Ayurveda Day 34: The Stigma of Ayurveda

Why should anyone take Ayurveda seriously?

I really mean this as a sincere question. It’s not rhetorical. I mean, how does one talk about it? Often when explaining what I am studying to people, I find myself treading on eggshells, awaiting their inevitable picking apart of my career. It’s because there is so much about Ayurveda that, on the surface, can seem really hokey. Trust me, of all people, I understand this. It’s culturally different and hard for people to trust. But truly, at it’s core, it is a science. The last time I checked, science is hard! There is a lot to know.

Ayurveda gets labeled as an “alternative” medicine. I say “alternative” in quotations because there really is no such thing as alternative medicine. There is either medicine, or there isn’t. It either works or it doesn’t. What makes Ayurveda special? What makes it unique in any way? How is it better than the system we already use? If it’s not clinically tested and proven why should you care?

In this blog I struggle with explaining in western terms the complexities of health and wellness that Ayurveda provides. There are many things I simply cannot easily explain to you without you taking a course (and not just a course of Ayurveda, I mean a primer on Indian culture and history as well). Therefore, we, as practitioners, are expecting you take a lot of what we say on faith. Don’t get me wrong, These things work for actual measurable reasons, and not just anecdotal. But the truth is, people will always be cynical. This makes me sad not just because I am Indian, and that Ayurveda is a proud part of my culture, but also because I genuinely wish to help people. I can’t help those that aren’t willing to have a little faith.

But why should you take it on faith? Are we judging Ayurveda more harshly? Don’t we walk into a medical doctor’s office and take everything they say on faith as well? We didn’t all go to med school before deciding to see a doctor. So we trust them. We trust the system hasn’t set us up for failure. Unfortunately, the reality is that clinical trials run by pharmaceutical and insurance companies are riddled with bias.

I can appreciate that in today’s society we need to follow the scientific method. It’s the only way that skepticism will be put to rest. This is a healthy process to follow. But that system we use to determine what is medicine and what isn’t has become corrupted. Greedy people with no interest in your health have got us all fooled into believing everything we read.

This is not to say that all modern medicine is somehow wrong and should be thrown out. I am merely suggesting that there are many variables to consider, which often aren’t, when curing disease. Some things work great. Where would society be without the polio vaccine? But then I take a look around at all the drugs people are taking with so many side effects and my heart gets heavy. Anyone who speaks up about how corrupt it is gets shut down by lobbyists and the media. Or worse still, the general population will do it for them, having been fooled for so long. We spend more time arguing with our biases over what works and what doesn’t rather than actually figuring it out rationally. We have convinced ourselves that arguing and spouting trials as facts is doing it rationally. We have stopped thinking for ourselves in this regard. The skeptic and cynic in me can’t deny that things need to change.

You see, I guess I just grow tired of both sides fighting over which is right. The east and the west both have a lot to offer. The question shouldn’t be over which one to prove or disprove. Both have their place in society, because in the end, healing is the goal. But unless both sides recognize that the system we have in place for determining what is or isn’t medicine needs fixing, then we will continue to fight each other endlessly.

And while we fight, people are suffering. People are in pain. People are dying.

This stigma won’t change within my lifetime. I know that I will always have to explain my profession to people. But I won’t try to convince them of anything. I know that the healing practices will speak for themselves. I will let the results do the talking.

It’s important to be a skeptic in today’s society. But to do so without an open mind to the truth is a truly sad path to be on. Don’t lump everything together into one gigantic dramatic ball just because it’s convenient. You shouldn’t assume all western medicine is 100% solid and tested and effective anymore than you should believe that all Ayurvedic medicine is hokey juju with incense and rituals or that we use arsenic like it’s aspirin. Either way you will sell yourself short of healthiness.

So why should you bother with Ayurveda?

Because in the end, all knowledge in this universe needs to be taken on a little faith. With a little trust. With an open mind.

With gratitude,

S

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