La Femme Fertility: Known to many as the 'Mother of Ayurveda,' Dr. Sarita Shrestha inspires and heals women from Nepal to California.
A Special Stork From Nepal
Nepal's only female ayurvedic physician to give fertility seminar at Mt. Madonna Center
By Laura Mattingly
Many couples in the United States experiencing fertility troubles spend thousands of dollars on various drugs and in vitro procedures. But there's another option as well. If you take Highway 152 from Watsonville, through the trees and up a mountain, there's a very small lady with a soft beautiful voice, who came all the way from Nepal to share the ayurvedic perspective on making babies.
According to Dr. Sarita Shrestha, the only female ayurvedic ob-gyn physician practicing in Nepal, fertility is a process that begins long before conception, starting with parents' consciousness about the wellness of their own bodies.
"If you have a piece of cloth you want to dye, and if you dye it when it's dirty, you won't get a good piece of cloth. You won't get the color you want. It's the same with the body," says Shrestha. "You have to make the whole system clean, and then you are ready to sow the seed."
Shrestha was educated in a school that integrated ayurvedic techniques with Western medicine, and for 20 years she has worked as a clinical specialist. In 2003 she founded the Devi Ma Ayurvedic Hospital in Sipadole, Nepal, a village near Kathmandu, and since 2000 she has given seminars all over Europe and the United States.
During her stay at the Mount Madonna Center, a conference and retreat center located between Santa Cruz and Monterey, on a 355-acre tree-covered lot, Shrestha will be conducting two seminars. The first, Aug. 18-20, is for individuals and couples experiencing difficulties becoming pregnant, and the second, Aug. 25-27, is geared toward professional health practitioners interested in learning ayurvedic fertility techniques.
Because Shrestha received her license in Nepal and not in the United States, her seminars and consultations are of an educational nature rather than diagnostic.
Shrestha has been regularly visiting Mount Madonna for six years, and will also be on the staff of the newly formed Mount Madonna Institute as of 2007.
Because infertility in Nepal is a more common problem than in the United States, Shrestha has substantial experience working with families hoping for children, and she views fertility as a way to enhance the health of a community. "I take fertility as a source of happiness, a source of joy," says Shrestha.
Her workshop will focus on purifying the body in preparation for conception, specific nutrition suggestions for both before and during the pregnancy, and rituals and traditions that enhance physical and mental wellness of parents and child.
"First you must purify your body, so if there are any anomalies or lacking, anatomically or physiologically, you clean it up and make it fit so a pregnancy can happen."
Shrestha identifies poor nutrition as a significant source of illness and infertility problems, and the system by which to purge and cleanse the physical body of toxins she calls Panca-Karma. "Sometimes we use our bodies like garbage cans, and we need to clean it up," says Shrestha. Aspects of this cleansing are purgation and clearing the large intestine with enemas.
A key principle of ayurvedic philosophy, according to Shrestha, is that to remedy any health problem it's important to find the cause, and that some physical health difficulties are caused by problematic thoughts. "Sometimes the impurity is in our mind," says Shrestha. "Sometimes we hold everything, take it inside deep, and we get sick."
She also recommends yoga for the cleaning process. "Yoga is for internal cleaning. They always go together," says Shrestha. "They're often called sister sciences."
Shrestha stresses the need for parents who are trying to conceive a child to be constantly aware of their thoughts during this time, explaining that the effects of parents' thoughts on an embryo are just as real as physical strains.
"When in the process of copulation, they need to think good thoughts, so they don't sew the seeds of negativity," says Shrestha. "You are passing those thoughts into the sperm and the ova, and they are taken, like messengers, deep into the embryo, so it becomes charged with negativity."
Along with yoga, Shrestha recommends filling daily life with activities such as "meditation, chanting, singing and being in peace itself," says Shrestha. "Life in the nighttime is family life, and should be harmonious."
According to Shrestha, the ayurvedic method also provides dietary and activity suggestions for how parents might influence the gender and disposition of a child. "If you want a baby girl, drink coconut water."
Shrestha says 45 women under her care who were considered to have fertility problems are now the parents of healthy children. "They tried everything, and then they came to me," says Shrestha.
Della Davis, Shrestha's editor, originally met Shrestha by attending one of her seminars to gain the ayurvedic perspective on common symptoms related to PMS and menopause.
"She's a highly inspirational teacher who engages her audience with fact and clearly presented background to those facts," says Davis. "And she's able to give information on a practical enough level so people are able to integrate it into their life."
Paul Hoffman, a pediatrician in Santa Clara Valley, has integrated ayurvedic principles into his education of Western medicine, and he attended an advanced workshop with Shrestha two years ago.
In his experience, certain qualities of ayurveda enable the method to help some patients whose experience with Western medicine was unsuccessful.
"Western medicine tends to lump everyone together. They view disease as a process that affects everybody the same way," says Hoffman. "Whereas in ayurveda, disease is viewed as an imbalance of different qualities that are manifested differently in different individuals. And by focusing on the differences in people, it can treat things Western medicine can't."
Dr. Sarita Shrestha will conduct two seminars, Aug. 18-20 and Aug. 25-27, at Mount Madonna Center, 445 Summit Road, Watsonville; for more information call 408.846.4064; www.mountmadonna.org.
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