India Summer Abroad | Traditional Medicine | Health | Ayurveda | Yoga

India: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Practices (Summer)

Explore and experience India's vibrant traditional medicine systems in the context of rapid economic growth and health policy reform.

This program will introduce you to many of India’s healthcare systems. You will examine many of the social, economic, cultural, and legal paradigms that provide a context for healthcare service delivery in India. You will consider how policy and practice link together to either support or hinder specific health systems and how uneven access to modern healthcare may affect the sustainability of traditional systems.

Major topics of study include:

  • Ayurveda, yoga, Siddha, tradi­tional Tibetan medicine (Amchi), Unani, folk medicine, naturopathy, and other traditional health systems
  • How issues such as climate change, globalization, and development may be impacting health services and healthcare access across India
  • How issues of globalization and India’s modern development agenda affect the delivery of healthcare services
  • The institutions, methodologies, and practitioners of traditional medicine in India
  • How marginalization affects the lives and health of India’s indigent populations

Samples of Unani medicines.Explore how an ancient civilization maintains vibrant traditional medicine and healthcare systems while experiencing very high economic growth and modernization.

This program examines the social, economic, cultural, and legal paradigms that provide a context for healthcare service delivery among diverse groups in India. You will consider how policy and practice link together to either support or hinder specific health systems and how uneven access to modern healthcare may affect the sustainability of traditional systems. 

The program’s major topics of study are as follows:
  • Ayurveda in philosophy and its practical applications as a healing system 
  • Yoga as preventative and curative medicine 
  • Indigenous health systems in rural communities in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh 
  • The Himalayas as a repository of medicinal herbs

You will consider how other issues, including climate change, globalization, and India’s modern development agenda, may be impacting health services and healthcare access across the country. By visiting Himalayan locations — home to some of India’s rich botanical natural resources — you will learn how environment and healthcare are linked at state and local levels.

Statues of traditional healers in Sikkim.Site visits may include visiting diverse health and healing centers such as: 
  • Nature Cure and Yoga Center
  • Ashram hospitals
  • Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute 
  • Himalayan Research Institute of Yoga and Naturopathy in Kayakalp
Program lecturers will be drawn from institutions such as:
  • Health Action International – Asia-Pacific
  • Himalayan Institute of Medical Science
  • Hamdard Unani Medical College, Hamdard University, New Delhi
  • Himalayan Research Institute of Yoga and Naturopathy, Palampur
  • Men-Tsee-Khang Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute, Dharamsala

Access virtual library guide.

The India: Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Practices program aims to acquaint students with socioeconomic, politico-cultural, and institutional dimensions and paradigms of healthcare in India. By learning about the institutions, methodologies, and practitioners of traditional medicine, students compare and contrast India’s traditional and modern healthcare systems. The structure of the program enhances students’ capacity to critically engage multidimensional perspectives on healthcare and health delivery systems. 

Students on this program enroll in two separate seminar courses: Traditional Indian Medicine: Theory and Context and Field Study of Traditional Indian Healthcare Practices.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Traditional Indian Medicine: Theory and Context – syllabus
(ASIA3010 / 5 credits / 75 hours)
This six-week seminar provides a framework for the investigation of several traditional healthcare systems in India by examining some of the country’s basic social, economic, cultural, and legal paradigms. It considers India’s rich and ancient philosophical traditions pertaining to theories of health, healing, and medicine. These traditional healthcare systems are both widely practiced and receive government support today. The course introduces students to the origins of these wellness theories and systems through lectures, discussions, readings, and field visits designed to facilitate direct observation. The primary focus is on the systems of Ayurveda, yoga, Unani, Siddha, Amchi, folk medicine, and ethnic-traditional healing in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Field Study of Traditional Indian Healthcare Practices – syllabus
(ASIA3020 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This six-week course complements the Traditional Indian Medicine: Theory and Context seminar. The course emphasizes field study methods that give students a foundation for engaging in basic ethnographic approaches to studying and understanding the practice of traditional medicine. Through visits to and interaction with organizations and individuals working in India’s traditional healthcare system, students gain firsthand exposure to the practices and environments social contexts of these alternative methods of wellness. Though observation, note-taking, and interviewing, students gain experience with primary sources, thereby increasing their knowledge of traditional medicine in India.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Students in Naintal.

Experience traditional healthcare systems across the Indian Himalayas.

Site visits and excursions are an integral part of the program. You will spend time at hospitals, NGO headquarters, and academic and research institutes in New Delhi and other areas of North India. 

Most program time is designed to help you build a foundation in traditional healthcare systems’ theory and practice and learn how marginalization affects the lives and health of India’s indigent populations. Excursion destinations may include rural and urban Nainital, Rishikesh, Palampur, and Dharamsala.

During excursions, you will interact with community members and traditional health practitioners. You will learn firsthand about ongoing struggles to survive and the challenges in acquiring adequate healthcare services in remote locations.

Azim KhanDr. Azim Khan, Academic Director

Dr. Khan has been working as an academic director with SIT Study Abroad since January 2008. Dr. Khan is an academic by training, with a zeal for social activism. He earned a PhD from Aligarh Muslim University in the area of health and human rights. His thesis focused on sex-selective abortions and effectiveness of prenatal diagnostic techniques (regulation and prevention of misuse) legislation in India. He earned an MA in human rights from the University of London, an LLM (Master of Laws) in 1997 from Aligarh Muslim University, and an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) with distinction in constitutional law from the University of Lucknow in 1994. 

Dr. Khan received the prestigious Ford Foundation International Fellowship for Human Rights in 2003 for academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to community. He has worked with various colleges and universities in India and the US for almost 12 years, teaching human rights, public health, and development. Dr. Khan's previous experience in the human rights and public health fields includes working as a consultant and researcher with several NGOs and international organizations including UN OHCHR and UN CERD on a pro bono basis. He has previously been affiliated with SIT as a facilitator of the World Learning and Ford Foundation's Leadership for Social Justice (LSJ) Program in Washington, DC. In 2007, he was awarded a Scholar of Peace fellowship by the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his peace initiatives in Gujarat. He has also briefly worked as a media and political analyst in the South Asia bureau of the US government. 

Dr. Khan has also been a host of a popular weekly show for ETV on contemporary social justice and human rights issues. He is a co-founder of several public health, education, and development organizations in India and is widely respected in civil society for his contributions as an academic and as a practitioner.

Dr Ashutosh Guleri

Dr. Ashutosh Guleri is a Panchakarma expert with a distinguished practice of holistic and traditional treatments mentioned in Ayurveda for various chronic conditions as well as common ailments. With eight years of experience in Ayurveda medicine, Dr. Guleri has successfully treated patients with various fatal lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes, mechanical injuries of the spine, and rheumatoid arthritis in India, United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, UAE, France, and other parts of the world.

Along with a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery degree from Gomantak Ayurveda Mahavidyalya & Research Centre, Goa University, Dr. Ashutosh Guleri also has a postgraduate certificate in Panchakarma from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University, Karnataka.

Dr. Ashutosh Guleri has presented and published scientific papers in various conferences and media portals across India. He has also translated the book Ayurvedic Sharir Rachna (Ayurvedic Anatomy) from Marathi to Hindi. As an avid blogger and Ayurveda writer, Dr. Guleri expresses his passion for Ayurveda and alternative medicines for a healthy, aware, and spiritually enlightened society.

Vivek Badoni

Born and brought up in the traditional, mid-Himalayan, spiritual town Rishikesh, Vivek Badoni has been imparting Yoga education to Indian and international students for the last 15 years.   

He runs yoga meditation camps with the theme “Essence of India: A Soul Searching.” Vivek is a certified yoga teacher and holds a university degree. He studied yoga and philosophy in university as well as in the ashrams in traditional Indian ways, under the guidance of self-realized saints of Himalayas.

He learned his earliest of lessons of life while playing in the pure sandy beaches of the holy Ganges and while walking narrow streets of the town, holding the hands of Himalayan saints. His in-depth knowledge in Vedantic Upanisadic culture of India serves as an enlightening experience for his students. He and his team of students work effortlessly to make learning easy and interesting.

Vivek carries the vibrancy of the Himalayas, the vigor and fluency of the Ganges, and the flavor and touch of India in his approach and outlook. His very simple and interactive style of teaching creates a positive platform for students to learn the art of living.

Abid Siraj, Academic Coordinator

Abid has been working in public health for several years, and he holds a master’s degree in social work, with a specialization in reproductive and child health. His diverse knowledge about public health in India, his vast network of connections, and his everlasting patience and smiling face are welcome additions to the SIT program for students and program contacts alike. Abid assists the academic director with lectures and excursions, and helps students develop their Independent Study Project research proposals. 

Abid previously worked for a USAID-funded project on the role of local self-government in the promotion of reproductive and child health and was project coordinator of another USAID-funded project, the Community-Based Distribution Project of Family Planning Methods. He was part of a pioneering team that implemented a flagship public health program for the Government of India’s National Rural Health Mission in Rajasthan. Abid was also involved with one of UNICEF’s largest communications and social mobilization initiatives, the Intensive Immunization of Pulse Polio, which took place in Uttar Pradesh. He has also been a visiting faculty member for SIT Study Abroad programs.

