If you are looking for the big names in the world of Ayurveda outside of India, you will surely come upon that of Dr. Ulrich Bauhofer. The president of the German Ayurveda Society (DGA) is undoubtedly one of the leading specialists in the field outside of India.
Dr. Bauhofer’s dissertation, based on research into Transcendental Meditation, helped establish a scientific basis for TM. In 1980, he then made his way to India, where he had the opportunity to study Ayurvedic medicine with the most important specialists.
Intrigued by what Ayurveda offered him as a complement to his conventional medical knowledge, Maharishi Ayurveda became the focus of his practical work with patients. Dr. Bauhofer established what was then Europe’s largest Ayurveda clinic, where he served as chief physician for thirteen years. In 2003, he opened his own Ayurvedic practice in Munich.
Dr. Bauhofer is a founding member and president of the oldest society of Ayurvedic physicians outside of India. Since 1983, he has intensively campaigned for the science-based spread of Ayurveda, and is involved in the training and continuing education of Ayurvedic physicians, which enables him to share his wealth of knowledge with as many people as possible.
In the international sphere Dr. Bauhofer gives lectures and seminars. His training sessions in the field of wellness management are very much in demand among politicians, businesses, industry, and the press.
Beyond professional circles he is known primarily through his books. These include Aufbruch zur Stille – Maharishi Ayurveda: eine leise Medizin für eine laute Zeit [Awakening to Silence - Maharishi Ayurveda: Quiet medicine for Loud Times] and In Balance leben – Wie wir trotz Stress richtig mit unserer Energie umgehen [Living in Balance – How to Utilise our Energy Regardless of Stress]. In the interview, based on information found in these books, he reveals the five most important energy sources for everyday life.
Dr. Bauhofer, in 1980 you and one other person were the first conventional Western physicians to learn Ayurveda from leading specialists in India. What made you decide to do that?
At the time I was working at a Swiss research facility founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Its purpose was to establish the science behind consciousness and the potential for higher states of consciousness. I was working with an international interdisciplinary team on an exciting approach that utilised awareness technologies from the Yoga tradition, such as Transcendental Meditation and the TM Sidhi programme. In 1980, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promoted the inclusion of holistic preventive and therapeutic practices of Ayurvedic medicine. To this end, he invited leading Ayurveda specialists from India. Ayurveda and yoga are two “sister” practices. Both of them are part of the Vedic system of knowledge. From the beginning I had the good fortune and privilege of being involved in this process. That was how Ayurveda took root in every corner of the world as a system of holistic, personalised, and integrative medicine.
During your first visit to India, you had the great fortune to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Please describe your first encounter with this great Vedic pandit.
I had actually met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Germany before my first visit to India. At the time he had invited me to take part in the work at Maharishi European Research University (MERU). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the most remarkable person I had met in my life. What moved and spoke to me deeply were his personal magnetism, charisma, vitality, creativity, humanity and empathy, his perpetual and never-ending desire to do good for mankind and the world. To me he was the very embodiment of a sage. There is a phrase by Paracelsus that says, “Nur die Höhe des Menschen ist der Mensch. [Only the higher nature in man is man.]”. I think that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the true embodiment of this inspired statement. So, I am especially grateful that I was able to spend ten years in his company.
What did you experience during your training period in India?
It was an exciting time for me. I had the chance to work with outstanding Ayurvedic physicians, such as Dr. Vasudev Dwivedi, Dr. Brihaspati Triguna, Balraj Maharishi, and Dr. H.S. Kasture. I learned so many things from them. By this, I mean Ayurvedic knowledge, of course, but I also came to understand the physician’s role in Ayurveda. He should be a healer, but he should also be a friend, philosopher, and advisor in terms of every question that life brings. After all, Ayurveda is the knowledge of life and has something to say about every aspect of life. During my four and a half years there I also got to know the very beautiful country of India, a fascinating, multi-faceted land. We should keep in mind that India is the only advanced civilisation and culture in human history that has preserved its ancient knowledge over the course of millennia. And in this time of fundamental upheaval, we can certainly benefit from knowledge such as this.
What do you see as the most important message of Ayurveda?
In Ayurveda everything ultimately boils down to the concepts of Satmya and Asatmya, which are “wholesomeness” and “unwholesomeness”. We must again learn to sense what is good for us and what harms us. Literally translated, Satmya means “my truth".
What is my truth? MY truth - and not someone else’s! This concerns everything in life: nutrition, daily routines, exercise, sleep, occupation, partner, friends, weather, where we vacation and where we live – absolutely everything! The message of Ayurveda is to find your own truth and live it in harmony with the rules of life. Like road traffic, life works in accordance with certain rules. If we fail to obey them, the rules are impartial, yet we bear the brunt of them nevertheless. The traffic signal doesn’t care if we run a red light, but we have to live with the consequences. The “accident” that we cause when we break the rules of life is illness. So, Ayurveda is concerned with preventing illness, maintaining and improving our health, treating the person holistically and not merely the illness from which he suffers, and preserving our vitality and enjoyment of life as we get older.
