13 Aug

Mainstream Ayurveda vs. SV Ayurveda

Lissa Coffey

Lissa Coffey

Lissa Coffey

As an Ayurveda fan you probably know that Ayurveda originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. The Maharishi Mahesh Yoga introduced Ayurveda to the USA in the 1960s. The Beatles were followers of the Maharishi, and learned to meditate, causing meditation to gain momentum in the west. A few decades later, Deepak Chopra comes out with his book “Perfect Health” and talks about Ayurveda with Oprah on national television. Then the practice of yoga becomes popular as a form of fitness, and as people see the benefits, they begin to explore and embrace its sister science Ayurveda.

As more westerners learned about Ayurveda, they would adapt it to fit their modern lifestyles. Instead of “one” Ayurveda, there became a variety of interpretations – hence the Ayurveda that is most prevalent here in the west today, “Mainstream Ayurveda.”

Mainstream Ayurveda – the kind I learned originally – is a simplified version of Ayurveda. Less Sanskrit, fewer “rules” – more of an introduction to Ayurveda. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it’s not “deep” into the vast amount of knowledge that Ayurveda provides. We learned about the doshas, the daily routine, and a little massage, and then were sent on our way. If we wanted to learn more, there were books – so that’s what I did, and luckily at that time, back in the late 1990s – the books that were available were by some pretty good teachers, like Dr. Vasant Lad and Dr. David Frawley.

But as time went on, and the original teachers taught others to teach, the knowledge really got watered down. And then as the word spread, and yoga got super popular and every yoga teacher wanted to say something about Ayurveda, some of the knowledge got misinterpreted, and misunderstood – and even put into books and classes and webinars. Kind of like that children’s game of “Telephone” so now Mainstream Ayurveda looks in many ways very different from authentic, traditional Ayurveda.

And in the wrong hands, sometimes this misinterpreted knowledge can even be dangerous. For example, I recently saw a prominent figure in the Ayurveda community provide a “gut flush” recipe in an e-mail newsletter that went out to hundreds of thousands of people. She recommended taking pure lemon juice mixed with fresh raw ginger and cayenne pepper and drinking it every morning on an empty stomach. She said to make one big batch and it would keep in the refrigerator for a week. That’s just bad advice – and it is being labeled as “Ayurveda.” The harm is that when people take this advice, and end up with upset stomachs or worse, they’re going to blame Ayurveda, and you know how things go viral these days… that’s what happens. It’s bad PR for Ayurveda!

There’s another woman, with an Indian name who is not Indian, you might have heard of her, she is famous for being the ex-wife of a TV star. She is now billing herself as an “Eye-Ra-Ved-a” expert with her own line of products named after herself, and she even has a course out. Clearly she knows little about Ayurveda as she can’t even pronounce the word. Her objective is to sell products.

One way to gauge the authenticity of your teacher’s knowledge is to ask about the lineage. Where is the teacher getting this information?

My mentor, Vaidya RK Mishra teaches that the original source of all the wisdom in Ayurveda is the Carak Samhita. Interestingly enough, when I was originally learning Ayurveda, the Carak Samhita was never mentioned! It was many years before I understood how important, and how essential, this text is.

Using this classic text from the ancient school of Ayurveda, “from sutra to science,” is one of the hallmarks of Vaidya Mishra’s practice of Shaka Vansya Ayurveda – SVA. This is an integral part of Vaidya Mishra’s lineage. His familial lineage is traced in the ancient Vedic text, the Puranas.

Vaidya Mishra’s paternal ancestors have always been Ayurvedic physicians serving the Kings and Royal Families of India. They lived in a village called “Vaidya Chak” (literally: small village of healers) in the district of Bhagalpur in the state of Bihar, India for at least the last ten generations. Their practice was enhanced by handed-down secrets and recipes, always formulated and kept in the spirit of the original classical teachings, not contradicting or subtracting from the essence of the sutras in the Carak Samhita.

Although Vaidya Mishra completed his formal training in institutional Ayurveda he also practices according to the guidelines of his ancestry. His practice is informed by modern ayurvedic scholarship as well as modern western scientific medicine, in addition to the ancient knowledge held in his tradition.

Vaidya Mishra knows that the stress of modern lifestyles, including environmental pollution, toxic diets, and poor personal routines, exert more and more pressure on the physiology’s coping mechanisms. He understands that Ayurvedic therapies must adapt to meet the needs of these modern times while maintaining the bio-energetic purity and integrity of their ingredients. Combining this age-old knowledge of SVA, with current advances in research and technology, he’s been able to create many amazing products that help people deal with all kinds of health issues. You’ll see scientific studies cited in his books. Although Ayurveda has had this wisdom all along, now modern science has done us the favor of proving it to be true.

While there are many things that SVA does differently than Mainstream Ayurveda – here are just two:


– What we eat. Mainstream Ayurveda talks about the six tastes, and which tastes are best for the seasons and the doshas. SVA take this further, into deeper knowledge about what foods cause inflammation, what foods are to be used as medicines rather than foods, and specific ways that foods should be prepared to best be assimilated into the physiology so that the physical body is nourished.

Mainstream Ayurveda also makes “accommodations” that allow for our modern day conveniences. For example, The Carak Samhita says we should never eat leftovers. Yet some ayurvedic authors say that this is because back in the day we didn’t have refrigerators, so now we can have leftovers. One author says three days in the fridge is ok, another says up to one week. There’s no general agreement. But SVA is clear – no leftovers. And it doesn’t matter if we have refrigeration, it’s not just because of the bacteria that gets into food. It’s also because SVA sees all food as Sattvic (healthy, intelligent and filled with life force), Rajasic (stale, processed, or “dumb” food), or Tamasic (basically “dead” food that can be bad for you).

When you learn more about SVA you understand why you should not be eating garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant. While Mainstream Ayurveda may tout the benefits of these foods, SVA refers back to the Carak Samhits with specific reasons why these foods could actually be harmful.

– The vibrational body. Mainstream Ayurveda compares Marma therapy to acupressure and uses it in much the same way. Marma therapy is a whole science unto itself, and one that SVA endorses for many uses – for health, for beauty, and for spiritual growth. There is specific protocol in SVA for this. SVA gives us a “whole person” picture of the physical body and the vibrational body – how to find the balances and imbalances in each and what to do about them.

– Purification and detoxification. Mainstream Ayurveda is all about Panchakarma. But Vaidya Mishra and SVA says it’s not so simple. Sometimes more harm than good can be caused by detoxification so we have to be very careful. The liver, the colon, and the enzymatic system – all of these things come into play when looking at the intelligence of the channels, and preparing the channels. SVA gives us a deep understanding of this. SVA says that with the proper lifestyle we can keep ourselves from getting out of balance and needing any detox in the first place. It also provides gentle rebalancing protocol so that we can avoid any possible detox poisoning. SVA promotes the use of specific spices and herbs to help clear the channels for gentle and effective purification of the system.


When you practice SVA you learn that Ayurveda is not an “alternative” medicine, it can be our FIRST medicine. With SVA there is always a solution. To learn more visit Vaidya Mishra’s blog: http://www.vaidyamishra.com



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