Sharon Ufberg, DC interviews Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya, director of the Dinacharya Institute in New York City, about her practice of teaching holistic and Ayurvedic medicine.
This year’s Integrative Health Symposium kicked off the PractiCAM workshops with the session Understanding Ayurveda as a Model of Integrative Medicine. The session was oversubscribed and quickly became a “standing room only” event with participants lining the walls of the conference room to attend and listen to the presentation by Bhaswati Battacharya, MD. I took the opportunity to speak with her after the conference and discuss her enthusiasm for the art and science of Ayurveda.
Dr. Battacharya trained as a scientist, international public health specialist, and primary care clinician before gaining skills as a holistic healer. Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya practices and teaches holistic medicine in New York City and became interested in holistic & alternative medicines from her family ancestry of Ayurvedic and Sanskrit scholars, a biomedically-trained father, a clinician, scientist, and veterinarian, and herbalist mother. Dr. Battacharya has been working in complementary medical education for almost 20 years. As a licensed primary care physician practicing in inner-city New York, she is board-certified in holistic medicine and teaches and writes about Ayurveda, holistic and preventive medicine. She is currently the director of the Dinacharya Institute in New York City.
Dr. Battacharya, you have a very impressive educational background. Why have you now chosen to focus your work on Ayurveda?
“Despite the extensive academic training I have received, I feel that I have been taught to practice medicine in a way that does not help me be a healer. I love being a doctor, but I don’t think the field truly understands what patients need to heal. The system also doesn’t appreciate the perspectives of women, minorities, or the needs of people who don’t want to use drugs or surgery. Women tend to use their intuition when exploring their illness and this is often not addressed in medicine. The word ‘care’ means a lot to me; no one ever taught us as medical students how to take care of our lives so that we could take care of our bodies—through sleep, eating right, and doing daily exercise—or how to take care of our minds, with all the violence and inequity and discrimination we face. Most doctors don’t really know how to do that. Taking care has meant reorienting into holistic medicine, using my perspective as a woman and trusting my intuition as I practice.
After learning about traditional and ancient systems of medicine, I specialized in international public health and eventually did get my medical training in order to doctor the system and to have the credentials to heal people, using holistic approaches and sciences that are consistent over time.”
Why do you think there is so much interest in the Ayurvedic modalities for treatment amongst practitioners today?
“It makes me very happy to see the level of sincere curiosity and deep interest in the Ayurveda workshop this year. We are coming to a time when more attention is being focused on our food and environment and sustainability and the 5000 year old Ayurvedic system has some of the answers. As a holistic and systematic approach to total health, the Ayurvedic tenets are a natural fit for the integrative practitioner.
Its basic principles emphasize optimal health through ecologically sustainable medicine, balance with our inner and outer environment, and attunement with the seasons, surrendering to the greater wisdom and timeless forces and flow of Nature.”
Since 2007, you have been the Director of the Dinacharya Institute in New York City. Can you tell us more about it?
“The Dinacharya Institute promotes education about health and well-being through traditional and ancient healing systems, such as Ayurveda and yoga. Its mission is to create a stronger Ayurveda community in New York and in India, through high-quality programs, abundant opportunities, promotion of self-awareness, and demonstration of Integrity in education. In the past year, Dinacharya has sponsored several conferences, think tanks, and its 8-weekend certification course for health professionals on basic Ayurveda. The Dinacharya Institute seeks to reconnect people in modern society with the tools that are available for healing through understanding the wisdom of healthy habits in daily living. Its recent projects include affiliation with medical centers and schools to promote good medicine, and the integration of lifestyle counseling, nutrition, yoga, and Ayurveda into clinical practice and research.”
“Don’t go to the ocean with a teaspoon” is the expression you will find on Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya’s website and facebook page. For more information about Ayurveda and Dr. Bhattacharya’s work, visit the following sites: