CAM Practitioner Interview – Katrina Johnson

Today’s interview is with alternative medicine (CAM) practitioner Katrina Johnson, Ayurvedic Health Center & Wellness Shop. The goal is to provide you, as a reader, the opportunity to learn about alternative forms of medicine that are available to you in your journey of wellness. 

I met Katrina at MassageFest on December 5th and had the pleasure of getting to know a bit more about her and her business. Katrina is an energetic and welcoming individual who is very knowledgeable about herbs, nutrition and other wellness modalities.

What is Ayurveda? 
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that means “the science of life.” It is part of Vedanta and has been around for 5,000+ years. Vedic philosophy and teachings have been an oral tradition for longer than it has been written down. Yoga, Ayurveda, Jyotish (vedic astrology), vastu shastra (the Vedic version of feng shui) are all modalities that were work seamlessly together. They come from the same basis of philosophy, but we in the West like to put them in separate categories. Yoga is a way to develop the physical body in preparation for meditation and spiritual pursuits. Ayurveda is also concerned largely with the physical and mental bodies - ie: how to keep the body free from disease. Thus, Ayurveda is concerned with determining each person’s constitution so that each of us can make conscience choices regarding cooking, nutrition, and making lifestyle choices to support in life and wellness. Jyotish is the understanding of the energetics of the planetary influences to help us identify areas of challenge in our life and then make use of Ayurvedic and Yogic remedies to minimize the negative influences of life’s challenges. Vastu shastra concerns itself with how space is organized and set up, ie: is it optimized or not. Depending on how your house is organized there can be a propensity for optimal flow and thus health or disruptive flow and thus disturbance and even disease.  These modalities all work with the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth and with keeping them in balance for you.

What made you interested in Ayurveda?
My mom was a Western medical nurse when I was growing up. Because of that exposure I am comfortable with the western medical model; am familiar with the vocabulary and how disease is handled. After graduating from college I did graphic design work. The company I was working for 10-11 years ago was bought out, and it was no longer a good fit for me, so I went back to school to learn Structural Integration bodywork (also known as Rolfing). The goal in this work is to realign the fascial connective tissues of the body. It helps to create less pain and stiffness while improving suspension dynamics. I had a private practice in this work for several years and eventually added yoga and movement work to my toolbox. Some years later I developed interests in cooking, nutrition, and herbs. I wondered if there was anything that integrates all of these interests, so I did some soul searching. Ayurveda came to mind; it incorporates and unifies all of my interests - diet, lifestyle, nutrition, bodywork, and working with the individual. I appreciate the eastern approach to wellness.


What kind of training or background is necessary for this type of profession?
There is an evolution currently happening in the US. You can take basic level training through correspondence courses or you can go for more extensive - and intensive - training. I went to school for 3 years with a supervised internship so I could have a deeper and more impactful practice. My scope of practice includes the capacity to design and create herbal formulas, educating clients about Ayurvedic philosophy, designing customized cleanses, and recommending a wide range of adjunctive therapies. I am fortunate to educate my clients and students about Ayurveda and how it applies to them. There is a college in Portland, Oregon that intends to graduate licensed Ayurveda physicians (practitioners who are on par with Western medical physicians, naturopaths, and chiropractors) in the near future.

What benefits can be expected from this therapy?
The benefits of incorporating Ayurvedic principles into your life are really limitless. Once you learn about your constitution and learn how to support yourself in health and wellness, the only limits are the choices you make. Most individuals often come to me ready to make a change; what they have been doing is not helping them get better, and they are ready to try something different. Ayurveda works to build Ojas in everyone. Ojas is a term for ideas such as immunity, resilience, heartiness, health. Another way to think of Ojas is of being so established in your health that it you don’t get sick or run-down. Our culture is a very Ojas-depleting environment, and we all need to work to enhance and even reestablish Ojas.

What are the risks, if any, associated with this therapy?
There aren’t any risks with Ayurveda, but the biggest stumbling block is the model people are use to of “taking a pill” which will somehow make everything better all on its own. There is no responsibility on the part of the patient in this model, and there is the mistaken belief that one dose works for all people. Ayurveda works primarily with herbal remedies. Plant-based medicines are powerful medicine, but they are more subtle and work more gently over time. There can be a period of trial and error to see which herbs and what doses work the best for the client. We work to find the best treatment that will work for that person.

How long would an individual need to undergo treatment, or how many office visits would they need? 
Again, it is individual for the person and what they need. Everyone is unique and distinct, and so are their treatment plans. We do an initial intake that takes 2 hours. This is followed with a one-hour appointment held a week later where I deliver my return of findings and my recommendation. Beyond this pair of appointments I prefer to meet approximately four more times to discern how things are going and what adjustments need to be made. The work is benefited by repeat visits.

What are the most common concerns that people come to you for in your practice?
Many people are looking for something that works better than what Western medicine can offer in terms of proactive health management. People also come in for nutrition and insomnia to name a few conditions.

Do you use other CAM therapies in your practice?
I incorporate yoga and movement work. I do Rolfing which is a series of eleven sessions of bodywork. There are also Ayurvedic types of bodywork such as Shirodhara which uses warm herbalized oil that is poured on the forehead and scalp. We do Marma work on acupressure points on the body. We also offer 5-day Pancha Karma cleanses; individuals receive body work during that time to encourage waste elimination from the body.

How is your practice similar to conventional medicine?
Not very. I am able to spend one and two hours at a time with each client; very few physicians practicing Western medicine today are able to do that.

How is your practice different from conventional medicine?
I incorporate yoga, bodywork, cleanse protocols, and custom herbal formulas in my practice. I attend to the body, mind, and spirit of my clients rather than focusing on a disease state or attempting to reverse an isolated symptom.

What are the barriers you see existing between conventional and complementary medicine?
I see a lack of willingness for the conventional side to work with and even acknowledge the efficacy and value of the complementary side. 

How do you think alternative and conventional practitioners can work together better?
I see it working really well when people are open and willing to do it - and when there is clear communication among all parties involved. Each approach to health has an area where it shines. For instance, if you break a leg you go to the ER to get that type of care; Western medicine is superior in surgery, triage, and diagnostics. Alternative/complimentary practitioners support the person in making proactive choices that support them long-term in their health and wellness. If someone is able to do both, it's a good blend.

What is your vision of the optimal health care system?
I see people being educated about the choices they have available to them - and picking the best of what is available to them. I would love for people to know the different types of yoga that there are - and why you would go to a particular kind of yoga studio over another. I would love for people to know more about herbalism and different kinds of bodywork. 

Any words of advice for my blog readers?
Check out the book Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar. Educate yourself, read nutrition labels, read Michael Pollan's books about food. Learn what's going into your food and make conscious decisions. Stick with things that are natural. If you don't recognize the ingredient, it's not a food. Explore. If it's of nature, our bodies know what to do with it. If it's not of nature, it will probably not support our bodies in health and wellness. In the end, everything we eat and digest needs to support and build our bodily tissues. If a food can’t do that, it’s of no use to us.

If you are interested in meeting Katrina for an appointment, you can reach her via her website:
Phone: 360-734-2396

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