Join us as we explore the context and principles of Ayurveda across time.
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Today we have Dr. Matthew Shijoe here who is an Ayurvedic Doctor and Clinician. He studied Ayurveda at the University of Calcutta, in Kerala, has a PG Diploma in Panchakarma practices and has done clinical research. He teaches at the Jivita Academy online, he consults for the Ananda clinic in Rishikesh and we are so lucky here in Sussex that he practises in Hollingbury at The Circle Clinic. Today we’ll be talking about different approaches to health and healing between East and West, and about his Ayurvedic practice. Welcome Dr. Mathew.
Dr. Shijoe: Thank you very much for having me here, it’s my pleasure.
Hannah: Maybe you could start by talking to us about, ‘What is Ayurveda?’
Dr. Shijoe: Definitely. My practice in the UK is really about demystifying what Ayurveda is – so in essence, I’ve learned to sort of explain it in different ways. And I think the best explanation I’ve come with now is that Ayurveda is not a science, it’s a way of living. It is understanding the nature of ourselves and trying to modify the environment around you including your diet, and your lifestyle, in a way that can support you, maintain a certain level of balance, and prevent illnesses. And if there is any anomalies, how we can utilise this knowledge of how our bodies interact with the environment and bring about balance, rather than just address the symptoms. So it’s basically a way of living, I think.
Hannah: To be truly effective, it’s got to be a full way of living.
Dr. Shijoe: Yes definitely, and also there is a huge emphasis on preventing illnesses. It’s also based on when it originated, the texts which we follow are around 2000-3000 years old. That’s because that’s when they were written, but before that it was still propagated through oral traditions and you can see that most of them are written in verses rather than in long prose. And I think during that time that this originated, the average lifespan was quite less compared to now – but we also know that that is because once you have an illness, the chances of recovery are lesser. It doesn’t mean that nobody lives beyond 40 or that the average lifespan is say, 35 – 40, it doesn’t mean that everybody struggles to age to 80, 90, or 100. There’s still people who manage to do that, but if you get into a state of illness, the chances of recovery are much less. So priority is always given to prevention – rather than managing a crisis. So there’s a lot of detail into understanding what exactly is ‘real health’ – what exactly is balance – so it’s trying to sort of manage those elements and bring about better health and better resilience to changes around you rather than managing the crisis, like the healthcare system we have now which is tilted towards managing issues, and that way we have lost our ability to focus on maintaining resilience – which is what evidently this pandemic is showing us that we need to do.
Hannah: With proper resilience, we may not be in a position where a global pandemic would break out to begin with.
Dr. Shijoe: Definitely, I think we can see that the illness we’re facing right now also varies a lot the way it affects each individual. It doesn’t show the same behaviour of say, tuberculosis or leprosy, which are all communicable diseases like this. It has so much variety that it shows that the individual is a very active player in this. It can’t be dealt with how we dealt with previous pandemics or communicable diseases because the individual himself plays a huge role in this particular illness. So, the amount of resilience, the amount of good health and balance that you physically and mentally develop will definitely affect the outcome of this disease for sure. It just needs to be further studies to find out some evidence which is a language we should speak more clearly to the scientific community of our generation.
Hannah: I like what you said around resilience and health.
Dr. Shijoe: Yeah, so it feels a bit superficial sometimes, because we are talking about resilience, strength, all of which has got a very deep meaning – but the person who is hearing it without the background of understanding the philosophy and the ideas behind it would feel it’s quite superficial. So it would lack the same impact as when someone who knows the philosophy of balance, or the philosophy of health, whereas I maybe have a more traditional or as I would say, a more natural point of view – they would understand it much less deeply. So that was my intention going into studying clinical research to understand the aspect behind it – but I got called into more clinician and patient based work a bit later so I didn’t get to continue that process of translating ideas into something that the scientific community can understand.
Hannah: We’ve talked a lot in our conversations about this meeting between Eastern and Western medicine, or alternative and allopathic approaches, and where it’s at right now. Could you tell us a little bit about how Ayurveda has developed in the last century or so, and where it’s at and the important role that research is playing in its continuation?’….listen to the full cast for more!