Ayurveda – The Healing Touch! Part 1
Mrs. Sabine Simon appeared like a breathless whirlwind in my ayurvedic practice with a
delay of exactly 10 minutes. She was clad in a grey top with black jeans to match.
“Sorry Dr. Jeevan” she said trying to catch her breath, “ I ́m a bit late. Unfortunately, my car broke down. Something always seems to happen whenever I have an important appoint- ment!”.
“That’s quite alright, Mrs. Simon” I replied in soothing tones. “Now you just relax, take your time and we ́ll first begin by talking about your interest in ayurveda and your expectations, shall we? May I offer you something to drink?”
“Oh yes, Dr. Jeevan!” she said gratefully, her nervous, darting eyes signalling thirst. “Some mineral water, please – with fizz!”.
I went about preparing her drink, Mrs. Simon softly hummed, her fingers drumming gently on the arm of the chair. I offered her the promised water, which she accepted with a smile and finished all at once, gulping loudly.
I observed her wavy, fine hair which she had kept neatly in place so as to avoid it falling on her thin forhead. Although Mrs. Simon was 48 years of age, her skin appeared older by its dry quality. Her tendons were prominent, her cheek bones were sunken, her eyes lay deep in their sockets. Her body was of medium build, a long neck merging into a flat chest.
With each of my observations, I had begun compiling my initial ayurvedic diagnosis. Either Mrs. Sabine Simon was of Vata/Pitta constitution or she was suffering from Vata diseases.
“Well, Mrs. Simon” I began “would you like to begin by telling me the reason for your visit here?”
“One of my friends went to Kerala” she began conversationally, “She did a pancha karma therapy and described the relief and improvement in her condition. She described all the different massages, herbal applications, the nutritional aspects... I felt that ayurveda might be able to tell me more about my own individual health problems. I ́m now keen on a pancha karma treatment myself”.
“Mrs. Simon, are you suffering from any kind of disease or would you say you are totally healthy?” I asked. “Would you like to undergo treatment as a preventive measure or as a cure for a particular affliction?”
“Both” she answered immediately. “I ́ve been suffering from polyarthritis for the past 6 years. I take cortisones and analgesics. During the last 2 years I ́ve been through a lot of stress with my husband and I ́ve had to move out and look for a new flat. I ́m not working anymore either because of the pain. I just wish I could get rid of this pain. I simply cant spend the rest of my life taking cortisones and analgesics” There was a sudden flash of fire in her otherwise dulled expression.
“ When my friend told me about her experience with ayurveda, I just hoped that there may be some opportunity for improvement for me here too”. Her eyes were now full of yearning.
“Alright then, Mrs. Simon, we ́re going to start right at the beginning. You are going to tell me the step-by-step story of all the diseases and symptoms you have ever had in your life and all the measures and medication you have taken when these afflictions developed. First I will listen to your story and thereafter I will ask you questions”.
Mrs. Simon sighed, as if reminicing a long and stoney path of past illness. “I ́ve had this pain in my joints for a long long time” she began. “Six years ago when I came back home from skiing, I had this severe pain developing in my joints, particularly the knees, toes and fingers. The next day I went to the orthopaedist and after that to a rheumatologist for the diagnosis. Since then, I ́ve been under medication. I ́m doing regular physiotherapy too. For the past 6 months I ́ve been taking 10 mg. of cortisone and whenever the pain increases, the analgesic tablets are there to be taken”.
She opened her handbag. “Oh God” she moaned hopelessly “I ́ve forgotten to bring my tablets and the medical records as well...”. She was a picture of despair. I was not surprised by her general air of forgetfulness.
“Was it Prednisolone and Diclophenac?” I asked kindly, trying to guide her out of her despair. “Yes, that’s it” she replied, relieved.
We continued. “Have you any other complaints at present?”
“Not really, nothing special. Some simple things like dry skin and a lot of stress. Sometimes I also suffer from severe tiredness but I don’t suppose that is of real importance to you...”
I hastened to correct her. “You ́re very wrong there! In ayurveda, every single little detail matters! Your whole mental and physical state matters! So now, again: anything else which may occur to you?”
“Nothing more I can think of right now. I think that’s more than enough anyway! If I could just get rid of this pain, I ́d be ever so thankful ...”
I grew emphatic. “Mrs. Simon, ayurveda does not merely look at symptoms to treat and suppress. We are talking about a whole chain of reactions taking place in our body during our whole span of life. These are reactions to circumstances coming from the outside world. Each and every change in impulse or circumstance from the outside will trigger off a new reaction in the inside of our mind and body. For example: Nobody will get an arthritic attack on a full moon day!” So, I really do need more information”.
“What is the character, the nature of your pain? Its an important question to make me reach a dhosha diagnosis”.
Mrs. Simon looked doubtful. “Character??? Hmmmm.... A sort of breaking pain?” she asked hesitantly.
