Ayurveda, or "the science of life" in Sanskrit, is a holistic system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. Its basic approach is to balance the mind, body and spirit through traditional techniques and treatments that promote health and prevent illness.
Ayurvedic practitioners view people as having a unique constitution (prakriti) and combination of life forces, known as doshas, which determine their physical and psychological health and vulnerabilities. Healthful balance is maintained using a customized regimen of cleansing practices, meditation or yoga, herbal medicines, vitamins and/or mineral treatments.
In India, where the tradition originated, it's not uncommon to find an Ayurveda college or hospital in most large cities. Ayurveda school is a little harder to come by in the United States, but as time passes, more Ayurveda training programs are cropping up at state-approved educational institutions.
With 40 percent of adults using complementary or alternative medicine in 2010, there's a clear market for practitioners of Ayurveda and other natural healing practices. Accordingly, a number of career opportunities are available to graduates of Ayurveda college. Some learn Ayurvedic principles as part of a pre-medical program; in that context, you might choose to work as a doctor in a clinic or private practice. Others choose to teach general Ayurvedic concepts at an Ayurveda school or wellness center, or specialize in administering therapies such as massage, yoga or panchakarma.
Learn more about Ayurveda in alternative medicine and yoga careers.
Training and Education
What You'll Study in Ayurveda School
In a typical Ayurveda college, you can expect to learn the basic concepts and philosophies of Ayurvedic tradition, as well as clinical practices and traditional treatments. Topics covered in your Ayurveda training may include:
- Transcendental meditation techniques
- The mind-body connection
- Ayurvedic nutrition and the six tastes
- Client observation and evaluation
- Dietary and herbal treatment plans
Average Length of Study
If you choose to pursue a pre-med program that incorporates Ayurvedic training, then you can expect to spend about four years completing your bachelor's degree. In contrast, diploma or certificate programs at an Ayurveda college take one to two years to complete. Shorter programs may require as few as 500 hours, while comprehensive certificates usually include 1000 to 1500 hours.
Most schools offering Ayurveda training programs are private institutions or learning centers, and as a result, tuition for a four-year degree can really add up. However, if the Ayurveda college is appropriately accredited, you may be eligible for federal financial aid. Diploma or certificate programs generally cost about $5,000 for a 500-hour program.
Currently, the United States does not specify a certification requirement for Ayurvedic practitioners, though more and more programs are being offered through state-approved institutions. Membership in a professional group such as the National Ayurvedic Medical Association can help you establish credibility in the field and demonstrate your commitment to competent and ethical Ayurvedic healing.
Earnings in the Ayurveda field vary widely depending on whether you're a medical doctor with Ayurveda training or an independent practitioner, and whether you work part time or full time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for physicians is $187,200; dietitians and nutritionists earned $55,240; and health educators earned $41,830. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.
Is an Ayurveda Career Right for You?
Unlike the approach of Western medicine, which tends to focus on treatment of symptoms, Ayurvedic health care focuses on prevention and on individual attention and evaluation. It's a truly holistic approach to wellness that promotes a healthy diet and lifestyle as well as an intense spiritual connection with our bodies, our minds and the world around us. If this approach to health appeals to you, then take some time to research Ayurveda college.
Sources: NCCAM, National Institute of Health, Florida Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, The Ayurvedic Institute, Kerala Ayurveda Academy, Maharishi University of Management, National Ayurvedic Medical Association.