by Catriona Mitchell

Liana Nenacheva has been working in medicine for 27 years. Trained in Western medicine with a specialization in reconstructive surgery in her native Russia, she practiced for many years in Antwerp before moving to Ubud. Here, she likes being able to help people from all countries of the world. In Antwerp, she says, her clients mostly wanted her to ‘fix’ them; in Ubud, however, people tend to want to change themselves, they’re more open to understanding that many problems lie within their control, and that a healthy lifestyle plays vastly into their overall wellbeing.

I met Liana in the quiet, leafy sanctuary that is the Taksu garden. I went to shake her hand, only to find that it was filled with the handful of cashew-nuts that she was nibbling on between appointments [which seemed quite fitting for a nutritional therapist].

Liana is a slight, almost elfin woman who speaks in slightly broken English with an accent that doesn’t let you forget for a moment where she’s from – and the legacy she has inherited from a rigorous Russian medical training.

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Liana, given that you first specialized in surgery, what turned you towards more holistic practices?

I studied traditional Western medicine and specialized as a reconstructive surgeon: not just plastic surgery but face, neck, jaw… but then I had a very bad car accident. I was 22. One solution was just sitting for the rest of my life in a wheelchair – nothing to do with Western medicine could help. I was in a very good hospital, but still nothing. I had fractured my neck. There was a lot of pain and a lot of problems. But then they just treated me with acupuncture and physiotherapy, and step by step I started moving and went out of this problem. I was able to start walking again.

The place where I lived was the best place to study acupuncture because it’s just three hours above China. Actually in Russia we don’t have traditional and then non-traditional medicine; they are always together. In my studies we were working with herbs, with alternative things, and did a lot of scientific research.

Alternative practices are being introduced into many Western hospitals now, but you’re talking about almost thirty years ago?

Yes. They offered me acupuncture in a standard hospital. In Russia it started in 1933 actually. One of the biggest scientific doctors – very world famous – he started scientific investigation into acupuncture. Now we have a lot of institutes, we are working with it, we know it, it’s not like something special. A lot of doctors do acupuncture, cranio-sacral, herbs, nutrition… it’s just part of our education.

And do you put this down to the close proximity of China?

No! It’s not just in this place – it’s in all of Russia. Russia is big. If you go to Moscow you will find the same. Our ancestors have a very strong knowledge about herbs – we didn’t stop it, we didn’t cut the tradition, we just use it.

And you are deliberately setting out to perpetuate those traditions?

Yes. That’s a small part of it – I go much further now.

After my accident I still studied and worked as a doctor, but one day I just “no, I stop it” – I stopped working just as a medical doctor and started to actually combine Western medicine and Chinese medicine, herbs, nutrition therapy, macrobiotic foods, pediatric Chinese medicine… For me it was always interesting to go further, to practice with a lot of patients with all kinds of injuries and problems. I started to see how I could bring yoga into my work [Liana is also a yoga teacher, certified by the International Yoga Alliance]. Yoga can heal people one by one. Yoga is to heal people. And then I went to Ayurveda, but I didn’t study all packages of Ayurveda, I just took what I needed out of it. Because some things are very difficult to apply – Ayurveda was founded so many thousands of years ago, for Indians, and we have changed and everything has changed since that time.

It’s rare for one person to be knowledgeable about all these different methods. Have you ever found that they contradict one another?

No. They are the same. If you look at the big chakra centres, all the most important nerves and the most important Chinese centres, they are always in the same place. It’s very beautiful but of course it asks a lot of studies.

One of the most important things is to bring everything in balance: every chakra, the aura… body, mind, emotions. Most people come to me for some problem and mostly it’s a very complex problem. If somebody comes to me with a back problem I’ll find so many problems behind this problem. You’ll never treat lower back pain without treating everything that caused this.

Are you talking about emotional or psychological issues leading to physical pain?

Emotional, psychological, energetic, food… I look at all. Often you can change the diet but it’s not just a physical problem with the diet, it’s a lot of emotional problems and chakra problems which change our body. I need to look at all problems and give exercises for whole body. People go to therapists to make adjustments and exercises just for the lower back, but this doesn’t always help because sometimes it’s a foot problem for example – you have to look at the whole body and give exercises for the whole body.

How do you assess what’s going on with your clients?

With a physical examination, questions, and also what I see. I realized when I worked in Belgium that our education in Russia is much deeper because we see the whole person. Western doctors they don’t see the person. You know how it is – money, money, money. They just make an examination, send you to the next doctor who makes the same examination, and you pay again. I will look as a Western doctor to see what you look like. Then I will look again as a Chinese doctor at what you look like. And Ayurvedic – I’ll see again how you look. When I see a person, I see 50% of their problems outside the body – talking, sitting, moving, and then I ask questions.

Once you’ve made a diagnosis, what comes next?

Food, yoga, I do acupuncture of course, sometimes I do life coaching – because people come in sometimes with very deep problems, that go from one generation to another generation. In Chinese medicine we say that we keep everything from five generations. Sometimes I help to cut, to change that. Then I must give a lot of lifestyle advice.

How do you put issues like ancestral inheritance into language that people understand, if they aren’t open to that kind of suggestion?

Sometimes people say, “I have lower back problems. I just want needles.” Some don’t want to change their diet; I say ok. If they don’t want to take exercise I won’t talk about it. But if somebody says, “I want to change something” then we’ll see how far we can go.

Mostly a lot of people need to change their diet. I am writing now a very big program about nutrition. There is so much information now – do I use olive oil or not use olive oil? Do I use coconut oil or not use coconut oil? I tell them what is good for their type

You mean Ayurvedic type?

Chinese type also. Cool, hot, metal, wood…

So in other words you’re not giving uniform advice when it comes to diet and nutrition; you are making a very personalized list of suggestions.

Yes. It’s really, really very personal.

Every Monday at 6.30 Liana gives a talk at Taksu about health and nutrition. Entry is free. See our event listings for details

Liana can see clients in Russian, English and Dutch – she is fluent in all three languages. You can see her site here.

You can contact Liana directly at +62 878 61202617, or on email at liana.nenacheva@gmail.com

Set in a tranquil, verdant and surprisingly wild garden in the centre of town, Taksu offers visitors fresh, natural, organic cuisine; destination spa offerings; personalized holistic practices; and locally-made products. See here for more.