The practice of Ayurveda in the UK and the role of spirituality
: A practitioner perspective

  • Romila Yashoda Santosh

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examined the changes that occur when a system of healing is transplanted from the East to the West. Ayurveda is both a system of healing and a way of life; though its origins are in India, it has moved across boundaries into many Western environments. The literature on global Ayurveda suggests that it has been promoted as a spiritualised system of healing as it addresses the mind, body and spirit. Currently, there is little research on the practice of Ayurveda in the UK.
This research analysed how the practice of Ayurveda is changing and adapting to the UK environment, and analysed the role of religion and spirituality in the consultation. A qualitative approach was adopted. In-depth interviews were undertaken with a range of practitioners. In addition, participant observation data of Ayurveda events were included in the analysis.

Analysis of the data showed that the lack of traditional remedies, together with regulatory restrictions impacts on the nature of the consultation and therapeutic recommendations in the UK. Practitioners are adapting their practice through the processes of simplification and modification as well as creatively mixing healing techniques to produce ‘hyphenated’ approaches. The treatments have changed from standardised recommendations to individualised ones and practice has changed from drawing on learnt knowledge to applying principles.

The results further suggest that religion and spirituality manifest in various forms in different Ayurvedic educational, social, political and professional environments, illustrating their ‘religious-cum-secular’ nature across the Ayurvedic contexts. Spirituality emerged as an important component of the practitioners’ definition of UK Ayurveda; however, it did not appear to be the key influence in shaping the consultation which tends to be aligned with the biomedical paradigm as it seeks to be perceived as a credible science.
The findings suggest that a contemporary model of global Ayurveda needs to take into account and recognise its fluid nature as it changes and adapts to a new environment and culture. I interpret this fluidity as a necessary strategy for the survival of a system of healing that sits on the margins of mainstream healthcare in the UK.
This research has significant implications for Ayurveda as a holistic system of healing. It suggests that education and training for UK Ayurveda needs to be in line with the changes taking place in consultations, rather than based solely on the Indian curriculum or classical texts. An adapted approach is required for research as UK practice is no longer standardised compared to that in India.
Date of Award20 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorAnna King (Supervisor), June Boyce-Tillman (Supervisor) & George Lewith (Supervisor)

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