So you want to be an Ayurvedic Practitioner

It was either a healing experience or as simple as a listening experience but something touched you greatly to pursue the knowledge of Ayurveda into the land of study. You may ask around which college or course is better than another, which teacher is the most authentic one, because you only want to learn from THE BEST.  You may even uproot yourself and loved ones to pursue the art, it can rock your world that much. Where before you had feelings and ideas about your self, maybe felt dissatisfied with previous diagnoses from certain health modalities, all of a sudden it all begins to MAKE SENSE.

Your life just changed and you want to do the same for others.

I get it. One year in India roaming and gathering ideas, visuals, and my new found pleasure at squatting a perfect eliminatory piece of art, I decided to give up the corporate world and pursue becoming a practitioner. Finally I was relishing study like I hadn't before. I never wanted it to end, it felt so enormous. The deeper I got, the more I realised it would take an entire lifetime to pursue. I was bored checking debits and credits - how far can you go with that - and here were human puzzles that couldn't be figured out, that would continue to feed just enough karma into the mix to always make it fresh. I was hooked. So I enrolled and became an Ayurvedic Practitioner.

The theory enraptured me. The practise almost broke my back.

The Laundry

The Ayurvedic body therapies are extremely oily. They are heaven. The practise stems from the South Indian practise of Ayurveda, where it is warmer than the north and they have ingeniously found ways to make the clean up efficient. A droni is a wooden table made from natural wood such as the neem tree and it's angled slightly so the oil pools to a hole where it is collected. They use the edge of a banana leaf to scrape off the excess. You are generally naked or offered a sliver of a cloth to modestly cover you for about 30 seconds until the slip/slop/slap of the oiling gets going and it becomes totally useless very soon after, which is fine because by that stage you're feeling all I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR so you don't care.

I was trained to offer the therapy in a more westernised style, which included sheeting up the massage table, extra warmth via an electric blanket, and other comfort measures, a sheet on top and mostly another cover and sometimes an extra blanket on top of that because I lived where it got extremely chilly.  I had disposable biodegradable sheets on the bottom but not on top because it wasn't comfortable. There was laundry. A lot of it. Colleagues ask each other which kind of extra grade degreaser they use, teachers warn you not to put sheets that have gone through too many treatments into the dryer because you will create a fire, and your steam tent and the floors and benches where you put the oily things all need to be wiped down. You will notice oil spread like broken glass - how the hell did it get under there.

Post massage, your client will look at you like they just came out of the womb and you might forget the labour pains of cleaning because oil therapy is so incredibly effective at producing a happy client but this area is worth reviewing in terms of efficiency since I'm guessing you didn't realise the time it would take in your day to clean.

Some tips to consider:

  • When you feel the best in the day. I am a springy morning person and seem to be able to split my mind in parts to multi task like a champion. I laundry/clean between my morning routine, whilst I'm swishing or self-abhyangering or prepping lunch. I have determined that we all have our most efficient part of the day and I do recommend mixing cleaning in with more interesting things so it doesn't feel like it takes over.
  • Whether it's more cost effective and time effective going to a laundry. For one, and especially if you work from home, you might want to get out of the house. Laundry's these days seem to be becoming a social hub. It can also coincide with the premier idea of just doing nothing. As a sole practitioner you could be doing things for your biz ALL THE TIME and might find yourself burning out. Sometimes in situations when you're forced to wait for something, like laundry or a prison sentence, it's kind of a good excuse in your mind to take 5.
  • Your digestive load capacity. This might sound off beat but if you were to see the bigger picture idea of digestive capacity in what you are able to process in a day, you might get to understand how much laundry/cleaning you can do at one time. Are you a 'do it all at once' kind of person or 'bits and pieces'. I find bits and pieces preferable for myself so no day is ever a cleaning day. Above all be consistent, just like your yoga practise, even if it's 10 mins. Find a rhythm. Because when you get busy you will want to rely on this part of the game as second nature or it can make you feel overwhelmed and unprepared.
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The Admin

I'm talking about a practise that's your business, not your hobby or not the second income to your partners major income (as in a hobby). It is common out there that practitioners, in general, won't make that much money for various reasons - they live in a small town, they haven't run a business before, they don't believe they should charge for giving healthcare tips. The colleges do not give substantial information on how to run a business, and to be fair, most of the teachers have been doctors of some modality, meaning, they leave colleges and work for clinics, which are already established. It takes some kind of major genitalia to step out on your own as a solo agent doing this kind of heavy lifting. I mean it. I have 20 years working as an accountant in various business sizes and indiustries and consider the lone Ayurvedic practitioner a true hero.

If you want to help people, you need to pay the bills to be able to do so, and establishing what the cost to provide a service should be a serious consideration. Your tax accountant will only tell you about taxes but they have no idea on how to cost out your business. Knowing how to run your business requires information and so many practitioners operate in cash to avoid tax. Fine, you will gain slightly but you will start to lose very valuable information on where costs are trending, where income flows at different times of year, and so on. I don't recommend it.

With the right information you might soon realise you are under costing yourself. You might decide not to offer a service based on what the market can bear in terms of costs. You might be propelled to look for better ways to offer the service.

As a business person, you should always be on the look out to improve processes. Your books are as much a part of the business as your doshic quiz. If you can go as paper free as possible. Learn clever software ideas to make activities work better. Outsource as you can - get to know your books, social media and such - but when you can afford it hand it over to be able to MANAGE the business, not become an EMPLOYEE of the business.

