I was sitting in a lecture about nutrition counseling—finishing my bachelor’s of science in nutrition science. The professor was reiterating the importance of getting two to three servings of dairy daily, as recommended by the new food pyramid known as ChooseMyPlate. I was feeling a little baffled. How could nutrition experts suggest a requirement of a food that made me ill? In another class, I had learned that over 60% of the population had problems digesting milk—more than half of the population had issues with milk and yet experts were requiring us to have it two to three times a day. And it was these same nutrition experts who convinced my mother to keep giving us dairy all throughout my childhood, even though it made me and my siblings ill. “The government said milk is good for you, and you all liked it, so I didn’t take it away. That is why you are all so tall,” my mom told me later. To which I have to ask—tall but sick?
A few days later, flipping through channels on the TV on a lazy afternoon, I happened upon a show about Ayurveda. It was called The Model Guru, and it followed supermodel turned Ayurvedic practitioner Cameron Alborzian as he worked one-on-one with clients. He determined their elemental makeup, also known as their Dosha, and then would make diet and lifestyle changes specific to them. I was riveted. He explained how each person is uniquely different and therefore would need uniquely different nutrition and lifestyle suggestions—not the one-size-fits-all system I was learning in nutrition school. And Ayurveda had 8,000 years of testing and observation to back it up! This ancient medical system from India made complete sense to me.
So, I began doing my own research. I found a few online tests and determined my elemental makeup was Pitta (fire); and that I most likely had a Pitta imbalance manifesting in perfectionism, acid reflux, and acne. I also found an Ayurvedic nutrition program taught in New York City by Dr. Naina Marballi. Her credentials were impressive! Vaidya Naina Marballi graduated as a research-oriented Ayurvedic physician from Poddar Ayurvedic Medical College and Research Center, affiliated with Bombay University. After acquiring her B.S.A.M. (Bachelor of Shuddha Ayurvedic Medicine) degree from India’s premier educational institute, she began her career as an Ayurvedic physician (Ayurvedacharya) with Poddar Ayurveda College and Research Center in Mumbai. I decided to enroll in her program and do it concurrently with my nutrition science studies.
My enrollment interview with Dr. Naina was eye-opening. It felt like she sat me down and read me to filth! She knew what I had been eating the past week, and how stressful my job was without even knowing what I did for a living. She was specific about how coffee at work and eating at my desk (I hadn’t even told her that I ate at my desk—she just knew) would give me indigestion. She felt my pulse and told me that I was not Pitta—I was actually Kapha-Pitta (earth/fire). Further, I did not have a Pitta imbalance; I had a Vata (air) imbalance that was so severe that it was affecting the Pitta. I sat there stunned. Was this woman psychic? How did she know what I ate for lunch or about the issues I was having? I asked her, “Are you psychic?” She laughed and said, “No, no, when you understand someone’s Dosha as deeply as I do, you can pretty much tell all these things.”
Over the next eight months, I immersed myself in the program. Its natural healing has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Translated, Ayurveda means “the science of life” and provides guidelines on the ideal daily and seasonal routines, yoga (this sister science of Ayurveda covers the mind-body exercise portion of the system), and diets that balance and integrate our minds, bodies, and spirits with our environment. It is based on each person’s unique individual makeup, dominated by five elements—air, space, fire, earth, and water—the aforementioned Dosha. When a particular element in a person’s Dosha goes out of balance, he or she experiences illness. Understanding your Dosha can help you reduce stress, avoid illness, maintain a healthy weight, and bring overall balance to your life.
I applied Ayurvedic principles to myself and soon saw changes. As I began to understand what I needed to eat and what to do to my body in order to find balance, I created notes and content to help me understand Ayurveda more deeply. My feeling was that if I understood Ayurveda enough to be able to explain it or present it, it would mean that I understood it well enough to apply it on myself and on future clients. I often asked Dr. Naina to review this content to make sure it was correct. She felt that I had a good grasp of the subject, and since I had all this new content, she asked me to become part of her faculty.
I have now been teaching at Ayurveda’s World in New York for six years. I teach a mix of Ayurveda and the Western concepts I learned in nutrition school in a sort of “East meets West” method. I think this modern twist helps my students see that the science behind wellness today was actually known 8,000 years ago! I especially enjoy watching the faces of my students light up when they see how very relevant Ayurveda is in their own lives today.
I’ve traveled to India several times with Dr. Naina to continue to deepen my knowledge. Teaching Ayurveda forces me to continue exploring new topics that I can share with my students. I also now have my own wellness practice, called Ayurveda Jumpstart, where I educate clients about how they can apply Ayurveda in their own lives. I am an Ayurvedic practitioner, Reiki master/teacher, nutritionist, and wellness ambassador in the New York area. I absolutely LOVE what I do!