founder of the California College of Ayurveda in Nevada City, says the attraction for modern culture is Ayurveda’s focus on healing the root cause of disease, pain and suffering: separation from ourselves, from others, the natural world and life in general.
“Disease is caused by forgetting that we are connected to everyone and everything,” says Halpern, a top pioneer of Ayurveda in the Western world. “When we forget, our mind gets caught up in drama, which causes stress and negative thinking.
“That causes us to make poor choices in our lives and to misuse our senses,” he adds.
Eating junk food, listening to violent music or words, watching violence on TV — all those are “misusing our senses,” Halpern says.
“Ayurvedic medicine teaches us how to properly use our senses, and to make healthy choices,” he said. “Ayurvedic practitioners support us in how to succeed in making lifestyle changes.”
This Saturday, the school will hold a free open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the college at 700 Zion St., Nevada City. Included are tours of the school, herbal garden and clinic, free mini-counseling and education sessions on Ayurvedic therapies and spa treatment demonstrations.
Also available will be information on enrollment in the various Ayurvedic practitioner training programs. Fall classes at the college start in October for both full-time and part-time programs leading to certification as an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) or Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist (CAS).
Shorter training programs include Ayurvedic Massage and Pancha Karma, a series of cleansing, purification and rejuvenation treatments. Both the school classes and the clinic sessions are held at the 13,000-square-foot renovated circa-1939 building that was once Nevada County’s main medical facility, the Miners’ Clinic.
Two auxiliary buildings house additional classes, and remote Internet live participation is also available for most of the trainings.
“We have people attending classes from all over the world,” Halpern said.
Halpern, 51, who founded the school in 1995 at his then-home in Grass Valley, bought and rehabbed the former hospital building in 2010. He now lives in Nevada City, and his school is now licensed and certified by the state of California and recognized across the country by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.
“We were the first Ayurvedic medicine school to open up outside of India,” said Halpern, author of “Healing Your Life: Lessons in the Path of Ayurveda” (2011) and two major Ayurvedic medicine textbooks. He originally trained as a chiropractor at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in California, then added a postgraduate certification as a holistic medicine practitioner from New York Chiropractic College.
Once he discovered Ayurveda, he brought in Indian masters to the U.S. to study with them personally.
“My role has been to design and build the profession in the U.S.,” said Halpern, who founded both the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. He has won numerous honors and serves on the advisory boards of several medical journals.
Treatment at the college’s clinic usually involves regular counseling with a practitioner to focus on lifestyle adjustments, a customized herbal prescription and physical therapies as needed. A counseling session could range anywhere from $30 for a school intern to $150 per session with a college faculty member.
Practitioners treat every condition that a Western medical doctor would treat, from colds, indigestion and acne to cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s.
Halpern and the school have already published three research papers, in collaboration with U.C. Davis’s dermatology department, on Ayurvedic herbs and dermatology – and is working on a fourth. In addition, the college plans to launch a Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine (D.Ay) training program in 2016.
Practitioners and the approximately 150 students use the school’s 200-herb pharmacy to custom-mix herbs according to each person’s condition and to their body constitution, or “dosha.”
In Ayurvedic theory, people generally fall into one or more of three “doshas,” each with their own typical imbalances: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
A Vata imbalance might be constipation, anxiety or sleeplessness, while a Pitta imbalance could be hepatitis, red rashes or fever – and so on.
Fresh herbs for the pharmacy are also grown in the school’s herbal teaching garden, sponsored in partnership with Organic India, an international herbal company.
The school, which does not espouse any particular religion, spiritual path or diet, also has classes in yoga and meditation.
“Ayurvedic medicine understands and recognizes all diets, and that each person has different needs,” Halpern said. “Some people thrive as vegans; some do not.
“Ayurvedic medicine is really the path to find out what diet works for you,” he added.
Similarly, Ayurvedic medicine supports people in following any spiritual path that brings them closer to remembering their connection to all of life.
“We encourage people to go deeper into their spiritual journey,” he said, “regardless of the path.”
For more information or to schedule a clinic session, visit www,ayurvedacollege.com or call 530-478-9100.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
“Ayurvedic practitioners support us in how to succeed in making lifestyle changes.”
Dr. Marc Halpern