A Story Share with Ayurveda Teacher, Sumitra Peterson
I recently completed a 300 hour yoga training at Yandara, a wonderful community center in Baja, Mexico. Part of the training included choosing a 100 hour elective module, and I chose ‘Ayurveda’. I knew some basics about Ayurveda but had never fully delved in to the teachings. I wasn’t sure why I chose it as the elective, primarily went off gut feel. It spoke to me in ways that are unexplainable, it just felt like the right fit. At first I was a bit skeptical (as I am with many things) to this ancient approach to life: “Isn’t this just common sense?” I found myself repeatedly asking. Although much of Ayurveda is ‘common sense’, it is interesting how much of this sense we actually embrace in our modern daily lives. It is one thing to ‘know things’, and another to practice them. It is really about fully committing to LIVING the practice. The highlight of the training was being in the presence of the teacher, Sumitra Peterson. This radiant woman is truly amazing! Her devotion to living yoga and Ayurveda inspires me to be my best self everyday. May the wonders of her story and Ayurveda spark curiosity and make space for cultivating gratitude for this precious life…Thank you Sumitra!
When did you become fully committed to living an Ayurvedic lifestyle and why?
In my early 20’s I became a seeker of health practices when a friend inspired me by gifting me my first nutrition book. At the age of 40, I entered Mount Madonna’s Yoga Teacher training program. The program offered each student a consultation with Dr. Vasant Lad. Dr. Lad did a short examination checking my pulse, tongue and eyes. I was shocked when he told me many things about my health history that no one else knew. I felt that I had finally found the mother of all the health sciences, Ayurveda. After completion of the yoga teacher training program, I studied Ayurveda with Dr. Ladd and began applying some of the Ayurvedic principles of diet and panchakarma to my life. Old patterns are sometimes slow to change so I found that I wasn’t ready to make a complete shift to living the Ayurvedic lifestyle until 2005 when I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. I was told by my western medical doctor that I would need to ‘kill’ my thyroid gland with radioactive iodine or take drugs for the rest of my life. I was then inspired to fully apply everything I had learned about my recommended Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle. When I underwent an Ayurvedic cleansing diet and Ayurvedic therapies know as the panchakarmas, my symptoms disappeared and have never returned.
If you could recommend one Ayurvedic tip everyone could start bringing to their daily lives, what would it be?
Ayurveda is practical and intuitive and easy to start applying to your daily life. The underlying principle is that health depends on the effectiveness of digestion. If you cook, you know not to add uncooked rice to a pot of rice that has been cooking for awhile, neither will be cooked correctly. If I can only recommend one Ayurvedic tip, I recommend time between meals, so a meal will be completely ‘cooked’ before adding more food. After eating your meal, allow at least 2 hours for Vata digestion, 4-6 hours for Pitta digestion, and at least 6 hours between meals with only 2 meals a day for Kapha digestion. If your appetite demands an in-between meal snack, have a piece of fruit or a cup of tea. Time between meals is a great way to strengthen digestion which strengthens immunity. Strong immunity is a product of strong digestion.
How did you become involved with the Yandara community?
I came to the Yandara community because of my desire to live close to Mother nature and among kindred tribe members. Friends from my years in Santa Cruz were part of the Yandara community. Even though I had briefly been to lower Baja in 1988, my inner direction motivated me to bring completion to my 22 years in the Santa Cruz area and make the move to Baja. Ten years of living in the intentional community of Mount Madonna Center created another attraction to the community of Yandara. The support of Satsang (being in the company of the truth or the good, by sitting together with a guru or a group of spiritual students) is invaluable on the spiritual path.
Can you tell us about the programs you teach there?
I taught a course that covered the Ayurveda fundamentals. The Sanskrit word Veda means knowledge and Ayur means daily living. Ayurveda is the knowledge of daily living, of how to keep ourselves healthy on a day-to-day basis. We look at how to integrate Ayurvedic wisdom into daily life, and create balance by cultivating harmony between the inner and outer environments.
