Meet Melbourne based Vanita Sharma, an authentic traditional Ayurvedic and Yoga practitioner, winner of IABCA 2018 Business Woman of the Year award to 2019 Woman Entrepreneur; not only lived to tell a near-death experience but encompassing nature, human body and seeking ways of healing the mankind or all three.
A second chance in 2008 changed the course of life for Vanita, travelling to India with her then six-year-old son to attend her cousin’s wedding in New Delhi and also travel to Jaipur for business. Just within a week of arriving in India she met with a horrific accident – her car a complete write off after being hit by a truck.
Being in a coma she had no idea she survived an accident that left her with a frontal lobe brain injury and cut on her face. Although she had no memory loss but was without work for nearly three years as she was unable to attend to her clients to practice, once arriving back in Melbourne. Vanita says, “I lost hope and thought I’m done.”
They say angels come in many forms and in Vanita’s case, it was her brother, a practising GP in the UK, a successful doctor in his own rights and he too survived a road accident at the age of four. Although it was challenging, he decided to move to Melbourne, along with his family to support Vanita and her family.
In 2011, she gathered all her energy and inspired herself with a can-do attitude that she didn’t give up. Vanita started studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Swinburne, in the meanwhile she also started working from home, initially contacting her old clients. A television interview with ‘David & Kim Morning Show’ Channel Ten changed things for her, moving her business into a commercial place in Kew during 2014, building it again from scratch with family support. In 2016, Vanita got elected as a Vice President in the Ayurvedic Association and served for two years. In 2018 she got elected as a Deputy Chair, Complementary Health IRC, SkillsIQ to represent Ayurveda & other complementary health modalities.
Just recently in 2020, she had to undergo another eye surgery; and within four months her vision was restored that was impaired during the accident.
It was important to take a glimpse into her backstory before indulging straight to the interview as it enables us to understand the visionary doctor’s achievement in Ayurveda.
To initiate things off, could you tell us is Ayurveda an idea or a concept?
Ayurveda is a consciousness based approach to health, truly a science of life or experience that determines the quality of wellbeing evolving five thousand years ago. An ancient scripture Charaka Samhita, (Sutrasthana, first adhaya) has given a specific idea, a clear concept of human life, sharirindriya meaning: ‘Whenever human body is in combination with the consciousness (mind) then only one can call it a human life; whenever there is a separation between them it is death.”
The levels of these two are different, the material (physical) level, but the consciousness (mind) the metaphysical level, a sort of energetic level. Unless these two levels are taken into account, it is very difficult to maintain life at a normal level or to treat disease conditions. The concepts of universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution (prakruti), life forces (doshas) are the primary basis of Ayurveda.
Being a fifth-generation Indian Integrative Ayurvedic Doctor, you bring the wealth of legacy and experience through your family’s practice in India.
So how did Urja Ayurvedics in Melbourne (Australia), came to fruition?
A family background of physicians not only being inspired by her grandfather, but also having had the luxury of observing him doing ‘Pulse Analysis.’ Her involvement with it has been truly compelling as Vanita was fortunate to choose between conventional medicine and Ayurveda, but the love for nature was her unanimous approval for the latter. Vanita was amazed to see the lack of Ayurvedic practice in Melbourne, giving her a reason to be among the first to introduce Ayurveda in Melbourne, almost twenty-two years ago by the name of Vibe Ayurveda. Now ‘Urja Ayurvedics’ is a reflection of her, giving back to the community. ‘Urja’ meaning ‘energy’.
According to you, have the people in Australia (Southern Hemisphere) holistically grasped to the idea of Ayurveda yet?
According to Vanita, Australians have grasped the idea of Ayurveda within the field of holistic health and traditional Yoga. Complementing the conventional medicine, it is accepted as an Integrative Ayurveda, acting more as a preventative approach, focusing on nutrition, diet & lifestyle; widely practised and registered in SkillsIQ (national not for profit organising supporting industry) under complementary health Australia. Most recently an MOU has been signed between All India Institute of Ayurveda and Western Sydney University and an Ayurveda Chair is getting established in the University early next year for its recognition & propagation in Australia. It is all possible with the support of AYUSH Health Ministry and Indian High Commission and there are few private institutions in Australia who are providing Certificate level & Diploma level qualifications.
You single-handedly facilitated an international collaboration with Australia, India, Europe, Brazil, North America, etc., through their respective Health ministries to promote Ayurveda, how did that come by?
As a Deputy Chair, Complementary Health IRC, (responsible for national training package qualification relevant to Ayurveda, and therapeutic industries) SkillsIQ, and an industry representative, Vanita, an independent Ayurveda practitioner in Melbourne facilitated and presented International Ayurveda Congresses globally.
She was part of these distinguished panel discussions with AYUSH Health Ministry to get Ayurveda recognised in Australia, propagate globally and in Brazil it was sponsored by the Brazil Health Ministry. Vanita facilitated and took proposal on request by the authorities to share the Australian learning programs, taking University delegates to Indian High Commission, Canberra to organise the establishment of Ayurveda Chair in Australia. She’s currently the co-chair for Yoga and Alternative Health Committee in the Asian African Chamber of Commerce and Industry representing to propagate AYUSH Sciences, especially Ayurveda from Australia and a Chair for Australasian Pacific Council of AYUSH Sciences.
How do you keep the teaching of Ayurveda fresh for generations to come, how do you keep the legacy going?
Along came Covid and its tribulations, such as homeschooling, kids constantly on their computers, lockdowns, and fast food trends affecting the future generation. Now more than ever, the need for Ayurveda has expanded. Creating awareness amongst the younger generation is critical- especially for the wellbeing of their mental health with the challenging changing times. Meditation and pranayama, assisting with their diet for a balanced lifestyle are only possible by educating, creating awareness in the kids through voluntary, virtual programs and assistance through consultation. This is how then the future generation will then understand Ayurveda and its importance in stress management. As a Secretary GHARS (Global Hindu Association for Reform and Sustainable Societies), Vanita contributes and supports diverse communities through various voluntary projects and events. “It’s her way of giving back to the community” and to make sure this legacy continues.
How do you source your products for your business?
This is the wisdom and knowledge passed on over generations as a family legacy and secret. Urja being Vanita’s answer to energising – stronger immunity, strength, vitality to deal with catastrophes – Ayurveda is the answer to most problems. Vanita is determined to create a change, change happens when there are good intentions to transform, in this case it’s in abundance. Her in-depth knowledge of the human body connects her with the right supplement for example what to take during a common cold or even a suitable pranayama for breathing. Her range covers from turmeric to Ayurvedic honey, now selling on her website.
What is next for Dr Vanita Sharma?
Vanita’s recognition and awards in Ayurveda was all possible because of her family support, hard work and sacrifices made by the family. Always carrying her best wishes of her gurus, mentors, friends and of her parents, always inspiring her not to give up.
Vanita says “These are not my awards.” Crediting the awards to the Ayurvedic fraternity, she feels proud for her birth country India, that she could continue this Indian legacy of Ayurveda in Australia. She feels privileged, honoured and blessed to receive recognitions but that doesn’t mean her work is done. She has many more humanitarian projects in progress in the near future and exciting ones!
Is there a book somewhere in the making?
We may anticipate a book and it may be soon.
What’s your prophecy about Ayurvedic practices?
“We don’t need sick and educated culture, we need healthy nations, health is not the source of wellbeing, wellbeing is the source of health.” We need to change our lifestyle and be able to understand what to eat, how to eat, how to sleep, how to breathe and how to live. Think beyond biological identity. Nature is not able to withdraw, only fittest will survive, rest anything physical, mechanical has to go. There is a great reverence and admiration for Eastern Ayurvedic practices. It’s not a product of human intellect, it came from experience (mindset).
“Preserve & nurture this deeper dimension of life.’’ Vanita’s mantra is for sustaining the future.
It was great speaking to someone like Dr Vanita Sharma for sharing her alternative knowledge in science, Ayurveda but also for trying to make this world a better place. As she rightly says in her own words preserve and nurture this deeper dimension of life, I cannot help quoting the healing practitioner of Ayurveda herself “Universe supports when you have good intentions.”
By Nandita Chakraborty