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Ayurveda as a Path of Awakening


Ayurveda, the oldest intact system of natural medicine, is one of the most powerful healing modalities known to humankind. With roots as deep as the living indigenous healing traditions, it is unique in its ability to connect modern people with the ancient wisdom that lies within them as well as the wisdom embedded in the world around them. Ayurveda is often sought out in our time by people who are looking for healing, vitality and balance. It is known as a reliable and simple way to address the root causes of physical and emotional disease. It can bring us home to our natural state which is healthy, strong and beautiful. And yet there is a deeper path of Ayurveda, one that leads you into the deepest heart of your life, bestowing a feeling of joy and connection you may have never thought possible.

Ayurveda differs from other forms of modern natural medicine in that is comprehensive. Nothing is outside of its scope. Everything-even our pain-can be experienced as a call to healing. It is also all-inclusive, meaning whether you are simply looking to get healthy, feel better emotionally and physically or have more energy for your family and loved ones, you will find effective tools for doing so.  Ayurveda can also address specific health issues and is particularly suited to resolving chronic illness and emotional issues.  Trauma, anxiety, depression, allergies, adrenal fatigue, sleep and digestive disorders, weight issues and general vitality are just a few examples of the range of healing possible. The comprehensive and inclusive nature of Ayurveda also means that is can be practiced alongside western medicine, and is excellent for supporting the body and mind when clients desire to transition safely (with full knowledge and support of their physician) off of prescribed medications.

Ayurveda is a form of living medicine. It is a path of practice. The way it manifests and unfolds in your life will look different than it does for me or anyone else. It is completely unique to each individual. My task as a practitioner is to support you in unfolding the healing intelligence of your body, whether that means dietary support, movement, restoration with herbs or purification through ritual and self-care. Healing the body and emotions is the first step.  But then there is another journey waiting, the journey of actualizing a life that is full of joy, creativity, community, family and love.

Every spiritual tradition has this possibility.  And whether or not you desire to delve into the depths of Ayurveda or you just want a healthier way of living, Ayurveda is a reliable path. But I want to talk about Ayurveda specifically in how the complete spiritual journey can be made.

People speak of an ‘Ayurvedic lifestyle’ and knowing one’s dosha. It’s true that an aspect of Ayurvedic practice is deciding what to do with one’s life-time, energy and resources and that having a basic understanding of your constitutional tendencies can be an entry-level way to engage the work. And yet, at the deepest level, Ayurveda is not a health-management strategy, nor is it a lifestyle choice. It is a complete path of awakening, with its own sadhanas, or practices, that take the student safely through deeper and deeper awareness of themselves uncovering who they truly are.

Ayurveda teaches us, through our daily rituals of compassion and care, that the individual body and the outer world mirror each other-as within, so without. In healing ourselves and awakening the vital forces within us, we automatically also heal our families, our communities and our ancestors. Nothing is separate. Ayurveda is a complete path within itself.  It takes time, commitment, and discipline.  But it can be done.  We can awaken to the wisdom already waiting inside our hearts.  We can learn to trust ourselves and not rely on other people or entities to fix us.

The path of Ayurveda is nothing less than the complete and total embodiment of our human experience.  Through the practices of Ayurveda, our awareness begins to inhabit the totality of our body.  Our body literally begins to awaken to its own natural intelligence and confidence.  And it’s from this embodiment that healing unfolds. Ayurveda opens, clears, awakens, and directs the awareness through the subtle energy centers of the body.  True wisdom comes from the heart, not from our thinking.  Soon we find ourselves awake, curious, and energized and actually wanting to create our own way through the humble challenges and gifts in our everyday lives, leading to an experience of true fulfillment in ordinary life.  We find ourselves being the person we always wanted to be and surrounded by community and passionate, meaningful relationships.   Ayurveda is an ancient, yet up to date, human path of self-actualization and total organic healing within this lifetime.

Our culture has a habit of turning everything into a management strategy. We are trying to manage our weight, our anxiety, our finances, etc. We even try to manage the healing process itself, and can become frustrated when our imbalances don’t resolve on the schedule we decide they should. Ultimately we are trying to manage the energy of life, never really allowing ourselves to come into a direct and honest relationship with it. Even the ancient wisdom traditions, which are becoming more popular all the time, have been co-opted for our constant self-improvement projects. But Ayurveda at its deepest level was never meant to be used as a self-improvement project.   Ayurveda, at this level, activates the life force in the body and the entire cosmos, giving the natural world permission to dismantle our self-improvement project.  But this is actually an act of great love, as the self-improvement project at some point gets in the way of our natural inborn wisdom.

Of course in the beginning the self-improvement project is genuine.  We have to have a stable sense of ourselves and our lives to begin the kind of transformation we are talking about.  No one is saying wanting to be free from pain or to feel and look better is wrong.  It’s necessary.  We must have a healthy grounded ego in order to unmask it.  We must be psychologically and physically stable enough to handle the states of mind we will find ourselves in as we enter the gate of true awakening.

But this kind of freedom comes with a price.  The price is your life as you think it should be.  It comes with the price of exposing the ways we avoid pain.  It means complete devotion and compassion towards ourselves. It means letting go of our self-judgement and self-improvement projects.

