When trying to find wellbeing and balance in life, people are looking more and more towards ancient techniques in this busy world, and Ayurvedic healing is finally having a moment
Hong Kong is a busy place, and many people feel burnt out due to excessive work hours. We’re starting to see a huge growth in alternative healing options in the city itself, along with a growing interest in wellness holidays from Hong Kong where people can try and get their wellbeing back on track while also enjoying a vacation and picking up new skills. And at COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali, Dr Prasanth brings Ayurvedic healing and his twenty-plus years of practice to the world. We took to the yoga mat to learn more about this ancient tradition.
Hi, Dr Prasanth. Thanks so much for sitting down with me. I know that you’re originally from the birthplace of Ayurveda – Kerala, India – but how did you first become interested in Ayurvedic healing?
From childhood, I had a great affinity for the Ayurvedic science of healing, thanks to a family history of Ayurvedic physicians. After finishing high school, the system in India is that if you want to study any type of medicine you need to study general medicine first, and if you qualify in that, then you select your field. So I chose Ayurveda as my profession.
The university degree itself takes five and half years, with the final year in internship. I’m also a qualified yoga instructor, and the qualification for Ayurveda also includes yoga. They’re actually sister sciences, so there are a lot of common areas of philosophy and practice.
And once you qualified? What did you do then?
At the beginning of my career I actually was more on the clinical side, so I worked in some of the Ayurvedic hospitals in India. Then I changed to more of the wellness retreat side of things, so I worked with a number of big groups in India, and I also worked with the Centre for Healthy Living in Malacca, Malaysia. Then I began working with the COMO group as a visiting wellness consultant in the Maldives before moving to a full time position as their Ayurvedic Consultant at COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali.
So, in India, is there an opportunity for Western medicine and Ayurvedic healing to be practiced together in hospitals?
Actually, the latest holistic trend in India is that many of the large hospitals that practice Western medicine will also have an Ayurvedic department. Now, of course, there are some limitations for us, for example we wouldn’t work in emergency medicine, but there are opportunities during recovery for it to be introduced. For example, if a patient has had a stroke and is working through the difficulties during recovery, then Ayurveda certainly has a role to play there, and we are seeing these fields working in conjunction together more and more.
Ayurvedic healing has clearly been practiced in India for thousands of years, but in terms of the rest of world, are you seeing it become more popular?
I’ve been practicing for 21 years, so that’s over two decades. Although Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences, yoga became more well-known first, but now people are beginning to understand that Ayurveda helps greatly with healthy living. And I’m very happy to see this positive growth in interest, study and understanding.
How would you explain Ayurvedic healing to anyone unfamiliar with the science?
So at the very heart of Ayurvedic philosophy is the The Dosha Theory, which is about the three elements, and everything else in Ayurvedic healing is built upon this theory. The theory says that every human being is made up of three elements: air, fire and water, and when a person has an exactly equal combination of these three elements, then that leads to perfect health. But, you won’t see many people in that perfectly balanced state.
Actually, Ayurveda has a recorded history of 2000 years, but it existed well before that, and the perfect balance was defined back in those early days. Back then, achieving the perfect balance was much easier, as there was less pollution, people had a more natural way of living, and there was almost no stress, so even though it’s not impossible to achieve this perfect balance nowadays, we need to put more effort into finding it.
So how do people go about finding this perfect balance then? And how do you facilitate that?
Well, it can be achieved by adjusting your lifestyle, your dietary requirements, things like this. In a basic Ayurvedic consultation, we analyse the three element levels of a person. The first stage of the consultation is non-physical. During this stage, the person is asked a lot of questions about their health, and that actually takes up the majority of a standard initial 60-minute consultation. These questions cover everything from your sleep to your personality and your mood, with each answer getting me closer to your dosha levels.
The rest of the consultation is concerned with your ayurvedic pulse diagnosis. This part takes much less time, maybe 5-10 minutes, but it gives me a clearer idea of what is happening. Here I learn more about blood flow, as each element has its own type of flow.
Finally, the third part is all about observations, where I’d examine the tongue, skin and hair. So at the beginning of the consultation, you will tell me about you and later on, your body will tell me about you.
And what happens after the consultation?
If the three elements are not equal, which is very common, then there are a variety of treatments to help find balance, including internal medicines and supplements, but a very important part is the dietary changes, which are designed for specific doshas. Activity is also sorted dependant on the doshas, and this decides which yoga practices are best depending on the Ayurvedic type.
At COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali, there are also different Ayurvedic massages and oils prescribed dependant on the different doshas. But really this is about lifestyle changes that need to be made in the day-to-day lives of the clients. So we design a programme for the guests to continue on once they go home too; it’s really a lifestyle training programme.
And in this digital age, what kinds of different trends are you seeing with your patients?
The most common problem now is stress. Before, it was often called the gateway to disease, but now it’s more like the disease itself. It affects people of all ages and cultures and stress-induced fatigue syndrome is very common to see nowadays, as people are working many hours in the same position; sitting is the new smoking. This can be very detrimental to both physical and mental health.
This is where special breathing techniques and relaxation or meditation exercises from Ayurveda can greatly help people de-stress. And these ancient techniques have been scientifically proven to elevate relaxation in the brain in a number of studies.
Wow! It’s such a fascinating science. Thank you so much for sharing. Finally, how are you enjoying the Bali life?
I think every place has its own importance, but I would say that Bali has some of the most positive healing vibrations, especially the part of Bali where COMO Shambhala Estate is based, which is in Ubud. Ubud is actually the healing capital of Bali, and you’ll find a lot of traditional healers there and Ayurveda is very much aligned with those types of healers. It’s so wonderful being there.
Find out more about consultations with Dr Prasanth at COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali.