“The universal truth is: I am the creator of my life. To the degree that I embrace this by taking responsibility for my feelings, thoughts and actions as well as their consequences, I will experience more conscious control, purposeful direction and creative power in my life.”
Sascha Kriese began his studies in Ayurveda and pulse-reading in 1998 after meeting his mentor Dr. Pankaj Naram in Mumbai. Having completed an Ayurvedic bachelor’s degree course at Thames Valley University and several years of clinical internship at various hospitals, clinics and private practices in India, he started his own practice together with his wife Rebecca in 2004. From 2005 till 2014 he worked on behalf of the UK Ayurveda community by helping to set up and administrate the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association (APA), and by representing the interests of Ayurvedic professionals on the board of directors of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA). Since 2007 Sascha has been teaching the art and science of pulse-reading in the UK, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. He has written forewords and pre-publication reviews for several Ayurvedic books, supports Ayurveda students and colleagues as a mentor and runs regular workshops. He is also a trained and active Shadow Work coach as well as group facilitator.
“Ayurveda made it possible for me to become a father.”
What does Ayurveda mean to you?
Wisdom of Life... in a very practical sense. Putting it simply, wisdom is knowledge that has been successfully tried and tested in real life. My Ayurvedic mentor used to say it this way: “Ayurveda is not about what’s right or wrong; it’s about what works.”
I think Ayurveda provides an insight into the workings of Nature and, in an easy-to-grasp manner, offers an introduction to the laws of the Universe. It’s like a rule book for the Game of Life. And since the latter is the “only game in town” for most of us, understanding its rules (and playing by them!) tends to facilitate a more joyful and much smoother ride through life than going against the grain or trying to make up one’s own rules along the way. It’s just common sense... which, essentially, is what Ayurveda stands for.
When did you discover it?
My wife and I came in contact with Ayurveda in 1998 when we met our teacher and mentor Dr. Pankaj Naram in India. It was an unexpected and rather intense introduction that literally swept us off our feet: we went to his clinic just to have a look, but then ended up staying five long months, completely mesmerised, observing Ayurveda in action from morning till late at night, watching hundreds of patients every day, helping out in all departments and soaking up as much as we could. It was the traditional way of “learning by doing” and, even though in the beginning we didn’t understand much of what we were witnessing, we eventually left deeply inspired and fully committed to pursuing Ayurveda as a professional and personal path.
How long have you been practising it?
In 2000 we enrolled in the first UK degree programme in Ayurvedic medicine to start our formal studies. However, the powerful initiation we had already received from Dr. Naram and his wife as well as the daily exposure to the “magic” of Ayurveda in their clinic had instilled in us so much confidence in this ancient system that we started working with clients long before our university training finished. Officially, we opened our Ayuseva clinic in 2004, but we’ve actually been practising Ayurveda for almost 20 years now.
What drew you to Ayurveda?
My father is an actor, so I grew up with theatre and always had this dream of creating productions that would touch people deeply and somehow impact them in a transformational way. But after having worked as an assistant director for a few years and also directed my first own production, the intense love and enthusiasm for theatre suddenly – and to my surprise – vanished, leaving me somewhat disillusioned. I found myself hungry for a different, more effective way of facilitating inner change... and that’s when Ayurveda entered the stage and satisfied this hunger. The incredible physical as well as personal healing I witnessed in so many patients in Dr. Naram’s clinic rekindled my enthusiasm. This long-held desire of mine to support and guide people through processes of deep transformation had found a new creative outlet through Ayurveda.
Has it helped you with anything major?
Certainly! Ayurveda made it possible for me to become a father: without taking Ayurvedic herbs the quality and quantity of my sperm cells would have been far too low for successful conception. When I look at my gorgeous daughter today, I am deeply grateful for the gift of life Ayurveda has brought to my family.
Is Ayurveda part of your everyday life or just for your medicine cabinet or fall-back routine?
Well, being an Ayurvedic practitioner, it obviously is part of my professional everyday life. On a personal level, I wouldn’t consider myself a “hard-core Ayurvedist,” but I tend to follow the same advice I offer my patients and live by the recommendations I give to them. And if at times I don’t, I relatively quickly receive – just like everybody else – a more or less gentle reminder from Life that it’s time to stop fooling around... which usually is enough to get me back on track.
What are your top 3 Ayurvedic tips that have worked for you?
1. Avoid eating wheat
While this is not a classical Ayurvedic recommendation, it nevertheless is a correct and important one for our time. The problem is not wheat itself; it’s what humans have done to it through selective breeding over the last 50+ years. Because the gluten content of this grain has been increased up to ten times the natural amount, most people simply cannot digest it properly and therefore produce Ama. While I have seen plenty of clinical evidence for this in my patients (many symptoms disappear or reduce significantly when they stop eating wheat), there is also ample scientific proof for the illness-inducing properties of modern wheat (to find out more, check out Wheat Belly by William Davis). So, wherever classic Ayurvedic texts extol the virtues of wheat, people in the 21st century should think spelt, kamut, einkorn or emmer instead, i.e. ancient wheat varieties that haven’t been tinkered with.
