>An Interview with Claudia Welch

>I had the honour of interviewing Dr Welch to find out more about how she came to Ayurveda and her thoughts on women's health in general, to find out more about her teachings go to http://drclaudiawelch.wordpress.com/

What inspired you to write your latest book 'Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life'?
When I began to teach women’s health in a College of Chinese Medicine, I also had my private practice. Both my patients and students were trying to understand what was going on with hormones and how taking either synthetic or “natural” hormones would affect women’s health.

I had not been able to form any comprehensive understanding of hormones from my study of either Ayurveda or Chinese medicine, neither of which discuss hormones directly. I also found the western research and science to be positively confounding. I found no path that led to any real clarity.

So I dove in and learned as much as I could and, little by little, a pattern emerged. It was a pattern that blended the lists of individual hormones that western science supplied, with the framework within which they could be understood—a framework provided by Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. I began to teach this combined perspective to my students as well as my patients. The more I applied this perspective to various disorders and imbalances that women suffer from, the more I found it practical and to be at the root of an epidemic of imbalance. When I would teach this, women often felt I was speaking directly to their own personal situation and experience—experience that, from my perspective, was shared and is shared by many. So I began to write.

Once I wrote about the hormones, it seemed natural to write about how this perspective applies to a wide array of women’s health concerns, and how lifestyle and diet can remedy most common issues that women have. So these made their way into the book too.

How would you describe the general current state of women’s health?
Some years ago I read this New York Times headline: “The New Modern Woman, Ambitious and Feeble.” It suggested that heroines of some very popular television were ambitious, neurotic, and confused. And that women were finding these heroines worthy of emulation. While it may not be that this archetype fits all of today’s women, it can often seem to carry more than a little accuracy, not only for many women, but also for the current condition of the world.

When we outspend our physical, emotional and spiritual resources, we put ourselves in peril. When power, money, or anything else, than we have the natural energy and stamina to maintain, then healthy physiology and hormonal balance takes a beating. When this goes on for a long time, we begin to see problems with the menstrual cycles, thyroid health, heart disease, osteoporosis, and a smorgasbord of other disorders.

It is possible to restore balance by, among other things, introducing more nourishment in our lives. This nourishment can come from a freshly cooked meal, keeping pleasant company, through meditation or contemplation.

What do you think is the main cause of women’s disorders today?
Pursuing professional ambition to exclusion of self-care as well as consideration for others and our planet. One of my teachers used to say, “Ambition is the thief of the spirit.” Western culture appears to have a love affair with ambition and it seems the cost of pursuing it is often great. When the spirit is sacrificed in pursuit of ambition, our energy is also spent in that pursuit and there is not enough left over to fuel or nourish the body adequately. This leads to stress and to hormonal imbalance and, in extreme cases, emotional, physical or spiritual bankruptcy.

How would you describe Ayurveda to someone that had never heard of it?
As most people have at least a little familiarity with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, I think it is fair to say that Ayurveda is to India what Chinese medicine is to china. It is a comprehensive system of medicine that includes the study of anatomy, physiology, diagnosis and treatment. It has been practiced for literally thousands of years and elements of it are being introduced into the West over the last few decades. Treatment includes the use of diet, lifestyle, herbs, natural remedies and protocols for maintaining or improving health.

I notice you have an online Ayurveda course for beginners on your website. Could you tell me what students can expect to learn from this course .
This course goes into some detail on basic Ayurvedic principles and explores how to apply those principles to creating a balanced lifestyle and diet for your individual health. Among with some other contextual theory, it covers the 20 gunas, five tattvas, three doshas, the sub doshas, six tastes, properties of food, how to determine your individual constitution (prakruti), current imbalances (vikruti) and restore balance and health using simple but profound techniques. It goes into a lot of theory that the book leaves out, so I think the two can be very complementary.

Interview questions for Kirsty Norton

How did your journey into Ayurveda begin?
Actually, it began before I was consciously aware that it was happening. When I was seven or eight years old, my guru wrote me a letter. In it he advised me, "Keep good company. Good company makes a man great.“ I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be a major motivating directive in my life.

I was very interested in medicine as a young girl. My dual interests in India and in herbal medicine rather naturally led me to the door of Ayurveda, sometime around 16 years old, around the time that Dr. Robert Svoboda’s book “Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution” first arrived on the scene, before most people in the west had heard the word "Ayurveda.” That book became a well-worn friend and, about that time, so did the author. Dr. Svoboda became a mentor and lifelong friend, so I had the great good fortune of having someone to point the way when I got stuck in the study of Ayurveda.

I studied Ayurveda in the US and India for many years, beginning in about 1986, and was fortunate to learn from incredible mentors--mentors who taught me more how to think, through living example as much as anything else, than what to think. The facts and figures I was often left to figure out and access myself.

When I began to study Ayurveda, and for the next decade or so, as I continued to learn, there was precious little well-organized reference material in English, and it was a real scramble for a westerner to learn anything beyond the fundamental rudiments of Ayurveda. These days, students of Ayurveda have rather the opposite challenge. There is so much information on Ayurveda that they have to sift through to find what is most authentic, practical and useful.

Anyway, I was also trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) because it was, and still is, impossible to be licensed in the practice of Ayurveda in the US. So it was helpful to gain clinical experience and the ability to practice medicine, through another, licensable discipline. It was an invaluable contribution to my education. I spent about a decade or so combining Ayurveda and TCM in a busy private practice.

Gradually, teaching—first at Southwest Acupuncture College and then at the Ayurvedic Institute—began to demand more of my time. At some point, teaching, traveling and writing began demanding so much time, that—to maintain balance in my life—I first reduced my private practice to part time and, by and by, closed it. Now, I only do phone consultations, along with teaching, writing and traveling.

For some time now I have felt that my passion really has not been for Ayurveda, per se. It never was. From the remarkable mentors in my life, to my colleagues, to the students I often share my time with, to time with my husband, or even being alone, Ayurveda has been an effective vehicle through which to realize my guru’s advice: Keep good company. This good company provides me living examples of the Science of Life and it has made my life.