The Health Catalyst

November 15, 2020 Nourish Editor

Dr. Kumar-Singh

Dr. Avanti Kumar-SinghDr. Avanti Kumar-Singh, is an Ayurveda Wellness Expert on a mission to show how Ayurveda is a health catalyst to achieve optimal wellness in modern life.

After receiving her Bachelor's in Art History from the University of Chicago, she went on to receive her medical degree from Rush University Medical College. While working as an ER physician, she experienced first-hand the limitations of Western medicine. To learn more, Avanti began a 10-year wellness journey during which she studied energy healing and yoga therapy and became a practitioner of the 5,000-year-old ancient healing tradition known as Ayurveda.

Today, Dr. Kumar-Singh bridges the gap between Western and Eastern medicine, helping patients, students, and holistic practitioners discover the healing wisdom within. Dr. Kumar-Singh is also a sought-after speaker and the host of The Healing Catalyst podcast. Over the last 20 years of her training, study and research, Avanti has shared her expertise with Fortune 500 companies, elite undergraduate and graduate institutions, and at prestigious industry and medical conferences. She has been featured in the Huffington Post, Thrive Global and Mind Body Green and served as the co-lead facilitator of the Faculty Scholars Program in Integrative Healthcare at the OSHER Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Medicine. She is also a certified plant-based professional and a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT, October 2020). Dr. Kumar-Singh currently resides in Chicago with her husband and two children. The Health Catalyst is her first book.

Nourish read the book and loved it! We had the pleasure of talking to Avanti and asked her a few key questions, so we can offer our readers a little insight into this ancient tradition.

Adapted from an excerpt of The Health Catalyst: How To Harness the Power of Ayurveda To Self-Heal and Achieve Optimal Wellness by Avanti Kumar-Singh, M.D., with permission from the Publisher.

From your lived experience, what would you say are the most significant differences between Western medicine and the ancient Eastern medicine of Ayurveda?

In Western medicine, we talk about quantitative measurements—labs, tests, and images. We focus on how much, how many, and what size. There are “normal ranges” for everything, and people are fitted into this construct of how they measure up to the “norm.” One of the most important aspects of Ayurveda, is that it is a qualitative science where one size does not fit all. The qualities of the symptoms provide experiential information about the relationship we have to our symptoms, which, in turn, determines our course of healing, and maintenance of health. This is a huge perspective change for most of us from Western medicine, where health is measured by comparison to “normal ranges” of diagnostic tests, and the degree of illness is measured by abnormalities, seen in numbers and on images.

According to Ayurveda, all of nature is a combination of the five elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. How do these elements create harmony and then disharmony in the body? How important is the role of nature in the Ayurvedic traditions and healing remedies?
Dr. Avanti Kumar-Singh
If I asked you what nature is, you’d probably tell me that nature is the sun and moon, plants and trees, lakes and oceans, and animals and insects. And you’re correct, nature is all of these things, but what if I said that we, human beings, are also nature? In Ayurveda, nature is everything outside of us, whilst also being ‘us’. We are one with all of nature, at the most fundamental level, because we’re made up of the same raw materials—the five elements in different combinations—space, air, fire, water and earth. In other words, we, as human beings, are a microcosm of the macrocosm of nature.

Unfortunately, many of us have lost our connection to nature and, as a result, have lost our health. We go to work early in the morning, when it’s still dark outside, and leave work late at night, when it’s dark again, quite literally never seeing the light of day. We eat strawberries and blueberries in the cold Winter, by freezing them in the Summer. We eat mangoes that don’t grow where we live, by having them flown into our grocery stores from places where they do. We cook with microwave ovens, and consume food that is in boxes and wrappers, to save time on cooking and eating. We climb artificial stairs and walk on moving belts for exercise. And the list goes on and on… Our days have been designed around technology and convenience, that was meant to improve our lives, but instead has destroyed our health. All because we have lost our connection to nature.

One of the keys to healing with Ayurveda, is maintaining our connection to nature, and living in harmony with nature’s rhythms. These are daily and seasonal rhythms, created by the movement of the earth in relation to the sun—rhythms of nature created by nature. When we rise, sleep, eat, play, and work in harmony with the light of day, the dark of night, and the change of seasons, we are connected to what is outside of us—the sun and the moon, plants and trees, lakes and oceans, animals and insects… all of nature.


Dr. Avanti Kumar-SinghHow do symptoms and the different elements correlate?

