When I began my self-study and practice of Ayurveda fifteen years ago, I had no idea how much it would change me. At that time, I was somehow managing a career in medicine, two young children, an equally successful husband, and a close-knit extended South Asian family. Most people would say that I “had it all,” but I didn’t feel that way. Instead, I felt exhausted… my body was sick, my mind was overwhelmed, and my spirit was depleted. I was in constant motion, moving from one task to another and moving between the roles of mother, wife, daughter, physician, and countless others, every day. The only time I wasn’t in motion was when I was sleeping, which wasn’t often.
My body kept giving me small clues to slow down and rest. I kept ignoring them… a headache here, a back spasm there… constipation, weight gain, skin rashes… the list went on. I attributed it all to stress. And to fatigue. Like my peers around me, I ignored the symptoms I was feeling and pushed through.
There I was, day after day, working in the emergency room trying to help patients get better while I was getting sicker and sicker. The irony of this didn’t escape me then and doesn’t escape me today.
My symptoms—the plantar fasciitis and weight gain and constipation and headaches and chronic back spasms—were all speaking to me, but I wasn’t listening. It wasn’t until these symptoms stopped me, quite literally, that I finally started to hear what they were telling me. I was bending over to fold a blanket and fell to my knees. I threw out my back and couldn’t move for five days. Lying there in my bed, in pain and unable to do anything, I had a lot of time to think. I had to ask myself some difficult questions. Questions that I didn’t have answers to. Questions I would continue to ask myself for the next few months. Questions that eventually led to leaving my career in Western medicine and embarking upon a journey that brought me back to Ayurveda, the medicine I had grown up with.
Like many others, I started looking for answers at a time when I desperately needed my health. Because I didn’t know what else to do, I did what I knew—I returned to the ways of my childhood, the time of my life when I had been healthy. I grew up in a South Asian household in which the principles and practices of Ayurveda, the traditional healing science of India, were a part of my daily life. It was just the way we did things. I never stopped to consider where those traditions came from. I mean, I knew that those ways of eating and living and healing came from my family’s country of origin and that my parents were doing what they knew. But I never stopped to think about the fact that the way I had lived for the first 18 years of my life might be an alternative to Western medicine.
Discovering real healing
When I turned to Ayurveda, I had no idea that this ancient healing tradition from India, the birthplace of my parents and countless generations before them would end up being the medicine that I had hoped to practice when I began medical school… and the medicine that would heal me. It is a system that looks at how the whole person connects to everything, rather than how that person is connected to their symptoms. It is a system centered around the individual, not the illness. And it is part of a universal, collective truth that is found within.
What I had been looking for had been in front of me all along. Ayurveda, the medicine of my ancestors, was the system of “inner medicine” in which the key was the healer within. Ayurveda changed everything. It changed how I lived my life and how I practiced the art of medicine.
The healer is within
Using the principles and remedies of Ayurveda, I learned how to live in harmony with nature, how to adjust my daily habits and routines to support my health, and how to tune into my inner wisdom and access the healing power within me. I learned how to slow down and be still, how to be kind to myself, and how to focus on what really matters. Ayurveda was the catalyst I needed to transform my relationship to my symptoms, take control of my healing, and restore my health.
About Dr. Kumar-Singh
For the past 20 years, Dr. Kumar-Singh has made it her mission to demystify Ayurveda, showing how simple, ancient practices are the key to unlocking a healthy modern life. She’s the co-lead facilitator of the Faculty Scholars Program in Integrative Healthcare at the OSHER Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Learn more at http://avantikumarsingh.com/