By Sarah Eden Wallace
Though she’s a thoroughly modern entrepreneur who has traveled from Australia to Czechoslovakia, Juliet Jivanti of Bellingham has her feet planted firmly in the ancient past through her work with the 5,000-year-old Indian health tradition called ayurveda.
Often accompanied by her diminutive Schnauzer, Gus, Jivanti offers treatments, workshops and consultations at her Ayurvedic Health Center in downtown Bellingham, which she founded in 2006. A sister science to yoga, ayurveda is gaining increasing popularity in the West, with celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Oz and Julia Roberts espousing it. Jivanti says a growing number of Whatcom County clients are drawn to its approach that includes using nutrition, herbs and simple home practices to help the body heal itself.
Jivanti took a globe-trotting path to connecting with the pursuit of inner peace.
After growing up as a tomboy on a 1,000-acre ranch in Montana that her mother helped to manage, Jivanti first earned a business degree at the University of Montana and then pursued a high-stress career in software management that took her to four continents.
“I always wanted to get out of Montana and see the world,” she remembers.
For seven years, she specialized in mapping-software systems, working in London, Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica, Paris, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
“Eventually I realized that I was seeking something, but wasn’t finding it,” says Jivanti. “I was always in a plane, or a hotel, or a rental car,” she recalls. “I could see the path: First you’re a manager, then you’re a CEO, and then you have a heart attack. I didn’t want to continue down that path.”
She started doing yoga. She quit the software industry, moved to Texas, and started teaching at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. Then she discovered ayurveda at an alternative-health workshop. “The lightbulb went off — it was exactly the piece I was looking for.”
After studying with renowned ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., she moved to Bellingham for its “sense of community and a slower pace,” and opened the ayurvedic center in 2006.
Though it can be a little daunting to even pronounce “ayurveda,” many have welcomed the addition to Bellingham’s natural-health scene.
“My attitude toward ayurveda is that it is very powerful,” says Summer Starr of Blaine, who has a background in non-profit management. “If someone’s just looking for a quick-fix diet fad something or other I would not recommend ayurveda. But if someone really wants to make a commitment to their body and their life in a new way then I would say this is a really beautiful practice to do that with.”
While ayurveda may seem exotic at first, Jivanti emphasizes that she sees clients ranging from software consultants to soccer moms who learn to integrate the ancient practices with modern lifestyles and busy schedules.
“I would say to people to not be intimidated by the fact that it’s an Eastern philosophy of medicine,” says retired tugboat captain Mark Butterworth, who saw Jivanti for help coping with uncomfortable side effects from his cancer treatments. “It’s not hocus pocus or any kind of weird thing like that.”
Indeed, Jivanti aims to make ayurveda comfortable and accessible. Now she brings her global perspective to her small center, filled with comfy chairs, artwork and plants. It’s decorated with colorful artifacts, books and talismans as well as jars of aromatic herbs, oils and teas.
Jivanti, who has studied yoga for nearly 20 years, released a DVD called “Ayurvedic Yoga: Yoga for Your Body Type” in 2010. It features Jivanti demonstrating moves on an idyllic beach setting in Birch Bay. She’s exploring even more ways to share her enthusiasm for ayurveda, such as webinars.
“Ayurveda is a way of life that only gets better the more you practice,” she says. “I just met with a client yesterday who was so happy that she knew what to do when she started feeling out of balance with the cold, rainy fall weather. Ayurveda is easy to apply, but it’s so comprehensive.”
As ayurveda recommends, Jivanti now balances her work life with hanging out with friends and outdoor experiences. For enjoyment, she bikes, hikes — often foraging for herbs, berries and mushrooms as she walks — and takes Gus for long strolls reveling in Whatcom County’s natural beauty. She’s seen the world but knows self-care and simple enjoyment are essential. “That’s powerful and that’s what I hope to share with others.”