When you wrote your doctoral dissertation, did your research include the effects of Transcendental Meditation on the heart and circulatory system? What about the results particularly impressed you?
The World Health Organization (WHO) sees stress as the biggest challenge of the 21st century. From a purely physiological perspective, the practice of Transcendental Meditation produces the complete opposite of a stress reaction.
Regular practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM) calms the heart and circulation. Meditation lowers blood pressure, reduces cardiac output per minute, and slows down heart and respiratory rates. The need for oxygen decreases, respiratory minute volume decreases, and skin resistance increases. The release of stress hormones lessens, blood flow to the brain increases, and balance is restored to the autonomic nervous system. All of these are indications that we calm down during meditation. We can also see this in the coherent and orderly brainwaves during meditation. When the brain functions coherently, the rest of the body follows suit, and that means better health. That is why, nowadays, Transcendental Meditation is such an efficient antidote to stress. All in all, TM is a wonderful, simple and highly effective programme for stress management. As for me, I can honestly say that TM is the best thing I have learned in my life.
You have meditated every day for over 45 years. How do you manage it, given your incredibly full schedule?
Everything in life is a question of priorities. Meditation is important to me, and that is why I do it. If you think that you don’t have time to invest 20 minutes, twice per day, in your mental and physical health and development, your mental hygiene and the enjoyment of life, which also benefits those around you, and to get in touch with your inner self, then your life is topsy-turvy and out of balance. This is something we should avoid. In the yoga sutras of Patanjali there is a phrase, “Heyam dhukam anagatam”, which Maharishi Mahesh Yogi often cited and emphasised. It means, “keep danger at bay, before it even has a chance to arise.”
You know, because TM is such a simple and totally effortless form of deep relaxation, you can actually look forward to it, even after a stressful day. For me, it’s like taking a mental shower, like unloading and disposing of the all the day’s stress, because it washes every bit of the rubbish from your head. You are relaxed and refreshed for the evening, which you can now enjoy fully and completely. Above all, you will drift off and sleep well through the night, which a lot of people find very difficult these days. Meditating in the morning is an outstanding way to prepare for a successful day. Like an archer who pulls his arrow way back in order to shoot it further, you can marshal your inner energy in meditation, so that it can be utilised for the day’s activities in a targeted and successful way.
Your book In Balance leben [Living in Balance] is dedicated entirely to managing our energy. Which are the best energy sources? Given the stress of everyday life, how can we keep our inner energy reserves in positive range?
Energy is like money. If you are always spending more than you earn, it won’t be long before you are bankrupt – energetically insolvent. Therefore, it is vital to pay attention to keeping your energy in balance.
In my book Living in Balance I describe ten energy sources. To me, the five most important are:
- Light – On a summer day, there is about 200 times more light outside than indoors. So, we should certainly go outside at noontime.
- Air– Air conditioning is no substitute for fresh air. We can tank up on fresh air if we open the windows from time to time and go outside for a few minutes now and again.
- Rest – This includes enough sleep. Most people clearly don’t get enough sleep, so I recommend getting to bed in a timely fashion. We sleep especially deeply during the first half of the night. Missing just one hour of sleep per night amounts to nearly two weeks of lost sleep in the course of a year! And I recommend meditation to experience even deeper rest than you get from sleeping.
- Nutrition – Most people destroy their health by what they put in their mouths. High-quality living food is unbelievably important. Even when you eat plays a role. You should eat your main meal at midday, not at night. In the evening, eat as early and lightly as possible.
- Liquids – I recommend that you drink enough water, preferably 2.5 litres per day.
You are currently working on a new book that will come out in December. What can readers look forward to?
This new book, which my wife Annelie and I are busy writing, concerns the importance of sunlight for our health. Due to the way in which we live and work, we spend about 90% of the day indoors. We are frequently exposed to artificial light, rather than to natural daylight. This has an effect on our bodies. Blue light from computers, televisions and smartphones is a real stimulant, for example. If you sit in front of these devices until late at night, the day becomes artificially longer, and you are living in opposition to your internal circadian biological clock. Upsetting our natural biorhythms in this way has long-term consequences for our health. Based on the latest medical knowledge, we call attention to everything that light is capable of and how it affects us. The history of life on our planet is actually the history of light. And if we take a look at the earth and the sun, we cannot fail to understand how and when our solar system was formed within the universe. But let’s not get caught up in too much theory. This book is primarily about practical experience in everyday life, which is why we’d like to provide our readers with a host of tips as to how we can balance our body’s internal clock every day, so as to live in harmony with nature and stay healthy.
Many thanks for a very interesting conversation and for your tips about energy sources!
Bauhofer, U.: Aufbruch zur Stille – Die Grundlagen des Maharishi Ayurveda [Awakening to Silence - The Basis of Maharishi Ayurveda]
Bauhofer, U.: In Balance leben [Living in Balance].
Bauhofer, U., Bauhofer, A.: Licht Baden. So steigert natürliches Licht unsere Lebensenergie und schützt vor Krankheiten. [Bathing in Light: How Light Increases Our Life Energy and Protects Against Illness.] A new release from Südwest Verlag, available in December 2018.