26 Feb Interview with Dr. Claudia Welch from Jasmine Hemsley
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
The translation of “Ayurveda” is “the science of life.” To me the science of life, at its most fine, is learning to live in alignment with my innermost essence — to the best I can access it — and to have my thoughts, words and deeds reflect that alignment.
When did you discover it? How long have you been practicing it?
I discovered it before I knew what it was. There are tangible, theoretical aspects of Ayurveda, that I did not become exposed to until my teens, but I met, listened to and eventually studied and practised with my Guruji starting when I was eight years old. He focused on practical methods to reunite the soul with the Oversoul and how to prepare oneself for that. I didn’t know for many years — maybe even ten or so — that he had been a Vaidya (traditionally trained practitioner of Ayurveda). He was teaching me the more intangible or subtle aspects of life that laid the foundation for the more tangible, theoretical and clinical education. So, I’ve been working with the subtler aspects as long as I can remember, but got exposed to — and interested in — the more tangible aspects in my later teenage years, first through hearing about it and then through a friendship with Dr. Robert Svoboda that continues to this day.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
From childhood I was connected to and interested in India. I was also very interested in local plants in the country where I was growing up. And I was interested in medicine. So it is natural that all these strong interests converged. But I think there is another reason that is subtler: when I was eight years old, I received a letter from my Guruji, who lived in India and whom I had never met. In this letter, he advised me, “Keep good company. Good company makes a man great.” Over the years I’ve noticed that people that are drawn to learn and practise Ayurveda in their lives are generally keenly interested in living, thinking and acting in ways that are healthy for them and those around them, and for our environment. So, a happy byproduct — and perhaps one of the reasons I was drawn to Ayurveda, — was the good company of these people, whether they were students, teachers, practitioners, patients, or colleagues.
Has it helped you with anything major?
It has helped me with everything major. Because it helps me in every moment that I pay attention. Because, when I live in alignment with my innermost essence, to the best of my ability, it is not always easy, but it is always right. And when it is right, the physiology of courage kicks in over the pathology of fear. My chemistry is more in balance and so my organs and tissues are irrigated with nourishment instead of cortisol. I have found this to be an important medicine for all ailments, even when herbal, pharmaceutical or surgical remedies are necessary as well.
Is Ayurveda part of your everyday life or just for your medicine cabinet or fall-back routine?
It is part of my every minute of life because it is the science of life and life is going on every minute. On a very basic level, at any minute, I can check inside myself and see if I feel balanced and, if not what guṇas (qualities) are prevalent and consider the use of the opposite quality to regain balance. For example, if I feel heavy, then I can employ the light quality (laghu guṇa) sufficiently until balance is restored. So, if I am considering diet and I feel heavy, then I will eat lighter or less food for a while or even refrain from eating a meal. Or if I am mentally feeling too light — leading to scattered thoughts — I can engage in a grounding activity, like sitting still and focusing on one thing for a bit, until I feel the return of balance.
What are your top 3 Ayurvedic tips that have worked for you?
Engaging in a healthy daily routine whenever possible. Of course, there are times of crisis, travel or extenuating circumstances when this routine is not possible or needs to be adjusted, but if I do it when I can, then when the tough times come and I am not able to, then at least there are more healthy pieces to pick up on the other end to more quickly regain balance.
Learning to have the courage to live the life I truly want to be living, according to my innermost wisdom, to the extent I can access that. This alters my chemistry and physiology in general in the most beneficial way. (To learn more about this, especially as it pertains to women’s health, I wish every woman would be able to know the information in our Women’s Health & Hormones: Hormonal Balance & Stagnation online course).
Eating whole, mostly freshly cooked food at regular times, with a minimum of extreme tastes.
What is your favorite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
I find it useful to go by the idea that I should strive to eat more simply during more physically, emotionally or mentally taxing or complicated times in my life. Because of this, soup is one of my favourite recipe groups and, within this, I make a soup I call, “Agni” soup, because it tends to support the digestive capacity whenever I have a cold or flu or during cool weather. But, of course, when life is most complicated or I am most out of balance, kitchari is the go-to easy to digest recipe.
How does Ayurveda fit into your day-to-day routines?
If Ayurveda is about choosing to have awareness of Reality in daily life (which I think it is) — then it fits in every day, when I consider what food to make for that day (“Is it hot out? Do I feel hot? Then I’ll make cooling foods;” “Do I feel too heavy? Then I’ll make lighter-quality food;” “Am I going to be very busy today? Then I’ll make food that is easier to digest,” etc.). When I choose to be aware of how foods, drinks, thoughts, emotions, environments and relationships affect me, I can choose them in such a way as to support a healthy organism.
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
I think it is very helpful to have a daily practice of looking inside ourselves to see what is our condition, what sensations we find within, what qualities, and learn how to respond accordingly.