Overcoming Fear (And Dry Skin) Through Ayurveda


“You have so much fear. Why are you so afraid?” This was a statement and question coming from, up until moments before, a complete stranger. I wasn’t trembling, or showing any physical signs of fear (or so I thought). I had just been sitting in a chair across from her, listening.

The stranger in question was NYC’s most sought-after Ayurvedic practitioner, Dr. Pratima Raichur. And before unmasking me in 10 words over a cup of tea, she'd been describing the Ayurvedic principles and the three Doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—and the five energies that compose them—space, air, fire, water, and earth (see explanations here).

As I fumbled to form a guarded response—after all, on the spectrum of death and taxes, what do you reveal to someone you just met?—she comforted me with, “You can’t hide anything. Your skin is telling me.” Rather than feeling violated, I experienced a wave of relief from really being seen.

In her slow, thoughtful, buoyant voice, Dr. Raichur explained, “This is coming from 40 years of practice, otherwise I could not just judge a person like that. But your skin is very dry—your whole body is dry." (So much for moisturizing.) "You have too much air [Vata]. That’s because of anxiety. You’re indecisive and you fluctuate too much. That’s how I would describe you: six Vata, three Pitta, and two Kapha. Your structure is Pitta—you have a bigger forehead and a tapered face; your eyes are not too big or too small, and your nails are long. But everything from head to toe is dry. There is too much fluctuation because there is no rhythm—we need to establish a rhythm.”

She confirmed her diagnoses by taking a look at my hair, skin, nails, and tongue, and asking me simple questions about sleep, diet, and digestion. Then segued into asking, “Why are you here?” rhetorically. “Because you want to be happy.” And just as I was about to argue that it’s more complicated than that, I realize it wasn't, and it isn’t.

Maybe it was the tea, the candlelight, or the fact that there weren't any machines beeping (I was recently told by a nurse friend that an alarm goes off an average of 10,000 times a day on a single floor of an American hospital), but just being there felt healing, and Dr. Raichur is the type of person who can distill the complication, misery, and hurry of everyday life into meaningfully simple statements. In other words, when she tells you that your body is a temple, or that you are beautiful, it lands.

She talked me through a series of dietary changes I could make—"not too much salad" (bless her soul) "or caffeine" (I know, I know, I know), and "nothing too cold"—to help balance my Doshas, and gave me a series of vitamins to help with digestion, anxiety, and sleeplessness. She also offered me a beautifully rich oil and thick, but not greasy, face cream to soothe my skin. "But it starts with the thoughts," she said. "Change your mind, change your habits, change your life."

She continued, "We have forgotten how to be happy and what it is to be happy. That is why we have a problem. When I was very young, my mother would tell me before I went to sleep to always think good thoughts, because the walls are listening, and they are saying, 'So be it.' Whatever thoughts you are thinking, the universe says, ‘So be it.’ They will be fulfilled. So think positive. If you think negative, the universe is still listening. If you are fearful, that is what you will bring into your life. Never think of what you don't want to happen. What do you gain from that? If we can learn to stop thinking negatively, we can achieve complete happiness. Relief starts from within."

So, in addition to her dietary prescription, she offered me a mental one: "For a half of an hour, every day, observe your thoughts. Every time you think something negative, say to yourself, three times, 'Cancel, cancel, cancel.' You will hear how many times you say cancel and how many negative thoughts you have. And every hour, for two minutes, close your eyes and give thanks for everything you have, even for waking up that day. Think 'I am so happy. I am content. I am peaceful. I am blessed.' If you keep thinking that, you will experience overwhelming joy. And the joy will keep coming."

Dr. Raichur allowed me to record our conversation (first-time visits are $135; follow-ups are $75) for journalistic purposes, and when I am feeling unmoored, hard-hearted, stressed, fearful, or victimized, I often return to it, if only to hear the soothing tone of her voice, or to remind myself that not only do I have, but I am a soul. Even if your Dosha constitution is different than mine—and my own will fluctuate depending on any number of variables—those words and thoughts should be healing. I don't always remember to take the supplements when I'm supposed to, but sticking with warm water and warm foods has warmed my body to release a lot of tension. Hot Toddy? Doctor's orders. The beauty products, too, are lovely and well-recommended. Will I go to Dr. Raichur when I break a bone or accidentally consume nuts? Probably not. But it helps to know that I might be able to heal my dry skin for free, and that I could avoid a future of arthritis and osteoporosis (long-term results of prolonged Vata imbalance) by remembering to be grateful.

"Gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness, and love: those are the four principles I remember," said Dr. Raichur, "That is what Ayurveda teaches you. If you have those things, you will be always healing. You will always be doing something good for someone else. And that will keep you healthy, happy, and beautiful."

—Mackenzie Wagoner

Photo by Elizabeth Brockway.

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  • janet

    Wow, I've often wondered what a visit to Dr. Raichur would be like. Now I want to go. Also, that pearl cream is to die for!

    • ITGMackenzie

      It is! Have you tried it? It smells like roses with a hint of coconut and it's made with pearl ashes (!?!?!)



  • Clo

    Hell, I am on board. Is there a London version of this mystical lady? (I wish you guys were London based or that I was an NYC dweller. Damn it.)

    • ITGLacey

      Hi Clo! Dr. Raichur's office saw your question & wanted me to let you know that she also does long distance consultations using Skype. They're $75 & you can make your appointment through the spa just as you would if you were visiting in person.

      • Clo

        Hey! Thats something I should definitely consider, thanks for getting back to me! Skype Ayurveda..Amazing.

  • http://taliashulze.com/ Talia

    This is so interesting, the Museum I work at (shameless plug) is opening an exhibit about Tibetan Medicine this week, we're having a party to fete it, check it out: http://bit.ly/1cxPolg

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    I've always wanted to get deep into Ayurveda!

  • lyndsey

    I went to an ayurvedic clinic 5 years ago as I was not feeling well and nothing seemed to be helping me - I had a pulse diagnosis and It honestly did change my life. I could not believe how well he read me and the things he told me to do as a result of my reading have made me much happier and healthier... and lighter (bonus!).

  • http://thenakedcoed.blogspot.com/ Dana

    I just want to print these quotes out and put them on my wall. Beautiful. Although my TV brain automatically jumped to "And so it is" from Pretty Wild when I read "So be it." Haha, I gotta change that.

  • Christine Lena

    Beautifully written article! Thank you for sharing your experience. I would love to travel to NY to visit with Dr. Raichur.

  • Karlee

    Is there a place on the site to look into booking an appt?

    • kt mo

      You have to just call, and there's always a long waiting lists. But I am fairly certain they don't make appts online.

  • myfriendpaige

    Can anyone recommend swoon worthy Ayurvedic practitioners in LA?

  • equestrienne

    I'm so glad to see Dr. Raichur (and Ayurveda) getting the spotlight here on ITG. Her products are so thoughtfully made, and the ultimate in effective luxury. I really recommend her book "Absolute Beauty". What a wonderful article; thank you.

  • http://4districtstyle.wordpress.com District Style

    I think we often underestimate the connection between our thoughts, our environment, and our overall health. Making changes doesn't always feel great in the short term (goodbye, caffeine; hello, headaches for a week!), but, in the long run, they often do. Kudos to you for trying this out!

  • corina

    <3 Mackenzie - I love ITG but MW's articles are some of my faves.

    • ITGMackenzie

      internet hugs

  • Margot

    This was just what I needed this morning, being fearful and anxious, as I often am these days. I may not be able to hear her voice myself, but thanks for reminding me what needs to be remembered. I will say 'cancel' a lot today, and hopefully less and less in the future.

  • belleaesthete

    I needed this like crazy this morning... thank you, ITGMackenzie. Been as dry as the desert over here! Can anyone recommend a Los Angeles version of Dr. Raichur? I sure could use one! xx

    • ITGMackenzie

      You're very welcome! My friends call me Mackenzie ;)

      • belleaesthete

        Mackenzie it is then!

  • Courtney Ely

    I recently started reading a book about Ayurveda and am now so interested in the idea of turning my lifestyle around, one thought at a time. Thanks for the article!

  • biswashree

    I live in India and a lot of people visit ayurvedic doctors. They focus not just on curing you but healing you mind, body and soul. It is truly wonderful.

  • Abby

    I was so moved by this, beautiful article Mackenzie. I have a lot of health prolobems for a 27 year old and normal amount of mental health prolobems. Finding a doctor who truly cares and treats both is not easy, I will absolutely look into Ayurveda practitioner!

  • EmmaP

    What an inspiring article. I have been feeling very negative and sad lately and I would love to get an ayurvedic consultation. Does anyone know a good clinic in Montreal? Thank you!

  • gaby contreras

    I absolutely loved this article! and, just the same as with other readers, I read it on a day where I needs it the most, so thank you so much for sharing articles that are as deep as this one, and also for the fun ones :)