Our Herbs Blog
Veterinarians Use Ayurveda Daily: September 29, 2017
Dr. Kris August and I are taking Foundations of Ayurveda at the Kripalu School of Ayurveda in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. We came into the course with the intention of learning Ayurvedic theory and herbs. The Dean of the program knows that we are veterinary herbalists. She came up to us on the fourth or fifth day of class and asked if we were finding ways to apply the knowledge we are gaining to animals and our veterinary practice. The answer is a resounding yes! Here is some of what we have learned…
There are six philosophical systems in Ayurveda, and they are all focused on ending suffering. Yoga is the branch that covers psychology. Yoga Theory is an eight-limbed path (called Astanga Yoga) that is used to enhance clarity in the mind. The first two limbs are Yama, character building restraints, and Niyama, character building observances. In listening to our lecturer, Kris and I were finding many examples of how we use some of these tenets in our veterinary practices already.
The first Yama is Ahimsa, which literally translates to “no crimes against wisdom” or more simply, non-harming, non-injury, nonviolence. Kris’ analogy was puppy training. As veterinarians, we never recommend housebreaking or other puppy training through negative reinforcement, we want to do no harm and train through positive reinforcement. I always tell clients with teething puppies to replace the object that should not be chewed with one of the dog’s toys.
Ahimsa is not just physical, but also with our words and thoughts. Again, we know praising animals is much more effective than chastising them. We also know that they sense our moods (thoughts). A friend of mine tells a story of how his children would always alert his wife about what kind of mood he was in based on where his horse was in the field when he drove up the driveway. If he was in a bad mood, the horse went to the back of the pasture. However, if he was in a good mood, the horse was at the gate looking for affection and attention. The horse responded to his thoughts. So it is important for us to practice Ahimsa and remind our clients to do so also.
The third Niyama, Tapas, is about doing an uplifting discipline or changing and improving habits. The literal definition is friction, because it is the friction of the old habit rubbing up against the new habit. Kris and I both remarked that we tell our clients to do this all the time. For example, I had a client with an obese poodle that couldn’t walk. I had her start walking the dog in the living room for five minutes three times a day so if the dog needed breaks, it was easier than on the sidewalk. She slowly built up to thirty minutes two-three times a day around the neighborhood and the dog looked and felt much better.
One of our professors is an Ayurvedic doctor, trained at an Indian medical school. She has taught us that Ayurveda is timeless. It explains everything that is relevant in the past, present and future. She has also told us that it is applicable to all life forms, from plants to planets. We certainly are finding it relevant for our clients and patients.