Ancient Ayurveda for Healing

Matthew Bieniek, Cumberland Times-News, Md.

Posted May 28, 2013

If you've never heard of Ayurveda, you're not alone. Cecile Gilchrest is out to change that and believes Ayurveda will take off, just as its sister science yoga did, in the 1980s. Ayurveda is a 5,000 year-old healing system that uses food as medicine, among other practices.

"I feel so blessed by it, I am happier and healthier. ... The idea is to get the word out to share this wonderful old, new, news about Ayurveda," Gilchrest said. Gilchrest is a certified Ayurvedic consultant who has studied at the premier Ayurvedic institutions in the nation, including the New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine.

She's started Red Hawk Ayurveda and is offering individual consultations and small group presentations (5-15 people) about Ayurveda. Gilchrest has studied lifestyle and diet as medicine for 25 years. She's currently taking an anatomy and physiology course at Allegany College of Maryland.

"I'm not looking to lure people away from their doctors," Gilchrest said. Ayurveda can work in a complementary fashion with traditional medical treatments, she said. Ayurveda focuses on diet, stress reduction techniques, herbal supplements, proper breathing techniques, bodywork (akin to massage) and simply a change of attitude.

"Ayurveda is related to healing the body using natural therapies and medicines whereas yoga is considered to be the science of mind and body purification. The two complement each other and are never in contradiction," Gilchrest said. Some gentle yoga is incorporated into Ayurvedic practice.

"You are what you eat ... also when and how you eat," she said. "Ayurveda really believes in food as medicine." Ayurveda believes everyone is made up of the five essential elements of nature: Fire, water, earth, air and space. Air, fire and water are the most important of the elements. Everyone has a combination of these elements with one usually dominant.

An important part of Ayurvedic practice is to keep these elements in balance, largely by adjusting diet. A person with dominant water traits in their makeup, or constitution, might need to eat more fiery foods to keep their constitution in balance, Gilchrest explained. In Sanskrit, "dosha" means constitution, a person's makeup, Gilchrest said.

"Respect for nature is at the heart of Ayurveda," she said. A deep appreciation for life itself and the empowerment of each individual to recognize his or her potential for greater harmony with nature and as nature is Ayurveda's goal," she said.

"This is not difficult work, it is very easy and natural," Gilchrest said. We all go off balance and need diet and lifestyle changes to right ourselves, she said. "There is a complexity to it, but it is not complicated," she said.

Among the sources of imbalance are stress, over-busyness, diet, family problems, economic and political issues, crime, violence and disease, she said.

Ayurvedic practitioners can often tell a great deal from taking someone's pulse, said Gilchrest. She's personally witnessed amazingly accurate diagnosis by Ayurvedic practitioners after taking someone's pulse.

Gilchrest said her initial consultation and presentations are free with no obligation and nothing to buy.

"I'm looking for a few committed people who want a companion along the way," Gilchrest said. "Ayurveda isn't a remedy, it is a practice. ... Are you up to taking charge of your own health?"

She believes Ayurveda can help with weight loss, sleep patterns and reducing stress, among other things. At this time, Gilchrest is offering consultations and information. She does have contacts for those who might be interested in bodywork or other Ayurvedic treatments. The name Red Hawk came to Gilchrest when a red-tailed hawk landed near her when she was taking one of her courses in Ayurveda. "It chose me," she said. Gilchrest wore a pair of hawk earrings during the interview.

You can contact Red Hawk Ayurveda at

Contact Matthew Bieniek at

©2012 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

Visit the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.) at

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