DR. SHIJOE MATHEW
"As a family, we never take any medicines or supplements. Not even herbs regularly, unless there is a chronic condition that needs help. Our first line of treatment is food itself and our medicine cabinet is the kitchen spice rack. Our antibiotic is fasting, and our painkiller is herbal oils and hot baths. Feeling grateful for all the good things we have and the beautiful life and people around us and appreciating the divine presence within us and around us is our vaccination."
Dr. Shijoe Mathew is an Ayurvedic doctor at The Alternative Healthcare in West Sussex and the founder of Ayurvedic Life With Dr. Mathew. Born in Kuwait and raised in Kerala, South India, Dr. Mathew was influenced by Ayurveda early on and eventually decided to dedicate his life to practising and sharing this ancient knowledge.
Dr. Mathew has been an Ayurvedic physician for almost a decade, most notably at Ananda in the Himalayas. His practice mainly focuses on dosha diagnosis-based body balancing, Panchakarma and Ayurvedic lifestyle planning.
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Website: Shijoe Mathew
"There is no point in forcing yourself to eat something that you don't like, thinking it will do good for your health."
How did you discover Ayurveda?
The story of Ayurveda becoming my-urveda is a long one. I was brought up in Kerala, in Allappey, which is also known as the "Venice of the East." Blessed with wonderful warm weather, lots of lagoons and rivers, Kerala always had an abundance of green cover on her.
Before I start with my story, let me give you a brief background of Ayurveda in India. The traditional practice of Ayurvedic medicine in India had a lot of influence — some positive and some negative — on various events in the history of India. The scriptures and texts in Sanskrit, which we still follow to learn this science, are more than 2,000 years old. The decline of Sanskrit as a “language of the elite” was one of the factors that made learning Ayurveda initially inaccessible to most people. The language and the descriptions in the texts like caraka Samhita and ashtanga samgraha indicate their Northern Gangetic plane origins and show the influence of Buddhism in them. This is very surprising considering that all that comes from India, including Ayurveda, is thought to be based on "Hinduism" by many of us.
Anyway, by the latter part of the 16th century onwards, due to various invasions and political events, the practice and advancement in Ayurveda stagnated in the North Indian mainland. During this time up until now, Ayurveda enjoyed a privileged place in Southern region Kerala's society. Royalty ruling Kerala made sure that Ayurvedic treatments be always free of cost to the public and the practitioners were supported and rewarded well. Many families traditionally would teach their next generation from childhood itself Sanskrit and the basics of Ayurveda to keep on fueling its evolution. This helped the doctors of Ayurveda in Kerala to nurture further and develop various kinds of medicated oils for massages, herbal sudation techniques and other treatments, which are now spreading all around the world as keraleeya panchakarma.
What drew you to the practice of Ayurveda?
My grandfather's younger brother was a traditional Ayurvedic eye doctor, practicing “salakya tantra” in Kerala. He tried to teach my uncle, but failed. So, no one was practicing Ayurveda for a while in our family. After finishing school, when I had the opportunity to decide what to study further, I chose to be an instrumentation engineer! Long story short, three months into mathematics and welding stuffs, I got a letter from the university entrance commission in Kerala, saying that since I had studied Sanskrit language in school, I could opt to change my course to Ayurveda if I wished to. No one in my family thought I would, but I did! In 2003, I joined the bachelor of Ayurvedic medicine and surgery course, which is where my 14 year-long journey with Ayurveda started.
Initially I regretted this idea of such a long course. 66 months of full-time study!! During this time, I had a very strong asthma attack, which one professor treated using just a handful of simple herbs. I never had to take any inhalers or horrible steroids and it never appeared again (touch wood!!). I could see people brought into our college hospital on stretchers suffering from severe arthritis and hemiplegia walking back home healthy and happy. During our clinical practice, over the final 12 months of the course, we handled a huge section of the 200-bedded hospital ourselves, which was quite an experience that generated inside us enormous trust in the power of Ayurveda.
How does Ayurveda fit into your everyday life?
Completing the course, I had the opportunity to practice under the best names in Ayurvedic science of the current era. Ayurveda slowly ceased to be a job that I was trained in, and became instead a way of living that I've enjoyed thoroughly for more than a decade and that was ingrained into me by nature.
What place does Ayurveda have in your family?
As a family, we never take any medicines or supplements. Not even herbs regularly, unless there is a chronic condition that needs help. Our first line of treatment is food itself and our medicine cabinet is the kitchen spice rack. Our antibiotic is fasting, and our painkiller is herbal oils and hot baths. Feeling grateful for all the good things we have and the beautiful life and people around us and appreciating the divine presence within us and around us is our vaccination.
Do you have any advice for everyone reading this?
The common advice for everyone reading this would be to have only the food that you love into your mouth, trust your intuition and then every bit of that food will start loving you and nourishing you. There is no point in forcing yourself to eat something that you don't like, thinking it will do good for your health.