In Ayurveda, we discuss the qualities of symptoms and of everything in nature. These qualities are not black and white, but instead have many shades of gray. Instead of using measurements, in Ayurveda we describe symptoms according to how we experience them, how they feel and behave. After all, that’s how we connect with symptoms. When we have a fever, we say “I feel hot and sweaty,” not “My body temperature is above the normal range of 97.0 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.” When we have a skin rash (infection), we say, “My skin is red, swollen, and warm,” not “My white blood cell count is increased.” The qualitative feelings of symptoms, not the quantitative data, influence our experience and understanding of illness and health. And the experience each of us has of a specific symptom, is personal.

How do we find our ‘Inner Healer”?

There is a “universal truth” I learned when I studied traditional healing systems throughout the world: our thoughts about our symptoms, ultimately determine our course of healing. Our symptoms cause us to think thoughts, which then evoke feelings, that cause our action or inaction. This ultimately determines the course of our healing—which can either lead to illness or to health.

My symptoms during my medical training—the plantar fasciitis, weight gain, constipation, headaches and chronic back spasms—were all speaking to me, but I wasn’t listening. It wasn’t until these symptoms stopped me in my tracks, quite literally, that I finally started to hear what they were telling me. Lying there alone in my bed, in pain and unable to do anything, I had a lot of time to think. And then something shifted. In the quiet, the whispers got louder. I could finally hear what my heart— my higher self—was saying. My head was able to translate those whispers from my heart, to what I knew from my past experiences, and my years of studying and training. The connection between my heart and my head was once again created, and my inner wisdom had a way to speak to me again. When I finally understood that healing was about transforming my relationship to my symptoms, I started to listen to myself again. I would say, “Okay, symptom, you’re showing up. You’re here. What are you here to teach me? What is out of balance within me? What do I need to do now to learn from you and to relieve you?” As I transformed my relationship to my symptoms, I suffered less and I began to heal. When I finally listened to the whispers, everything changed.
Dr. Avanti Kumar-Singh
After 20 years of studying and training in Western medicine, and in Ayurveda, here’s what I know: If you are suffering, you have two choices. You can ignore the whispers, or you can listen to them. If you ignore them, they’ll eventually become louder and louder until you can’t ignore them anymore. However, if you’re quiet and listen carefully, you’ll realize that the whispers are coming from you, and that your inner voice is telling you something. That is when healing begins. That is when you realize that the real healer lies within.



We look forward to sharing more from Avanti and her Ayurvedic lifestyle recommendations, in a 3-part video series launching in December. 

You can visit Dr. Avanti Kumar-Singh's website to learn more. You can also order a copy of her book HERE.

Dr. Avanti Kumar-Singh, is an Ayurveda Wellness Expert on a mission to show how Ayurveda is a health catalyst to achieve optimal wellness in modern life.

After receiving her Bachelor's in Art History from the University of Chicago, she went on to receive her medical degree from Rush University Medical College. While working as an ER physician, she experienced first-hand the limitations of Western medicine. To learn more, Avanti began a 10-year wellness journey during which she studied energy healing and yoga therapy and became a practitioner of the 5,000-year-old ancient healing tradition known as Ayurveda.

Today, Dr. Kumar-Singh bridges the gap between Western and Eastern medicine, helping patients, students, and holistic practitioners discover the healing wisdom within. Dr. Kumar-Singh is also a sought-after speaker and the host of The Healing Catalyst podcast. Over the last 20 years of her training, study and research, Avanti has shared her expertise with Fortune 500 companies, elite undergraduate and graduate institutions, and at prestigious industry and medical conferences. She has been featured in the Huffington Post, Thrive Global and Mind Body Green and served as the co-lead facilitator of the Faculty Scholars Program in Integrative Healthcare at the OSHER Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Medicine. She is also a certified plant-based professional and a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT, October 2020). Dr. Kumar-Singh currently resides in Chicago with her husband and two children. The Health Catalyst is her first book.

Nourish read the book and loved it! We had the pleasure of talking to Avanti and asked her a few key questions, so we can offer our readers a little insight into this ancient tradition.

Adapted from an excerpt of The Health Catalyst: How To Harness the Power of Ayurveda To Self-Heal and Achieve Optimal Wellness by Avanti Kumar-Singh, M.D., with permission from the Publisher.

From your lived experience, what would you say are the most significant differences between Western medicine and the ancient Eastern medicine of Ayurveda?

In Western medicine, we talk about quantitative measurements—labs, tests, and images. We focus on how much, how many, and what size. There are “normal ranges” for everything, and people are fitted into this construct of how they measure up to the “norm.” One of the most important aspects of Ayurveda, is that it is a qualitative science where one size does not fit all. The qualities of the symptoms provide experiential information about the relationship we have to our symptoms, which, in turn, determines our course of healing, and maintenance of health. This is a huge perspective change for most of us from Western medicine, where health is measured by comparison to “normal ranges” of diagnostic tests, and the degree of illness is measured by abnormalities, seen in numbers and on images.  

