Yoga has become mainstream, especially in our neighborhood of Southern California. But we don't hear too much about ayurveda, yoga's "sister" healing practice.
There are numerous benefits of ayurveda, not just in terms of a nutrient-rich diet, but also in balancing hormones, reducing inflammation, and lowering stress and anxiety.
These benefits are especially wonderful for those expecting a baby, recovering from birth, or spending much of their time caring for little ones. Pilar Chandler of Shri Veda Wellness is an Ayurvedic practitioner in Costa Mesa specializing in womens' health, especially during the childbearing year. We asked Pilar a few questions about her practice and the ways Ayurveda can improve health and wellness. We hope you enjoy getting to know more about Pilar and her services, right in our backyard here in Orange County!
Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you decide to become a practicioner of Ayurvedic medicine?
My journey to Ayurveda began way before I took my first class. I have been interested and involved with natural health since about 1994-5 when I started studying herbalism. I was about to enroll in the Rocky Mountain School of Herbalism when I found out I was pregnant! Although I didn’t enroll I continued my own self-study and then of course immersed myself in prenatal wellness and midwifery. (I was fortunate enough to live with my midwife... she was my partner’s mom!) We lived off the grid where we grew our own food and medicine in Southern Oregon.
Fast forward to 1999 when I began my education as a massage therapist and Holistic Health Practitioner. I walked into Healing Hands School of Holistic Health and literally did not leave for 12 years. I truly loved learning about the body, anatomy, 5 element theory, and so on! I became an instructor and led the Sports Massage program for 10 years while also developing some of my own coursework in Chakra Balancing and PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching.
It was during this time that I began to look for more. I wanted to be able to offer more to my clients. I researched Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Naturopathy programs… but something was missing. Now aside from my interests in massage and natural health, I have been a practicing Yogini since I was 17 and had also been studying the more esoteric mystical side of Yogic philosophy for many years. Yoga and Ayurveda are connected; they are two sides to the same coin and are essentially inseparable. Ayurveda has a spiritual aspect that I have not found anywhere else, including in any other healing modality.
Ayurveda’s ultimate goal is enlightenment. If you are eating, digesting, sleeping, conceiving and birthing well, not distracted by ailments, you can focus on higher achievements and states of consciousness with ease, have easier relationships and a more peaceful life. Along with the spiritual component, Ayurveda is a complete health science. It includes geriatrics, pediatrics, pharmacology / toxicology, psychology, ENT, surgery, fertility, and internal medicine. It has an individualized approach: it looks at each person, who they are, where they came from, and from there, where they are headed. As practitioners we make adjustments to keep you balanced and healthy. We look for the cause of the disease or imbalance, not just treatment of the symptoms.
Is Ayurveda something people should turn to when they have a pressing issue, or is it more valuable to receive regular care?
Regular, consistent, preventative care is always best when working with any holistic healing modality. It is the same for chiropractic, acupuncture and so on. However, depending on the issue, something can always been done and effects and changes are usually felt fairly quickly.
Are there any common misconceptions about Ayurveda that you want to clear up?
Well, most people don’t know what Ayurveda is to begin with! But I would say that a primary misconception that is it only relevant or effective for Indian people, or that you need to follow a vegetarian diet. These are the things I hear the most.
Walk me through a typical visit with you. What can a new client expect for their first session?
All new clients go through an initial intake. We start with a thorough health history evaluation. The new client comes in with their paperwork filled out and we discuss their history, health goals and so on. From there we move into the bodywork portion. Depending on the issues the client wants to address, we may do Arvigo Abdominal Therapy, Therapeutic Bodywork, Prenatal / Postpartum Treatment, or a Breast / Lymphatic Treatment. From here I will teach any self-care protocols if necessary and we can discuss any follow-up recommendations such as treatments, diet, herbal remedies, etc.
Ayurveda has a spiritual aspect that I have not found anywhere else, including in any other healing modality.
What other modalities compliment Ayurveda? How can women combine them during pregnancy and/or postpartum for optimal wellness?
I always combine massage therapy, some counseling, aromatherapy, and meditation with my treatments. Technically those are a part of Ayurveda as well, although not all practitioners incorporate them in their methods. I have found that especially for women, bodywork really impacts and unravels the nervous system and supports the healing process in a way that meditation and yoga cannot do on their own.
When I am working with someone, the check-in process before the treatment is really important. Clients have an opportunity to share and express what may be up for them in their healing process, positive or negative, challenging or nourishing. It brings it up to the surface. Then in the bodywork session I can unravel it from their body and system and they leave feeling lighter and ready for the next thing at hand.
Do you work with people who aren't currently pregnant?
All the time! I am a Holistic Women’s Health Specialist and my primary focus is female reproductive and sexual health. I help women with pelvic pain, menstrual disorders, sexual dysfunction, fertility, breast health, and of course anything pertaining to the childbearing year and postpartum (ie: pelvic organ prolapse, bladder issues, diastasis recti, coccyx pain, and so on).
Ayurveda is an ancient healing tradition, but are you seeing any new discoveries or technologies in your profession?
Yes, but what I find most fascinating is that modern science is now catching up to this ancient science. “Discoveries” are being made that have been in Ayurveda’s ancient texts for thousands of years!
What is your favorite part of your job?
Oh my goodness…. ALL OF IT!! When a client with menstrual disorders can go through their cycle pain-free, or when a woman with pelvic pain can now enjoy sex with her partner, when a fertility client become pregnant…. so much! I have the best job ever!!
But if I had to pick my very favorite it would be Mommy and Me Postpartum visits. During this visit I give the new mother a full body Ayurvedic oil massage and one for the newborn as well. I also teach parents how to continue to massage their baby to support growth, digestive health and healthy bonding. Those little freshies are just the sweetest!
Infant massage is considered the “finishing touch” in Ayurveda. It helps ground the spirit / consciousness in their body. It’s like a welcoming home. The cutest thing is when the newborn recognizes my voice, energy and touch from when Mom would come in regularly for prenatal support.