“Is there any seasonal or diurnal variation of this pain? Let me explain further. Is the pain more acute at particular times of day or during certain climatic conditions?”
Mrs. Simon mused on the question. “Actually, the pain is more during the evenings when I begin to relax. Seasons initially never had any influence but for the last 3 years, winter or any sort of damp weather did start to cause a lot of pain. But now, the pain is always prevelant – during all seasons”.
“How about swelling or burning?” I queried, taking down my notes.
“I used to have swellings previously. I don’t have them any more, though. But my knees burn! And sometimes they get really red!”.
“How is your appetite?” I asked, changing to another subject.
“Good!” Mrs. Simon smiled guiltily. “I like eating several times. Mostly sweets. I know that’s not healthy. But chocolates are my favourites!”
“Now tell me about your pattern of food” I encouraged.
Mrs. Simon ́s moment of guilt vanished and was replaced by an expression of churchlike piety. “I usually do eat healthy food” she said matter of factly. “I eat fruit, wholemeal breads, yoghurt in the morning”. For lunch, lots of fresh salads”. She paused here, waiting for the gravity of these glad tidings to sink in. “In the evenings, a normal German meal – bread and cheeses. I ́m a vegetarian most of the time you know. Its only once in a while I eat meat. I rather prefer fish. I simply adore spicy food. Indian food is my favourite!”. She leaned back in her chair like a child pleased to have given teacher the correct answers.
But my mind ́s eye, however , had another vision. I saw the serpent Vata feeding on Mrs. Simons ravaged body. I saw him sweeping out the healthy, natural inborn body intelligence which resides within all of us as the Lord Dhanwantari – God of Healing. A stab of pity shot through me for this poor woman who was convinced that her daily food was nutritious and of high quality for her bodily needs.
I was silent for a while, sunk in thought. I continued: “How about your drinking habits?” “I don’t drink alcohol. I do drink a lot of mineral water, though”
“Do you like fizzy water? Or would you prefer mineral water without the fizz?” “Without fizz” she replied pushing her glass in front of her with a blank smile. “How is your bowel motion?” I asked. Mrs. Simon ́s look was questioning. Where was there a connection between polyarthritis and bowel motion?
“Motion is normal” “And what, pray is “normal”?” I asked smiling. “Every day? “ “Not every day, every second or third day”. “And the consistency?” Hard or soft? More in the direction of diarrhoea or constipation?” Mrs. Simon seemed somewhat irritated by these questions but replied “not diarrhoea”
My questioning continued. “Tell me, do you have haemorrhoids?” “Y es” “Dry or bleedin?” “Dry”
“How is your sleep?” “Sleep??” the patient reacted as if this were a word alien to her. ”Ohhh..... very bad” She sighed in resignation. “Its so difficult for me to sleep. I ́m always up by 3 in the morning. After that I cant go back to sleep. I ́m tired then in the morning. So normally I make up for it in the afternoon for a couple of hours”.
“Can you tell me if you have ever had any serious diseases in the past where you were admitted to hospital or even had operations?” I asked.
“I had the regular children ́s diseases like dermatitis and measles and stuff. Operations? Let me think... I had a disc prolapse and before that my uterus was removed. Only the uterus – not the ovaries.”.
“Can you tell me why the uterus was removed?”. “I had so much bleeding and I had a myoma – more than 15 cms large”.
“How was your menstruation before all these problems?” “Ohhh.... That was always a problem. Severe pain, depression. All kinds of PMS... I had to take lots of pain killers, contraceptive pills. The flow was also little. Two to three days the most. With lots of clots – a horrible time it was”.
“When was the uterus removed?” “It was 10 years ago. I was 38 then”.
After further questions, I found a lot of Vata and Pitta symptoms mixed up in a long and never-ending queue. I found tinnitus, cold feet and cold hands. I found severe back pain, tension headaches, palpitation, giddiness. I found flatulence, fullness of stomach after food intake, fear complex, irritability and depression. All these symptoms had become part of Ms. Simon ́s normal regular life pattern. So much so that she did not really look upon them as afflications out of the ordinary. I concluded Vata involvement. At the same time the irritability, the sharp looks and burning quality of the pain with red knee joints showed a slight pitta involvement in her diseases.
We plowed on, getting deeper . “Mrs. Simon, lets come to your psychological well-being. How do you see your present life? Your activities and your emotions?”
“Well, Doctor, I ́m generally an active person. I also insist on doing things correctly and as perfectly as possible. But right now, I have one real fear. Existential fear”. Mrs. Simon started to cry silently. “I ́m totally exhausted. Pain and loneliness depress me. I even try to sleep during the day. I don’t really have a goal in life any more. I cant believe this is me! I seem to have changed into someone completely different!” Her lips trembled, her words came haltingly.