Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ayurveda doesn't just treat symptoms, it looks at the whole you

Life is a balancing act. When everything's in sync, we feel at our best — both physically and mentally. But when life is off kilter, perhaps due to excessive worry, work, eating or drinking, it can take a toll on our well-being.

That's a simple explanation for why more people are turning to Ayurveda, one of the world's oldest healing systems and a staple of health care in India for thousands of years.

Ayurveda is all about discovering your natural balance and how to restore it.

In the United States, it's considered a form of alternative healing, although many of its components, including massage, yoga, meditation and healing herbs, are growing increasingly popular.

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine use by Americans, more than 200,000 U.S. adults had used Ayurvedic medicine in the previous year.

Ayurveda considers sickness an imbalance in the body that can be resolved by restoring equilibrium rather than treating symptoms. So instead of popping pills to treat indigestion, the Ayurvedic approach would correct the lifestyle, diet and environmental factors responsible for turning mealtime into gastric distress.

"I am very interested in the whole science of Ayurveda as opposed to taking medications. I'd rather take a natural approach," explains Rya Lauber, 50, a St. Petersburg marketing executive who practices yoga and Ayurvedic principles daily.

"I work in a tense environment under deadlines and pressure. As with everything, if you don't practice it (Ayurveda), it doesn't work. If I slack off, then I notice I get more stressed out."

Ayurveda in practice

There are a variety of medical professionals and consultants who practice Ayurveda in the Tampa Bay area.

Lauber is a client at Balance and Bliss in St. Petersburg, the only local center affiliated with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association in Santa Cruz, Calif., which has education and certification requirements for membership.

Balance and Bliss, created in 2005, is not a medical facility. It provides consultations, massage and other body treatments, yoga instruction, educational workshops and restorative retreats.

It's impossible to characterize the people who seek Ayurvedic balance because it's not a one-size-fits-all discipline, says founder and president Denise O'Dunn, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga instructor.

"The majority of people who come here have daily quality of life challenges. They know something isn't right," she says. Problems can include insomnia, headaches and digestive issues.

Some clients have tried traditional medical approaches to chronic conditions without much success. Others are in good health but want to incorporate the ancient practices into their healthy lifestyle.

And for some clients with illnesses, Ayurveda works in tandem with conventional medical care, O'Dunn says.

(It's always important to tell your medical doctor about any herbs or supplements you use, especially if you're on medication, due to possible interactions.)

Rya Lauber visits the center several times each year to discuss her health issues with O'Dunn and receive Ayurvedic treatments, including dry brushing of skin to stimulate circulation, massage with specially formulated oils and to stock up the herbal tea O'Dunn blends.

"It's more than just going for a massage. It's more like a tune-up," says Lauber. "You learn about yourself. You learn how to keep yourself balanced. This is my little oasis in St. Petersburg."

The three life forces

According to Ayurveda teachings, each person is born with a unique nature based on body type, behaviors, needs, predispositions and natural energies or elements. Ayurveda holds that there are three life forces that determine one's basic nature.

These three "doshas'' are balanced differently in each person; when you lose that balance, health problems can result.

The Internet is full of information about the doshas and even quizzes to determine which are dominant in your nature, but do any research at all, and you'll see it's a complicated matter indeed.

Just as each person's balance is different, so is restoring that balance, O'Dunn says. The process can include lifestyle and dietary changes based on the seasons, self-care practices and therapies such as massage, enemas, nasal cleansing and sweating in a cabinet filled with oil-infused steam.

Quieting the mind and body is especially important in these times of economic uncertainty, notes O'Dunn. "We are doing everything in a way that increases stress. It's putting people out of balance."

for more info

The National Ayurvedic Medical Association's Web site is

Balance and Bliss is open by appointment only. Contact Denise O'Dunn at (727) 823-8743 or go to

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is a part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, offers a good basic introduction to Ayurveda on its Web site: There, you'll find more on the history and principles of Ayurveda. NCCAM supports several research studies on therapies used in Ayurvedic medicine, including:

• Herbal therapies, including curcuminoids (found in turmeric), used for cardiovascular conditions.

• A compound from the cowhage plant (Mucuna pruriens), used to prevent or lessen side effects from Parkinson's disease drugs.

• Three botanicals (ginger, turmeric and boswellia) used to treat inflammatory disorders such as arthritis and asthma.

• Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), an herb used to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Ayurveda doesn't just treat symptoms, it looks at the whole you 05/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:11am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Photo of the Day for August 17, 2017 - 'Keeping a watchful eye'

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from George Capaz of Wesley Chapel, FL. The photo was taken at a small roadside lake at Bruce B. Downs Blvd and Cross Creek Blvd.

  2. Jerseys worn by Tim Tebow fans commemorate the various phases of his athletic career


    His fans have come out in droves during Tim Tebow Week in Tampa Bay, more than doubling the average in Clearwater and Tampa Bay. And they've come adorned with jerseys commemorating the many phases of Tebow's …

    Charles Bottoms, right, with his wife, Annie, wore the Tim Tebow Broncos jersey to Steinbrenner Field "only because I didn't want to wear my good (signed Gators) Tebow one." [RYAN ROMANO | Times]
  3. Security threat leads Florida to cancel prison visitation


    TALLAHASSEE — Prison officials in Florida cited a security threat in canceling visitation at all of its 149 facilities.

  4. Steve Bannon says rivals 'wetting themselves,' calls supremacists 'clowns,' seems to contradict Trump on North Korea


    Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist, seemed to take issue with President Donald Trump on North Korea, attacked white supremacists as "clowns" and "losers" and described his efforts against administration rivals in an unusual interview Wednesday with the American Prospect, a progressive magazine.

    White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in April. In an unusual interview Wednesday with The American Prospect, a progressive magazine, Bannon attacked white supremacists as "clowns" and "losers" and described his efforts against administration rivals saying "They're wetting themselves." [Associated Press]
  5. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    Attorney David Eaton poses in front of his rental home at 899 72nd Ave. North. in St. Petersburg. He's among a growing number of property owners who see more value in renting out unused homes than selling them. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]