2. Take responsibility for your life
There are no coincidences: nothing occurs out of the blue, and health and happiness are no happenstance. The universal truth is: I am the creator of my life. To the degree that I embrace this by taking responsibility for my feelings, thoughts and actions as well as their consequences, I will experience more conscious control, purposeful direction and creative power in my life.
3. Strive for freedom
Ayurveda is said to help people attain the so-called four goals in life: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. They can be briefly summed up like this: In order to experience real freedom (Moksha), I need to walk with integrity a life path that is authentic for me (Dharma), create the abundance of material and experiential wealth that I yearn for (Artha), and ensure that I satisfy all my needs and desires (Kama). There are other, more rigid and moralistic interpretations of these four goals, but I believe they are tainted by religious, philosophical or cultural dogma. Life is the ultimate manifestation of freedom, and that is what Ayurveda is all about. My Ayurvedic guru told me: “Whenever you meet rigidity, dogma and the disapproval of doubt, run for your life!”
What surprised you most about Ayurveda?
For me, the most surprising thing about Ayurveda (or any universal truth, really) is: it’s so simple! Despite its complexity as an art and science, there is nothing complicated or confusing in Ayurveda.
Did you integrate it gradually or overnight for any particular reason?
New things don’t really happen overnight; they evolve naturally, i.e. in stages and over time. There is usually a trial and error phase involved, some necessary experimenting and checking things out with an appropriate amount of doubt or healthy scepticism. But the more something shows results and evidently “works,” the more it sticks. In that way, Ayurveda gradually seeped into my life and, step by step, became second nature for me. And it continues to grow and shift in the way it has an impact on me; I keep discovering new aspects of it while others might fade into the background as I evolve within myself. Ayurveda is a journey without end... well, it is about life; how could it be any other way?!
Does your family eat an Ayurvedic diet?
My wife and I follow the same dietary guidelines we give to our patients, so I guess in that sense our family is eating an Ayurvedic diet. However, I struggle with the term “Ayurvedic diet” when it is simply associated with Indian recipes or the use of spices mentioned in classical Ayurvedic scriptures. Regardless of ingredients or the preparation style used, any diet can be considered Ayurvedic as long as it is nourishing, enjoyable and easy to digest for the individual who consumes it.
And if your children do, do they know it’s Ayurveda or do they just think of it as home cooking?
My daughter Ayla is three and a half, so she doesn’t yet intellectually understand what Ayurveda is. But she is getting to know it experientially: when eating our mostly organic and home-cooked food, when preparing her favourite vegetable dishes with Mama (thankfully, Ayla loves her greens and even mung soup!), when baking bread with Papa (wheat-free, of course!), or when following simple Ayurvedic principles (“Mama, no cheese for me today – I have mucus!”).
What is your favourite Ayurvedic recipe or go-to ingredient?
I am far too much of a variety lover to be able to choose one thing as a favourite. I simply adore all good, healthy food, and if I find a particular dish really delicious, I can easily eat for England – despite being German!
How does Ayurveda fit into your day-to-day routines?
Well, it very much depends on how “day-to-day Ayurveda” is defined. I believe that everyday Ayurveda neither necessitates the creation of Little India at home nor does it require regular yoga sessions, disciplined tongue scraping, a compulsory meditation practice, frequent mantra chanting, the ubiquitous smell of turmeric in the house or lashings of ghee on every meal. All of the above are wonderful, but applied Ayurveda extends far beyond a set of routines that need to be fit in.
For me, some of the most important “Ayurvedic” day-to-day questions are: “Am I content? Am I expressing myself creatively? Am I experiencing myself authentically?” Anything that contributes to me becoming able to answer these questions with a resounding YES is, by definition, Ayurvedic – whether it says Ayurveda on the label or not. One example: I work from home and, after having seen many patients in a day, I sometimes need to physically leave the house in order to transition back into family mode. My favourite Ayurvedic ‘home remedy” here is a brief trip into town to my local coffee shop where I can sink back into my private self while sipping a brown brew and watching the world go by – it works magically for me! Already after 20 minutes I usually feel deeply satisfied, a sweet sense of inner freedom and home again within myself, ready to go back to do house chores or simply be with my loved ones.
And so, it is up to every individual to listen inward in order to discover what works and what doesn’t in their particular life setup and at any given moment in time. That’s a useful Ayurveda practice to “fit into” one’s day-to-day life. Maybe some healthy habits need to be added to existing daily routines, perhaps some of the latter actually need to go and NOT be replaced with new ones. It’s so Ayurvedic to clear old clutter and create space...
What’s the one thing you would encourage everyone to try or you think would benefit the majority of people’s health for the better?
Follow my top three Ayurvedic tips above! ☺