Dr. Rajeev Bijalwan

Dr. Rajeev Bijalwan is a public health professional from the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in India. He has extensive experience working with health programs and on public health issues. He is very knowledgeable about traditional medicine and global public health issues and challenges. His specialization is in the area of health policy, planning, and program management. 

Dr. Bijalwan has an undergraduate degree in Ayurveda and a master's degree in international health management and development from the University of Birmingham, UK. Since September 2008, he has been vice president of the Global Education and Health Forum. He has worked on multiple research studies, some of which have been published. His primary interests lie in the areas of traditional healthcare, public health, institutional development, and health policy planning. He has been invited to various forums and to serve on various committees as an expert. 

Dr. Bijalwan has assisted the state government in the planning of various interventions under the National Rural Health Mission and is supporting the state in developing future interventions under the Urban Health Mission. At present, he is working as a public health consultant with the Himalayan Institute of Hospital Trust, a graduate medical college and hospital at Dehradun in Uttarakhand.

Ms. Archna Merh, Senior Language Faculty and Student Affairs Coordinator

Archna Merh has been teaching with SIT Study Abroad programs in India since the fall of 2008, most recently with the India: Sustainable Development and Social Change program based in Jaipur. She holds a master’s degree in English literature and a bachelor's in education from Rajasthan University. She has taught for various American study abroad programs for more than 12 years. She is also affiliated with On-Site Language Services Inc., an international program based in the US. Ms. Merh has in-depth knowledge of Indian cultures and traditions. She is fluent in Hindi, Gujarati, and English. She actively assists her students with cross-cultural learning in class and during excursions. With her extroverted nature, Ms. Merh is a great resource and source of support for students. Her favorite pastimes include dancing, reading, and traveling.

Ms. Bhavna Singh, Co-Director of Language Studies

Bhavna has been working with SIT Study Abroad since spring 2004 as senior Hindi faculty. Bhavna and Goutam Merh together form the critical lead team that inspires students to speak and dream in Hindi starting in the earliest days of the program. Her stunning elocution inspires students, and her strong commitment to each student never goes unnoticed. She holds a BA degree from Lucknow University and recently completed a postgraduate diploma in rural development, with a specialization in public health in India. 

Bhavna previously conducted weeklong Hindi language workshops for Japanese and Canadian students. She is fluent in English, Hindi, Rajasthani, Avadhi, and Nepalese. Outside of teaching hours, she is an excellent athlete and Kathak dancer. 

Goutam Merh, Co-Director of Language Studies

Goutam earned a master’s degree from Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, in 1989. He has been teaching Hindi for more than 10 years for various American study abroad programs in India. He also has worked with Antioch University’s Buddhist studies program in Bodh Gaya, India, and for On-Site Language Service’s International Language Learning program. Before joining the Health and Human Rights program, Goutam worked with the India: Sustainable Development and Social Change program, SIT’s Study Abroad program located in Jaipur, where he was senior Hindi faculty and excursion coordinator for two years. He has a keen sense of humor that keeps the classrooms lively, and he is extraordinarily helpful to students during excursions and field studies. 

Goutam, who is fluent in Hindi, Bangala, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Brij, and English, is an expert on Indian culture and development issues.

Live with an Indian family using traditional healthcare systems.

homestay villageYou will spend approximately 10 days of the program living with a carefully selected host family in rural Nainital, Uttarakhand. Typically, two or three students are placed with one family. 

Most host families have lived in the same place for generations and, in some cases, for centuries. Host families are typically lower middle class but vary in size and caste background. A majority of host families have multiple generations living under one roof and are typically located in small villages.

In addition to being an excellent opportunity to practice language skills, the homestay also gives you the chance to intimately observe and participate in the culture and daily life of the local rural communities in the Himalaya. You may also experience special cultural activities, such as religious ceremonies and weddings, in addition to sharing many memorable meals.

Other Accommodations

You will stay in an NGO guest house in Palampur, a guest house in Rishikesh and Dharamsala, and in a hotel in New Delhi during the orientation and concluding periods.

Program Dates: Summer 2017

Program Arrival Date:  Jun 16, 2017

Program Departure Date:    Jul 28, 2017

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Apr 1, 2017

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $7,250

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:

  • Field Study of Traditional Indian Healthcare Practices course
  • Traditional Indian Medicine: Theory and Context seminar
  • All educational excursions associated with the Traditional Indian Medicine: Theory and Context seminar and the Field Study of Traditional Indian Healthcare Practices course
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $2,325

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (New Delhi), during the homestay, on all excursions to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and during the evaluation period.
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad directly or through an appropriate stipend.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 125

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 60

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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