It also means we commit to cycles of growth that are humbling and challenge our notion of being skilled and experienced. When we descend to the level of the heart there is the most profound awareness of the great responsibility we carry. The world needs us to heal and become the radiant beings we are, because if we don’t heal, the community can’t heal.

So the healing power of Ayurveda is revealed to be much broader in its scope than only solving individual imbalance issues. Its wisdom is that there is a continuity and a joy radiating at the heart of life, of each moment. Ayurveda is actually an expression of Tantra. Tantra means ‘continuity’.  And as it is often said, the only constant in life, is change.  Life is constantly changing.  But within that change, there is a space, which is sometimes called groundlessness.  But this space contains within it the never ending, eternal wisdom we need for our own freedom. Through the seasonal Ayurvedic practices the body becomes healthy, the mind settles, and we are able to open to what’s actually happening in our life rather than what we think should be happening, which leads to a tremendous relaxation and confidence in life.  Tantra also means ‘Joy’.  Soon our bodies realize true Joy is possible in this life.  We are no longer bound by anyone or anything, including ourselves. This might seem impossible, but for thousands of years regular people have found the ordinary magic of their unique life.

This is not an ego thing but can easily turn into it, even for seasoned practitioners.  That’s why the practice is for life. It’s not just something you learn or read in a book and then eat the right foods. We need to keep awake to where that next step on our path actually is.  We need to surround ourselves with others who are engaging in the same process.  We need feedback.  Without these things we get lost in a fantasy world.  Too many practitioners reach a level where they believe ‘anything goes’ and they are no longer responsible for their behavior or having to relate to the ordinary facts of life- like having a job, managing their finances, taking care of their families and communities. Or they believe that because they have a more advanced way of being healthy, their achievement can be used as a way to create division between them and all those other “unhealthy” people. This could not be farther from the truth.

When you start to understand and relate to all of life as medicine, there is a great sense of mutual responsibility. When you feel how your food can build the integrity and sensitivity of your body, when you understand sleep as a place where the barriers between you and Pure Consciousness are removed, your compassion and selflessness deepens, and once again your heart becomes so tender, so gentle, it can seem unbearable the joy you feel for this life.

Ordinary life is the gateway to realization.  That is why all Tantric traditions are self-secret.  The so-called “ancient wisdom meant only for the initiated” comes looking for you.  You are the wisdom.  Your life as it is already contains all the joy you seek.

This is why I call my work Vedic Earth Medicine. I wanted a way to highlight that when you work with me, I am there to support and serve you in any capacity. We can work together to heal your imbalances from their root and we can work together to open the heart of your life.  No one has to commit to the full journey.  Wanting to feel healthy, beautiful and strong is not ego based.  it is simply our true nature calling us home.

I just want to acknowledge the depth of transformation possible in Vedic Earth Medicine.  And give you the proper warning and invitation. This is not going to be a place where we learn how fix your symptoms using Ayurveda as a stand-in for Western Medicine. The warning is not to keep you away, but the Tantric teacher has to warn the student that any gateway into the tradition could lead to a desire to pursue the full training. And should you feel a call, I sincerely invite you to cross the threshold. Once you begin to care for yourself, you may not be able to help falling in love with your own body and your own precious life.

  • Autumn Ayurveda Intensive: Registration open until 8/31/16
  • Listen to an audio blog on the Water Element:
  • Sign up for my 3-month Inner Wisdom Ayurveda Mentorship: Details on the Vedic Earth Medicine page of this site







What our clients are saying

“I was diagnosed 2 years ago with a condition called “Myoclonic Dystonia” which basically is a neurological disorder where the body twists and contorts into very painful positions. With my particular type, it means when I would walk, my body would pull hard to one side, while the other side of my body would pull back, like a giant game of “Tug of War”. It can be excruciatingly painful and embarrassing when the Dystonia “flares up”, primarily during stress or just exhaustion. I’d had several Botox treatments trying to relax the rogue muscles, but as my doctor had explained, once they deaden certain muscles, others will take over and do the same thing. It was almost like the Dystonia would jump around to different parts of my body. The last and only possible thing the doctors suggested was a type of brain surgery that was risky and may not even help. Out of desperation I was ready to proceed with the surgery when I’d discovered Ayurveda in an article I’d read and decided to visit Juliet to give Thai Massage and Yoga a try, as a last resort/alternative to the surgery. After only a few sessions I was dumbfounded to find I was walking straight and my body was listening to my brain again for the first time in years. People were astonished to see my progress and how much better I looked/felt after being so miserable. I can even run with my kids and play games again-something I couldn’t do for so long and was missing out on.

Juliet has an incredible understanding of physiology and how to convey what needs to be done in order to heal. I’ve attended an Ayurveda session taught by her, as well as yoga classes, all of which help me to heal my body, have compassion for it and listen to it. I am thankful every day I have found Five Elements Studio and urge anyone utilize any services Juliet has to offer to alleviate and combat stress, help with any issues the body is experiencing, or to just develop a better understanding of Ayurveda and how it can improve their daily lives. I, like many others feel like I have my life back.”

