Dr Vibhuti Rao comes from a family of six Ayurveda practitioners, each of whom runs an Ayurveda clinic. The family lives and breathes Ayurveda. Vibhuti’s first started her practice in Australia and her first ever client was an Australian. Starting out in a foreign country, she tells CSP, her practice in Australia helped her see Ayurveda in a new light.
How do you think Ayurveda can be popularised in Australia.
Ayurveda is popular in Australia already. Ayurveda comes under traditional and complementary medicines in Australia. Many Ayurvedic practitioners are practising Ayurveda in various part of the country such as in Sydney and Melbourne. People in Australia are choosing Ayurveda primarily for chronic health issues and to stay healthy. They are very much interested in changing their dietary habits, to include some healing herbs and spices and do yoga and meditation. So, the preventive aspect of Ayurveda is attracting many. Having said that, there are many opportunities to make Ayurveda more popular and acceptable in Australia. We need a lot of work around policies, practices, and research. Local bodies of both the countries- India and Australia, should put efforts in linking up the Ayurvedic universities and Australian universities focused on integrated health research.
There are a couple of universities in Australia, who are running dedicated departments in traditional and complementary medicines. This link-up will allow many brains working in the same field of interest and so, the research will grow and that research will help create evidence-based practise guidelines, to help support informed clinical Ayurvedic practice in Australia. It is important to follow the local laws and so anything you want to do in Ayurveda medicines, you should be aware of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia. Ayurvedic medicines should be manufactured based on TGA requirements. Many people buy Ayurvedic medicines online and some even self-medicate, which should not happen. So, if Australian made Ayurvedic herbs will be available, people will have trust to take them, after consulting with their Ayurvedic practitioner. None the less, we need to constantly create awareness about Ayurveda. I strongly believe that Ayurveda is the next big thing.
Dr Vibhuti Rao and Dr Samarth Rao
How did starting out in Australia shape your own ideas of Ayurveda?
We are 6 members in our family and we all are qualified Ayurvedic doctors. Each one of us runs an Ayurveda clinic. We kind of live Ayurveda, talk about Ayurveda, and everything is Ayurveda in our family. I started my practice in Australia, not in India. My first client was an Australian woman. Now when I look back, I see that my practice in Australia helped me create a very strong foundation in Ayurveda in terms of understanding Ayurvedic basics regarding food, lifestyle, use of simple herbs etc. I faced very simple questions about Ayurveda which I would have never thought of been asked. In India, I am an Ayurvedic doctor, whereas, in Australia, I am called an Ayurvedic practitioner. Many people in Australia have the interest to change their lifestyle and do what they can do, to help them stay healthy and heal the body naturally. And thus, the fundamentals of Ayurveda appeal to them a lot. They follow the advice very strictly.
Whereas, my practice in India is very much oriented to the cure a disease with medicines. I rarely see a patient come to me asking for ways to prevent illness. Many people in India looking for a quick cure. And so, do not choose Ayurveda thinking it as a waste of time. So, in India, my practice is very much result-oriented. However, things are changing for good in recent times at both places. Now, what I am seeing is that people from Australia are choosing Ayurveda to treat their illness, and people in India are understanding the importance of Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle to prevent disease. So yes, things are changing, which is very good for the future of Ayurveda. Now, I have patients from all over the world, who want to solve their health problems with Ayurveda. The technology is helping us a lot to reach all corners of the globe.
What was your experience with Ayurveda in Australia when you began first?
Australia is a beautiful country of open mind people, who keep exploring new things to help them stay healthy. When I first began my practice, I was surprised, by the kind of willingness Australians had, to know Ayurveda and what it can offer to them. Ayurveda primarily reached them through yoga. Also, many Australians who had visited India, were familiar with yoga and Ayurveda. However, getting to see a qualified Ayurvedic doctor in their homeland was something rare. Slowly, the practice grew and we now have built up a good client-based practice. And it is very rewarding.
Was it difficult setting up a practice and getting clients?
It was not difficult, but yes, it was like a maze. There was no one to tell you how to set it up and what are the legal requirements. So, when I arrived, I had to figure it out on my own. So almost ten years ago, my husband Dr. Samarth and I started a clinic named Greentree Ayurveda. Initially, there were no clients, like any other new business. Also, we did not advertise about our practice and a very few people knew about Ayurveda. So, we had to find our ways to let people know about us and Ayurveda and how we can help them in their health and wellbeing. Slowly, we started to have clients basically through word of mouth. The practice grew, we became well- known to the people and so became very busy in our clinic. But yes, it was not easy, however, where I believe that there is a will, there is a way. We wanted to practice Ayurveda and so we did and we are continuing. The amazing thing with Ayurveda is that you can practice it and help people even though you do not have access to resources such as Ayurvedic medicines, Panchakarma set up etc.
You did your Masters in the postnatal care of Indians in Australia. What was your conclusion?
I did my Masters in Public Health from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. I took up a project where my research was focused on investigating postnatal experiences of Indian immigrant mothers in Canberra, Australia. The outcome of the study was published late last year in a very prestigious peer-reviewed Australian journal, women, and birth. We concluded that there is a need for culturally sensitive and appropriate postnatal services that encourage Indian men to support their partners and help women to find alternative sources of culturally appropriate support. Moreover, women must speak up for their ongoing mental health distress to health care professionals. You can read more here https://www.womenandbirth.org/article/S1871-5192(19)30248-3/fulltext. Now I am perusing a PhD from Australia along with my clinical practice.
Are any Indian practices are being followed in Australia regarding the mother's health?
There are no official Indian practices that I know, involved in postnatal care in Australia. However, Indian communities do follow few postnatal practices. It totally depends on individuals if they want to follow, or they do not want to. It is completely a personal affair unlike in India, where the whole family and relatives come under one roof to celebrate the birth of a new baby. There are postnatal community groups in Australia, which encourage women to share their experiences and give a lot of professional support. And yes, yoga during pregnancy and post-delivery is very much practised.
How have you explained the difference to people between Ayurvedic cooking and Indian cooking? Why is there a confusion?
We regularly conduct workshops related to Ayurveda lifestyle. And a very famous one is -Ayurvedic cooking workshop, where almost 20-25 Australians get hand-on training for Ayurvedic cooking. I guess people around the world think that because Ayurveda is traditional Indian medicine, so it will have everything Indian. For example, many people did not know that Ayurveda has a long description of meat and many other things which are not plant-based. Another myth was that Ayurveda is a Hindu science and other people cannot follow it, what it says. Well, in my view, Ayurveda is not religious. It is a complete medical science which was originated 50000 years ago. So, coming back to Ayurveda diet and cooking, the Ayurveda diet is nothing like present days Indian diet. What we have today in our Indian restaurants or homes is a total mix of all cuisines. Indian cuisine uses a lot of chillies, however, as far as I know, there is no mention of chillies in Ayurveda. There are similarities, but Ayurveda diet and cooking methods are unique, strict and follow certain rules. You can say Ayurveda diet is a better version of the present-day Indian diet.
What are the most popular Indian herbs in Australia?
There are a couple of Indian herbs which are very famous in Australia and people use them regularly, such as turmeric, ginger, Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Jatamansi, Pipplali, etc.