Second Question

According to Ayurveda, all of nature is a combination of the five elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. How do these elements create harmony and then disharmony in the body? How important is the role of nature in the Ayurvedic traditions and healing remedies?

If I asked you what nature is, you’d probably tell me that nature is the sun and moon, plants and trees, lakes and oceans, and animals and insects. And you’re correct, nature is all of these things, but what if I said that we, human beings, are also nature? In Ayurveda, nature is everything outside of us, whilst also being ‘us’. We are one with all of nature, at the most fundamental level, because we’re made up of the same raw materials—the five elements in different combinations—space, air, fire, water and earth. In other words, we, as human beings, are a microcosm of the macrocosm of nature.

Unfortunately, many of us have lost our connection to nature and, as a result, have lost our health. We go to work early in the morning, when it’s still dark outside, and leave work late at night, when it’s dark again, quite literally never seeing the light of day. We eat strawberries and blueberries in the cold Winter, by freezing them in the Summer. We eat mangoes that don’t grow where we live, by having them flown into our grocery stores from places where they do. We cook with microwave ovens, and consume food that is in boxes and wrappers, to save time on cooking and eating. We climb artificial stairs and walk on moving belts for exercise. And the list goes on and on… Our days have been designed around technology and convenience, that was meant to improve our lives, but instead has destroyed our health. All because we have lost our connection to nature.

One of the keys to healing with Ayurveda, is maintaining our connection to nature, and living in harmony with nature’s rhythms. These are daily and seasonal rhythms, created by the movement of the earth in relation to the sun—rhythms of nature created by nature. When we rise, sleep, eat, play, and work in harmony with the light of day, the dark of night, and the change of seasons, we are connected to what is outside of us—the sun and the moon, plants and trees, lakes and oceans, animals and insects… all of nature.  

Element

How do symptoms and the different elements correlate?

In Ayurveda, we discuss the qualities of symptoms and of everything in nature. These qualities are not black and white, but instead have many shades of gray. Instead of using measurements, in Ayurveda we describe symptoms according to how we experience them, how they feel and behave. After all, that’s how we connect with symptoms. When we have a fever, we say “I feel hot and sweaty,” not “My body temperature is above the normal range of 97.0 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.” When we have a skin rash (infection), we say, “My skin is red, swollen, and warm,” not “My white blood cell count is increased.” The qualitative feelings of symptoms, not the quantitative data, influence our experience and understanding of illness and health. And the experience each of us has of a specific symptom, is personal.

How do we find our ‘Inner Healer”?

There is a “universal truth” I learned when I studied traditional healing systems throughout the world: our thoughts about our symptoms, ultimately determine our course of healing. Our symptoms cause us to think thoughts, which then evoke feelings, that cause our action or inaction. This ultimately determines the course of our healing—which can either lead to illness or to health.

My symptoms during my medical training—the plantar fasciitis, weight gain, constipation, headaches and chronic back spasms—were all speaking to me, but I wasn’t listening. It wasn’t until these symptoms stopped me in my tracks, quite literally, that I finally started to hear what they were telling me. Lying there alone in my bed, in pain and unable to do anything, I had a lot of time to think. And then something shifted. In the quiet, the whispers got louder. I could finally hear what my heart— my higher self—was saying. My head was able to translate those whispers from my heart, to what I knew from my past experiences, and my years of studying and training. The connection between my heart and my head was once again created, and my inner wisdom had a way to speak to me again. When I finally understood that healing was about transforming my relationship to my symptoms, I started to listen to myself again. I would say, “Okay, symptom, you’re showing up. You’re here. What are you here to teach me? What is out of balance within me? What do I need to do now to learn from you and to relieve you?” As I transformed my relationship to my symptoms, I suffered less and I began to heal. When I finally listened to the whispers, everything changed.

After 20 years of studying and training in Western medicine, and in Ayurveda, here’s what I know: If you are suffering, you have two choices. You can ignore the whispers, or you can listen to them. If you ignore them, they’ll eventually become louder and louder until you can’t ignore them anymore. However, if you’re quiet and listen carefully, you’ll realize that the whispers are coming from you, and that your inner voice is telling you something. That is when healing begins. That is when you realize that the real healer lies within.


We look forward to sharing more from Avanti and her Ayurvedic lifestyle recommendations, in a 3-part video series launching in December. 

You can visit Dr. Avanti Kumar-Singh's website to learn more. You can also order a copy of her book HERE

The End

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