by Angela Johnson

What may sound like hocus-pocus to many Americans is actually considered a very simple, effective and accepted way of healing in many countries around the world. Treating the whole person isn't often practiced in Western medicine, but it is beginning to get more notice. Holistic practitioners are becoming more popular in the United States, and they are teaching people that fixing health problems with medicine isn't the only answer.

Ayurveda (pronounced "eye-yur-vay-da"), an ancient form of healing that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, just found its way to Spokane with the opening of a new healing center, the first of its kind in the region. The center offers a method to treat the five "foundation stones of health," which include nutrition, exercise, cleansing, rest and spirituality. Ayurveda is a related to yoga, and the two were originally intended to be practiced in conjunction with one another.

Ayurveda was popularized, in part, by the books of the Indian physician Deepak Chopra, the CEO and founder of the Chopra Center for Well-being in La Jolla, Calif. Chopra has written 26 books, among them Perfect Health, which explain the principles of Ayurveda. In the book, he claims that you don't need to be plagued by aging and disease, and that many health problems originate in people's minds. Perfect Health was revised and updated just last year.

Kevin and Rebecca Laselle recently opened Wellspring, a center for Ayurveda and holistic health in Spokane. Both are licensed psychotherapists who completed schooling in October for the practice of Ayurveda. They specialize in getting to know someone and then treating the whole person.

"It's really important we know who someone is," says Kevin Laselle. "Negative feelings often have an impact on the body."

In the initial assessment, a patient sits down with one of the practitioners for about two hours to answer a series of questions regarding the foundation stones. These questions include their work, their nourishment and their happiness. People come in with problems from aches and pains to chronic fatigue syndrome to just wanting better health.

After the first session, the patients return for recommendations on how to live more healthily. They are given a health plan, which is determined by what body/mind group they fit into.

"It's really very complete," Laselle says. "It covers every part of a person's life."

It works like this. The Laselles analyze the information they received from the first session and then put the patient into one of Ayurveda's 10 body-type groups. There are three main groups, called "doshas" -- Vatas, Kaphas and Pittas. Those three are again divided into 10 smaller groups, and from there, thousands of sub-groups come into play.

With a deep interest in Eastern traditions, Rebecca Laselle began studying Ayurveda 10 years ago. She also teaches meditation, which is often a part of Ayurveda.

"It's given me a greater awareness," she says. "It has helped me tremendously physically." She adds that Ayurveda has given her new methods to deal with stress and a greater understanding about who she is.

Besides eating well and exercising, the center helps patients with aromatherapy and herbs and teaches techniques of mindfulness, she says. They also encourage people to spend more time out in nature. Many people come in with emotional issues, and the practitioners work with those. They also deal with the patient's spirituality to help them "connect to their inner source" and gain "inner clarity."

"People have to shift their awareness if they want to heal," Laselle says.

In fact, Ayurveda isn't for the uncommitted. It's a long-term process that requires change in every aspect of someone's life.

Laselle believes people generally like Ayurveda, and most are eager and motivated. Women tend to be more open to taking the first step in coming to an Ayurveda specialist, she says. In the months to come, the center will be offering workshops for stress management and nutrition. With these classes, the Laselles are hoping to reach out to people who might feel uncomfortable with a one-on-one consultation.

It's all simply about creating a balance in a person's life, which Chopra believes is very natural and easy.

"We really work with the whole person to create a fresh, new awareness in a compassionate way," Rebecca Laselle says.

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Sat., Feb. 4, 12-1 p.m.
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