-Errin B., Clinical thai massage client

“I have suffered from migraine headache pain for 20 years. I have seen many Medical Doctors to seek relief and/or a solution. I have undergone every test under the sun from MRI’s, CAT scans, and thermal imaging to name a few. All of these doctors have tried valiantly to help me. The primary, in fact almost exclusive solution, is mass amounts of prescription drugs. These would include many different narcotic painkillers as well as non-narcotics from Imitrex and the like to anti-seizure medications like Depakote and many others. The only relief I received was from the narcotics and that was fleeting with life threatening side effects.

In 2012 a friend referred me to Juliet Trnka at Five Element Studio. Juliet specializes in Clinical Thai Massage Therapy. Upon arriving at the studio for my initial appointment Juliet spent a substantial amount of time learning about my history and what I was suffering from and what I hoped to accomplish. I thought it only fair to inform Juliet upfront of my skepticism of her ability to help me. I did not know anything about Clinical Thai Massage but I had already tried so many different things with so many different doctors as well as traditional table massage therapy with no satisfactory result. In my mind I had no reason to believe this would be any different. However, I was desperate and as a result, I was willing to try anything and she came highly recommended. So she proceeded with the treatment.

The result has been astonishing! For the past year and a half I have been virtually pain free. I believe this is a result of receiving treatment from Juliet on a regular basis for the past few years. I started experiencing some degree of improvement fairly quickly but the major pain relief came after a period of time and a number of treatments. At each session Juliet takes the time to ask about what is currently going on with my body and then developing a treatment plan to help with the issues of the day. One of the things I appreciate the most is Juliet’s knowledge of the body and how she is able to explain where the pain is emanating from and her description of what she plans to do to rectify the issue. While most of the time the focus is on migraine relief, I have also had 3 different surgeries on my shoulders as well as bouts of plantar fasciitis and tendinitis in my elbow. In every case Juliet has been able to help improve my overall health. At over 50 years of age I have never felt better as a result of Clinical Thai Massage and Juliet Trnka. While not every person or issue are the same, I can’t speak highly enough about the positive impact Clinical Thai Massage has had on my life. While I wish I had found Juliet sooner, I am very grateful that I found her when I did. I can’t imagine going back to the life I had before and thankfully I don’t have to.”

-Steve W., clinical thai massage client

“Please know that you are serving me greatly as a guide through what has surely been the most complicated and fragile time in my life thus far, and I am humbled at what you give without expectation.”

– Crystal J., yoga student

“My work with Juliet has not only helped me reduce the pain I experience in my hip (I have advanced osteo arthristis); it has also deepened my relationship with my body. The thai massage work she does with me is highly therapeutic, and the self-care techniques I am learning from her make me feel less powerless about my condition. Overall, our work together is helping me see my hip not just as a problem but also as an opportunity for me to continue learning to live more fully in my body and to my best to care for it lovingly.”

– Michelle L., clinical thai massage client

“When you step into the yoga studio at Five Element you are enveloped in support, acceptance and instruction. No matter your experience level, you are guided through movement that meets you where you are at. You leave refreshed, nourished and exhilarated….like you have really done something good for your health and wellbeing!”

– Gina S., yoga student, thai massage client and ayurveda client

“Five Element is an amazing sanctuary for yoga, Thai massage and Ayurveda. Juliet has a special way of bringing her in-depth knowledge and experience to each session in a way that is neither intimidating nor judgmental but is nourishing, encouraging and empowering. My body, mind and spirit all feel aligned and lifted after a yoga class or Thai massage session. Also, I have been fortunate enough to attend several workshops that Juliet has offered and each has presented information / techniques in a way that has enhanced my practice, my health and my life. I am forever grateful for Juliet’s kindness, compassion, and expertise. Fargo is lucky to have a studio like Five Element!”

– Steph A., yoga student, thai massage client and ayurveda client

“A few years back, I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia which is a painful contraction of the neck muscles. The treatment options for this condition include oral medications, botox injections, surgery, and complementary therapy (which includes relaxation therapy, yoga, massage, and acupuncture).  I was getting botox injections in my neck every three months from a physiatrist (physical medicine doctor) and weekly physical therapy sessions. The results I was getting from this treatment regime did not provide the consistent symptom relief I was expecting.
I tried oral medications, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, and traditional massage but I was never completely pain free.  It was a vicious cycle as my neck pain would trigger migraines. The quality of my life began to decline as I was slowly giving up ever feeling good or returning to my active lifestyle. I read an article in our local newspaper about Thai Massage and I thought perhaps this would help alleviate my painful neck condition. I scheduled an appointment with Juliet and after the first session I noticed a decline in my level of pain and an increase in the range of motion in my neck.  I have been seeing Juliet on a regular basis for Thai Massage treatments and I am feeling significantly
better.  Juliet is a healer and I am so grateful for her treatments.  I am continuing to get symptom relief from my condition and I feel like I have my life back.  I would highly recommend Thai Massage as a treatment option for cervical dystonia or other similar conditions.”

– Julie C., thai massage client