In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “The Science of Life.” Scholars have considered this ancient medicine to be the oldest healing science. It is a lifestyle, based on the idea of balance in bodily systems, and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.
Curious about what it’s like to be in this career and want to know more information before you embark in this field?
We briefly catch up with Dr Shijoe Mathew, an Ayurvedic doctor for more than a decade, most notable for his contributions and experience at Ananda in the Himalayas. He is also the founder of Ayurvedic Life With Dr. Mathew.
What inspired you to the practice of Ayurveda and how did you discover it?
I was born and brought up in a family with traditional Ayurvedic roots in a place called Alleppey in Kerala, South India. My grandfather’s younger brother was a traditional Ayurvedic eye doctor, known as “salakya tantra” in the Sanskrit language in Kerala. He tried to teach someone interested in the next generation, but unfortunately, none were. So, no one was actively practicing Ayurveda for a while in our family.
After finishing school, when I had the opportunity to decide what to study further, I chose to be an instrumentation engineer! Long story short, three months into learning complex mathematics and welding stuffs, I got a letter from the university entrance commission in Kerala, saying that since I had studied Sanskrit language in school (which is an advantage if you decide to learn Ayurveda), I could switch my course to Ayurveda if I wished to.
So, in 2003, I joined the bachelor of Ayurvedic medicine and surgery course, in the University of Calicut in Kerala which is where my 16 year-long journeys with Ayurveda started.
What is the typical day in the life of an Ayurvedic doctor?
Ayurveda is a lifestyle and most of the recommendations an Ayurvedic doctor makes are for supporting the body to heal better and faster naturally. I follow a dosha or body-type based routine that helps me in healing and supporting my body better. I start my day early, by about 05.30 am, with a glass of warm ginger water followed by a 30 minutes’ walk, and some simple yogic stretches. After routine ablutions and healthy breakfast, the work day starts.
I start my practice at Portslade morning at 8 am. After appointments, I’ll dedicate some time for replying to emails and correspondences, writing articles and content on Ayurveda, etc. Around midday, I usually take a walk by the sea for 30-40 minutes, as the afternoon is mostly spent sitting and talking to patients. I also conduct regular training sessions and talks for collegues and customers. Evening time is dedicated to family. I have a 2-year-old boy and we play some football or just run around in the garden or nearby park before the evening meal.
After my son is put to bed, it’s time for me to do some gentle reading before hitting the bed myself at around 09.30-10pm.
How do you apply Ayurveda in your life?
We are fortunate to have access to ayurvedic herbs and an elaborate spice rack in our kitchen. Whenever anyone falls ill, we rarely had to go beyond what we have already got in our hand, like ginger or turmeric or ghee, and the effect most of the time is as quick or sometimes quicker than the standard pills. Once recovered, our immunity also naturally gains the ability to fight effectively any further attacks. Ayurveda slowly ceased to be a job that I was trained in and became instead, a way of living that I’ve enjoyed thoroughly for about two decades and that was ingrained into me by nature.
Describe one thing you find fulfilling about working in Ayurvedic medicine.
The best thing I enjoy about being an ayurvedic doctor is the places and people that it has taken me to. I was fortunate to be working in the pristine land on banks of the Ganges river, at the Ananda in the Himalayas for about 5 years, and in England since 2016. Working at Ananda has given me the opportunity to travel to Russia and I’m planning to go to Germany next month.
Also, seeing that when people given proper guidance to initiate a proactive role in taking care of their own health rather than looking for someone else to fix it for them is a joyful experience.
What is the most important lesson you learned from a career in Ayurvedic medicine?
The most important lesson Ayurveda has taught me is that never put a name on an illness unless you have a remedy for it and never suggest a remedy with any known ill-effects, even if it is minor and has any positive benefits.
What advice would you give to doctors who have interests to become an Ayurvedic doctor and what do they have to understand before embarking in your field?
The opportunity for a medical doctor to become specialised in Ayurveda is unfortunately very minimal. There are universities in India that have bridging courses for doctors to train in Ayurveda. Banaras Hindu University and Jamnagar University are two famous ones that do such courses.
You have the opportunity to take short courses even in the UK to help you start applying the basic principle on yourself or you could also take short diplomas in Kerala to practice the nutritional aspect of it.
The clinical practice would ideally require a university degree with a year-long internship in a full-fledged Ayurvedic Hospital.
If you are interested in a Holistic concept that has endured the test of time and can help in the treatment of chronic illnesses that has multiple causative factors and pathologies at the same time, then Ayurveda definitely has something for you.
Get in touch with Dr. Mathew via his website here.