Using Ayurveda for self-care in occupational therapy
By Mandy Lubas, OTR/L, RYT
|Prevention and wellness are emerging practice areas for occupational therapists. As an occupational therapist, I’ve been incorporating Ayurveda into my scope of practice to support my clients’ and patients’ daily living skills.
By using Ayurveda as a treatment modality tool, I’ve been able to emphasize ways to prevent disease by educating them on Ayurvedic daily and seasonal routines for their particular body constitution. My patients and clients have been able to experience something unique for their individual self-care during treatment sessions addressing activities of daily living.
The time is now for occupational therapists to embrace this opportunity of using holistic approaches in their scope of practice. If individuals are more mindful of their health and well-being, health care costs would be reduced. What have you been incorporating into your scope of practice that emphasizes prevention?
Wellness and prevention are defined in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process 2nd Edition. Prevention is defined as “Health promotions equally and essentially concerned with creating the conditions necessary for health at individual, structural, social, and environmental levels through understanding of the determinants of health; peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justices, and equity. Promoting a healthy lifestyle at the individual, group, organizational community (societal), governmental/policy level.”
Wellness is defined as “An active process through which individuals become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.” Wellness is more than a lack of disease symptoms. It is a state of mental and physical balance and fitness.
Health Care Reform
According to AOTA, “The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) places an increased emphasis on preventing disease and injury as key to enhancing and improving the health of Americans. Health care will shift away from the current reactive approach toward a system that makes wellness and prevention a priority. The ACA requires health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) to cover certain preventive services and eliminates cost sharing to increase the accessibility and affordability for such services. The National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council was established under the ACA in an effort to guide the nation in its shift from a focus on sickness and disease to one of wellness and prevention.”
My passion is to bring to health and wellness through a vast variety of holistic approaches — one being Ayurveda — in mainstream medicine while becoming a partner in a client’s or patient’s growth and healing. My goal is to facilitate a process that will empower others to create change within themselves. By properly educating those I serve on Ayurvedic strategies, their health can be drastically improved for longevity. As a result, my mission statement aligns with what the ACA is trying to emphasize.
Ayurveda in Occupational Therapy
Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga that’s been dated back 5,000 years. It can be used in occupational therapy to address prevention of a disease, injury, or illness in a client’s life. Prevention is a very important characteristic in Ayurveda, and enforces the great significance of being attuned in the rhythms of nature. As an occupational therapist I teach self-care using Ayurvedic approaches and techniques. Teaching those who are in my care about creating harmony in their lives through the observation of the changes of seasons, daily and nightly cycles, birth and aging patterns, and adjusting one’s lifestyle to these cycles, has provided them with opportunities for a healthy life.
A client participating in an occupational therapy evaluation with me will complete a Body Constitution Questionnaire and a Holistic Medical History, in addition to any traditional OT assessment tools that may detect any imbalances impacting their functional living skills and occupational performance. Collaboration with other disciplines is an essential piece in treating the client holistically.
It’s important to consult with the client’s primary care physician when modifying lifestyle regimens, including diet secondary to any contraindications related to their medical condition. In addition, it’s important to network with nutritionists to collaborate in a client’s care when making lifestyle modifications around nutrition, as well as educating on Ayurvedic strategies for proper treatment planning.
According to Ayurveda, the definition of a healthy person is one who has a balanced body constitution — vata, pitta, and kapha (please refer to “Two Sister Sciences,” ADVANCE, Dec. 10, 2013) — balanced digestion, proper elimination of waste products, optimal bodily functions, and a soul, mind, and five senses in bliss.
Ayurvedic Self-Care in OT
The three tridoshas are vata, pitta, and kapha, and must be considered when trying to establish a treatment plan to help to instill balance in a person’s life. After a client or patient’s body constitution is deciphered, Ayurvedic approaches are incorporated into the treatment plan when addressing daily living skills.
Activities of daily living are defined in Occupational Therapy Framework: Domain and Process, 2nd Edition as “activities that are oriented toward taking care of one’s own body. ADL also is referred to as basic activities of daily living (BADLs) and personal activities of daily living (PADLs). These activities are basic in living in the social world; they enable basic survival and well-being.”
To learn more about the definition of Prakriti and Vrakriti body constitutions (the tridoshas), the above-linked article “Two Sister Sciences” can be referenced.
The following grid (see first item at the end of this article) categorizes Ayurvedic treatment approaches for a person’s specific body constitution during changes with nature (i.e., seasons, life cycles, daily and nightly routines, and changes of one’s life within the roles of occupation) in order to ensure a successful and healthy life. According to Ayurvedic principles, the science’s uniqueness is to prevent, heal, and preserve life. Therefore Ayurveda is based on the laws of nature using holistic and natural medicine.
The grid was created by one of my Ayurvedic teachers, Dr. Manisha Kshirsagar, BAMS, DY&A, who wroteAyurveda: A Quick Reference Handbook, outlining self-care in daily routines, exercise, self-massage, aroma therapy, mealtime, nightly routine, and seasonal routines for fall, winter, spring, and summer, and can be used in occupational therapy treatment protocols.
1. Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. “Two Sister Sciences.” Posted Dec. 10, 2013.
2. Kshirsagar M & Magno A (2013). Ayurveda; A Quick Reference Handbook. Twin Lakes, WI
3. Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, 2nd Edition
4. American Occupational Therapy Association. Wellness and Prevention: Occupational Therapy’s Opportunity in the Era of Health Care Reform.