Some tips to consider:

  • Spend a little more per month on your software and get the better reports version. Step up a little and see your business more than just reconciling bank receipts for the tax accountant. When I was an accountant consultant I would instantly look for where there were what I called the "black holes" of the business - areas where things were shoved, like an over stuffed closet. It was where I found the root cause of blockage. Your books should mirror your approach to well being. Have you ever noticed the pet peeve of the investors on shark tank when there is a new biz owner asking for investment but can't produce the numbers? Remember you are here to SUSTAINABLY offer service to others. You don't need to DO the work but you should know your biz well enough to ask WELL POSITIONED QUESTIONS of others.
  • Create categories of income and their respective expenses. I do not recommend lumping them all into one heading. You will diversify. You will need to when you're starting out. You might make herbal formulas, you might do body therapies, you might do online classes. You absolutely need to know where you shine. One part of leaving college is this unrealistic idea that all practitioners should do all the activities required to run a clinic. I do not recommend this unless you are well versed and highly practised in each activity. If you can outsource and you've checked the numbers, do it. That way we create an industry where practitioners have higher volumes to create better efficiencies. This topic is not spoken of enough and an aspect of collaboration that would help the industry to be more formidable and encourage more specialisation within the industry.
  • Do not borrow too much money to get started. Tiny is the new movement. Create a pop-up concept to test the idea. People will say they want your services but may not follow through. A business is a separate idea from doing Ayurveda for self realisation purposes. The industry does not have a strong self identity at this point. It is considered kitsch and, in some circles, fad-dish. There can be a strong emotional component to starting out and wanting to share the good news with others. Start a small puddle and be as debt free as possible. You will soon learn if you've got the long term drive and whether the market wants you around and what it's willing to pay for it.

The Clients

This one is the most fun. You need clients. You need a shtick. Jacob Griscomb, of Everyday Ayurveda, a marketing focused company for practitioners,  once noted "No one is looking for an Ayurvedic Practitioner". What he meant was that folks were looking to find a solution - they were looking to get rid of uterine fibroids or calm their anxiety. That was the idea when I started out but things have shifted slightly due to word of mouth. There is momentum gaining because of the results and now people ARE looking for an Ayurvedic Practitioner but they don't know why.

To get back into balance is what I hear clients claim and when I ask them what that looks like or when the last time was they experiences this state, very few can answer it.

So here's where being IN the business can help you to refine the direction you want to go. And you will need a direction. Know this - you are in this to understand an aspect of yourself. There are no "perfect and fixed" practitioners - this is the biggest deceit the health industry propagates because it aligns with the "expert" angle of marketing.

I prefer to look at it from the angle that your focus on a particular topic is more honed and concentrated, from the sheer desire to know, than the majority of others. Here's the thing, once you start you might realise that you may not be interested in eveything you've been taught. For instance, you might just observe that the amount of time, energy and study required to really operate a decent cleanse so that you are able to deal with all aspects of fall out, is not where you will place your energy.

Some tips to consider:

  • I do not recommend advertising to what I call the SEA OF EMPTY FACES. You can't help everyone, or if you'd like to, you need a team. Taking some time to understand WHY you are in this can be the key that will show where you will shine the greatest and have the most longevity. I tend to disagree with the suggestion that meditation and doing your morning routine is enough to keep the Ojas/immunity high enough to cope. I do believe it is vital to place energies where being in the act of service provides energy, not depletes it. You are a practitioner and should have honed a "gut reaction" to most things by now. Use it on yourself.  You might find, as I did, that your practise becomes your CHURCH. I listened to what was coming out of my mouth and noticed a trend in clients I got very motivated versus others that seemed run of the mill.
  • Do not copy cat others. It is an irony I see in the industry that we teach others to be unique and then find all the media on Ayurveda to be the same. Most marketing folks will suggest you see what's out in the market and do the research to see whether your idea is viable. I do not recommend this as the first action. It's like telling a songwriter to see whether there are other songs out there before deciding to become a musician. If you don't know yourself to begin with you might be swayed by what you think you SHOULD do and think there is one way to be successful. This work can be your life mission, it can be an accumulation of everything that has brought you to this place. Please don't do, as I had done, and discarded a big portion of my history thinking it totally unrelated to my new venture. Therein lies your unique angle.
  • Listen to what a client wants and check your gut if it interests you. The new way to run a business is to do what I call BOOKENDING, meaning listening to the customer on how to move forward and and using the numbers on what just happened. This might be tricky because you might find the client really just wants an Ayurvedic tea and some pills and that's it AND you might not get to teach on the more juicy stuff. Are you willing to offer that service sustainably? If not, will you consider changing the demographic?  I have opened a practise in 3 different areas and each time I needed to mold myself to the clientele according to environment. I tell other practitioners - do you enjoy your daily conversations? Are you growing from the experience? The marketing is a reflection of you - the first step is to find out who you are in this.

There is a foundational aspect and reality check to running a business just like beginning a healthcare regime. In a lot of cases those that are interested in the holistic world may see the logistics of helping others to be a hindrance or selling out. I have witnessed break downs even within my industry and practitioners that look highly stressed. I was one of them. If you have not defined the relationship between the business and yourself clearly so that both parties are in agreement, then you might find, in your desire to help others, that you lose in the offering.

Remember you are unique. You have your own twist to this game. Spend time away finding what that is and know that Ayurveda does not have to encompass only that which looks Indian, it is a philosophy and you can apply it to anything. Look at the whole of you and watch where you naturally uplift. That's your unlimited Ojas and that's where you will be of greatest service to others.

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