SAMA, which stands for the Swiss Ayurvedic Medical Academy, is the Sanskrit word for ‘balance’. The name thus represents the very principles of health in Ayurveda.
SAMA was born of a working partnership between Jean-Pierre Bigler, ayurvedic practitioner and yoga therapist who trained in India and in Europe and, in 2000, opened one of French-speaking Switzerland’s first ayurvedic centres, and Doctor Simone Hunziker, general practitioner specialising in alternative medicine who, in 1996, set up a multi-discipline treatment and alternative medicine centre in Lausanne.
The multi-discipline centre originally planned to bring together various differing approaches, among them homeopathy, acupuncture, phytotherapy and osteopathy, as offered by recognised therapists, to arrive at an understanding of the best, the most complete way of treating the patient. But, it being true that the sum of all the parts do not necessarily make the whole, it took the coming-together of Doctor Simone Hunziker, Jean-Pierre Bigler, and Ayurveda to reach the turning-point. What was needed was the promotion and development of ayurvedic medicine. This meant setting up a centre of reference that would combine clinical practice with teaching, based on the founding principles of Ayurveda. After two years of close collaboration, in January 2003 Hunziker and Bigler opened a centre for therapy and professional training in ayurvedic medicine, Kalaguna-Sadhana, in Vevey.
All ayurvedic consultations and treatments are conducted along the traditional principles. But it was the desire to take medical consultations onto a higher level that drove Dr Hunziker, from late 2007, to improve her own knowledge of ayurvedic medicine by making regular visits to India. This enabled her to find both top-level Indian partner bodies, and the ideal medical environment. At the same time as developing the vision, planning and networking for creating the ISA Foundation, she coached the first-ever Swiss student who underwent university-level Ayurveda training in India (BAMS).
From 2001, ayurvedic classes have been held regularly at the centre, first in Lausanne then in Vevey. The professional school, in the proper sense of the term, was set up in 2004. In 2011 Jean-Pierre Bigler obtained the Federal Diploma qualifying him as an academic director entitled to train teachers, and the school received the official eduQua certification (the Swiss quality label for professional adult education, recognised by the government).
From 2005, Dr Hunziker has been actively engaged in professional policy-making, the aim being to get ayurvedic medicine officially recognised, both nationally and internationally, within the framework of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM. In line with these developments and her international activities, in 2009 the centre changed name, becoming the Swiss Ayurvedic Medical Academy (sàrl).