Conversation with Nidhi Pandya, Ayurveda Health Practitioner
Returning to Balance
February 27, 2019
1. What is your business?
I am a holistic health practitioner and my expertise is in yoga and its sister science Ayurveda. While the goal of Yoga is to take you to enlightenment using certain asanas and practices, Ayurveda focuses on maintaining the health of the body through the right food, herbs, and lifestyle. Ayurveda is well-integrated with yoga because it combines the external and the internal. It’s an ancient living science from 5,000 years ago based on timeless and universal principles.
I work one-on-one with people to help them learn a new way of living and to really make a commitment to their health and wellness. The first meeting is about figuring out what is out of balance in that person’s body and what needs to be done to return to balance. It’s about a new lifestyle, so people work with me over a period of months at making changes gradually and restoring their health, sleep, and minds.
2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?
My grandfather, who lived with my family while I was growing up, was an Ayurvedic healer, and so I was pretty much indoctrinated into Ayurveda at birth. Growing up with a healer, I didn’t realize how ingrained Ayurveda was in my family. Once I moved to the United States and started working for a big pharmaceutical company, I was shocked by the flaws of the western medical system.
I realized that the western world is great for critical care, but some of what I considered obvious for health, like living in harmony and balance, weren’t addressed by the medical doctors.
I started working on this problem by launching an Ayurvedic wellness tea business. But I realized people needed more than one supplement. So I decided to go as deep as I could, beginning a six-year education in Ayurveda starting at California College of Ayurveda and moving to the traditional Sanskrit school called Shubham Ayurveda.
My education in the United States really dovetailed with everything I knew from my grandfather. It was a period of great awakening for me. I had so many eureka moments during my studies where I discovered connections between bodily functions, health, and foods that modern science is still oblivious to.
3. Was there one moment that gave you the confidence that this was a good idea?
When I first moved here, I was unsure if I could integrate Ayurvedic principles successfully into my modern lifestyle. I did a little at a time, but when I had kids I decided to go all in, and I saw miraculous results. No antibiotics or serious infections ever! I realized that I have gold and not many people have that.
The Ayurvedic community here comprises of practitioners that are either novices with very peripheral Ayurvedic knowledge or extremely traditional practitioners from India who are unable to relate to modern day foods and causes for disease. I felt that this deep and traditional knowledge needed to be applied to today’s problems. And that’s when I became sure that this was the right path for me.
Also, when my 10-year-old was 5 years old, she had an episode of repeated fevers with a cold and stomach pain. The pediatrician referred her to more than one specialist for what I considered manifestations of a single imbalance. I refused to go and instead I studied her imbalance closely, worked on her food and gave her an herbal plan. We got results in less than 2 months. No fevers or tummy aches or anything, everything came back to balance. This result gave me the confidence to take on more.
4. What obstacles did you face in getting started and thinking of yourself as an expert in a new setting?
Even though I had a lot of information and knowledge, I was not inclined to be vocal about my services since it is such a vast science. I was careful about not putting myself out there until I was really confident. The Vedas are to be studied from the original texts as a lot can be lost in translation. And that takes a long time. It made me a little insecure because I saw people with very basic experience and education getting out there and marketing, writing books, but I stuck to my gut. That was a part of my journey, making sure I do it the right way. Not rush into it, take it slowly and only impart authentic knowledge.
In addition, there are legal issues around running a holistic health practice. With your entire scope of practice and even in what you can say to your clients. While these laws are to protect the clients, they can also limit the impact you are able to make. So I needed to be thoughtful in how in what I promised and offered to clients.
5. Was there ever a particularly tough time that in retrospect was a priceless learning moment?
Sure. Sometimes, your first line of treatment does not go as planned and that can shake your confidence. But I needed to not take things personally and to understand that the human body is very complex. Sometimes a change of plan is needed. Telling the client that we needed to change tracks and accepting that results were not up to the mark were daunting but important. Today, I realize that my clients love that fact that I take responsibility. “Upashay” or trial treatment is a very big part of Ayurveda. It allows the practitioner to understand what works and what does not.
6. Were there any partnerships or advice that were particularly helpful?
This career does not have a carved or defined path, so networking and outsourcing as much as possible is helpful. I often practice in other countries. Finding a holistic events management company has made it so easy. They basically organize entire events for you and they really do your marketing for you, YouTube, promotions, and help guide you as well. I have used Thriive India to great effect.
These events can be expensive, but if you put yourself in the middle of them, they are a great way to reach out to an interested audience. A great percentage of the attendees get converted to clients.
7. Was outside funding/cost a challenge to getting your business off the ground?
The only real costs are rent and my herbal formulations, but I don’t keep any inventory because of the legal implications for supplying herbs. So right now my cost is low, it’s just my home office. In the next few years, I do want to have a center but the cost will be challenging. I don’t put any more time into the marketing aspect of it because my business is mainly word of mouth. I do plan to invest more in marketing eventually.
8. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?
I have never sought clients, it’s been really good, with so much word-of-mouth people usually come to me and that makes me very happy. Ayurveda is a great science and I’m so glad to be able to use it to help people. Sometimes people have sought conventional medicine and haven’t had success, but together we find success and heal them, and it makes me so proud.
I also wanted to start writing, so I write for Ayurveda Journal. It’s a very big part of what I do so that makes me very proud. It’s strengthened my belief that if you put your heart and soul into something, the universe will make things happen.
9. What are some of your current challenges?
There are a lot of regulations around what I can say, what I can prescribe, what I can and cannot say. That’s a huge challenge. In some ways, integrative medicine is gaining acceptance, but the FDA is still our biggest enemy. The FDA wants to keep the pharmaceutical industry alive.
Another challenge is that people, especially in the Yoga world are hungry for Ayurveda. As a result, a lot of un-authentic practitioners have risen to fame. Ayurveda has become glamorized. It is a challenge to stay authentic and pure and to still be able to connect with the masses. That being said, it is possible and essential to keep the essence intact.
10. What are some of the biggest positive or negative surprises in your business?
There are so many different beliefs but there is a great acceptance for Ayurveda so that’s been a positive surprise.
On the negative side, people are so hungry for information, unfortunately, they will accept any knowledge that’s imparted on them even if it’s wrong or incomplete.
For example, turmeric. It is a great herb, but it should never be consumed alone in powdered form, it should always be mixed with something else and consumed at certain times of day based on your body type. By doing this, you’re maximizing the terms of absorption. But people here one raw statement such as “turmeric is good,” and the next thing you know that it makes its way to your gut in crazy forms and proportions.
11. What would be your biggest piece of advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?
Just take one step at a time. Do not be daunted by an unclear path. I would tell myself to work harder and be more consistent. That is the only way the clouds clear and you can see a better view of where you need to be.
12. Do you use social media for marketing your business?
I actually get new clients through social media. Right now, I’m on Instagram. The general appetite for this science is growing.
Date of conversation: November 6, 2018