- Vedic & Samkhya Philosophy (Physiology of Creation)
- Discover you Dosha/Constitution & Imbalances
- Constitutional diets
- Five Great Elements, Three Doshas, The Six Tastes
- Digestive Health (Agni/Ama)
- Cleanses & Balancing
- Daily & Seasonal Routine for Healthy Living
- Preparation of traditional Indian Chai Tea, Kitcheree, Ghee and fermented whole grain flat breads
Do you suggest any other resources for people that are interested in learning more about Ayurveda?
My love of Ayurveda recently took me on a five month pilgrimage to India. The state of Kerala in Southern India is the home of this 5,000 year old Vedic science. India is a great place to experience Ayurveda therapies, especially if you are on a budget. The tradition of Mother India was that the son/daughter of an Ayurveda doctor started apprenticeship at the age of seven. In India it is easy to find an Ayurveda doctor that is 3rd or 4th generation. In the US, Europe or Australia, an Ayurvedic doctor can be found in most of the larger metropolitan areas. When you find a local Ayurveda doctor, do some research and find out where they were trained and how long they have been practicing. Like Yoga, the long practicing will have the wisdom of their experience.
My first teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad started The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The institute offers courses as well as treatment and therapies.
Among my favorite Ayurveda authors are Dr. Vasant Lad, Dr. Robert Svoboda and Dr. David Frawley. Ayurvedic Beauty Care by Melanie Sachs explains some of the Ayurvedic therapies that can be practiced at home.
What are you most passionate about right now?
I just completed a children’s book, Balancing The Elements, Ayurveda Fun. I had the idea for this book five years ago. I also do photography and design, and with the book in mind, I started photographing my best dog friend, Inka, who is the superhero of the book. Inka is Master of The Elements. I am now in the process of finding the right publisher.
Who have been your most inspiring teachers?
It is the nature of a good teacher to inspire their students and I have been blessed with many great teachers. I am grateful for them all. My life’s gratitude is for my spiritual teacher, Baba Hari Das. His teachings and Presence have had a positive impact upon my life in so many ways. He teaches that the outer Guru is just a reflection of finding the inner Guru. Babaji’s teachings have been a Light that shines upon the path I walk. For me his greatest teaching is to seek the silent voice within for guidance and direction. I Am forever grateful to Baba Hari Das. Jai Jai Babaji!
Anything else you would like to share?
The path that Western medicine has taken is technical, using expensive methods and machinery to treat the symptoms of a disease, looking at the body as it’s parts rather than as a whole. The average person feels dis-empowered with it comes to their own health maintenance, sometimes dependent upon their doctor or long term use of drugs with adverse side effects. Ayurveda is a natural healing science that treats the body as a whole, offering preventative principles that are intuitive and can be applied to every day living. Applying the principles of Ayurveda requires awareness of one’s self, relationships, and environment. This cultivation of awareness, of Self awareness, gives the power to create a life for your self that is healthy, happy and holy. Ayurveda gives you the tools to live a life in balance, creating balance in your body, in your relationships, and balance in your environment. For me, this is a great service that I can contribute to the world. Living a balanced life.
Sumitra Peterson’s love of and background in dance & movement lead her in 1990 to study yoga at Mount Madonna Center in Santa Cruz, California. Her teacher, Baba Hari Das initiated her into the classical teachings of Ashtanga/Raja Yoga. For more than 10 years, Sumitra was a resident, teacher, workshop leader, and choreographer at Mount Madonna Center and teacher and choreographer at Mount Madonna School. While at the yoga center she earned their Yoga Teacher Training Certificate and studied Ayurveda with Dr. Vasant Lad. She was trained in Ayurveda Swedana for the Kaya Kalpa Wellness Center and worked at the Ayurvedic Laboratory and Store. From 2000- 2008 she taught the Ayurveda Fundamentals course offered by Avalon Yoga’s biannual, six week teacher training program in Palo Alto, CA as well as teaching Yoga Asana at three other studios in the area. For the last few years she has initiated Yandara Yoga’s (Baja, Sur Mexico) Ayurveda course as part of their 300 hr. training. Sumitra is wholeheartedly dedicated to the continuing study, practice and teaching of Yoga and Ayurveda. The methods of these ancient sciences are integrated into her life and continues to inspire her daily.
“It is a great blessing to have the knowledge of Ayurveda. My health is in my hands, thanks to applying the principles of this ancient healing science.”
CONNECT with her book HERE