A pulse reading as an experience of oneself

Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis with Dr Mishra

It's snowing as if the pillows and beds from an entire hotel were being shaken out. Great flakes float down from the sky and settle on the floor to form a fluffy blanket. I struggle not to fall over as I stamp my way towards the Hotel Engel. I finally make it to the hotel entrance and go into the lobby. I am here to have my pulse read by the renowned Ayurvedic physician Dr Mishra, who can then tell me more about body and spirit. I am expected – and I can hardly wait!

The day of reckoning!

And it begins with a massage – Abhyanga by name, as my masseur Nilantha explains. It has been practised as an Ayurveda technique for over 5,000 years. And I can understand why! Head, neck, back, legs, arms – my entire body is massaged with the special Navarathna oil and, after the first few minutes, I feel myself much more relaxed. While Nilantha stretches my arms and legs, he asks me whether I have problems with my blood. I say no, not that I know of, and wonder a little about this rather strange question. At the same time I am counting on Dr Mishra to be able to recognise any potential blood problems when he subsequently reads my pulse.
After an hour of heavenly Ayurvedic treatment I float out of the wellness area and into the chilly winter air. What I need now is a walk in the garden. There I am surrounded by the snowy, rich silence – as well as the steam from the 32°C heated pool...

A pulsating diagnosis

A little later and everything is ready: Dr Mishra greets me in English in his consulting room and asks me to take a seat. First he tells me about Ayurveda, the “knowledge of life”. Ayurveda is a holistic philosophy that deals with the unity of body, mind and soul – it thus sees people as one large whole in which everything interacts and is entwined. Physical problems can be traced back to spiritual causes, and vice versa.

Finally, he takes my hand and puts his finger on my pulse. From my heartbeats he can read which of the three doshas – the life fires or life energies – are stronger or weaker in my being. From the conversation at the beginning of the consultation I know that Vata, Pitta and Kapha are present in every human being. In balance at birth, they almost always lose this balance during our lives. According to Ayurveda, restoring the balance of these life fires represents the origin of holistic health. Dr Mishra suggests that I note everything on the piece of paper that he has prepared for me. He tells me about my individual dosha constitution and which body systems are affected by the individual doshas: Vata, for example, affects the nervous system, Pitta the metabolism, while Kapha influences the immune system. The first affects our reasoning, the second our courage and the third our tolerance. Vata is the dosha of air, Pitta of fire and Kapha of water. In my case it is Vata, which stands for movement, that preponderates, but my Pitta level is also high – which means transformation. Dr Mishra now explains which foods I should avoid to ensure the balance of the three life fires in my body: no raw vegetables, no any excessively dry foods (such as crackers), no cauliflower, no beans, no spinach, no nuts – except for almonds, occasionally. I should switch from red to white meat in my diet. For me this is no problem as I already tend more towards chicken and turkey. The only thing that shocks me is the absence of raw vegetables! But that won’t dissuade me from my own attempts.

Breathe in, breathe out – breathe deeply

The dietary advice is followed by breathing exercises. Dr Mishra knows – has he actually read this from my pulse? Yet how else could he know? – that my airways are always slightly constricted. The breathing exercises from Ayur yoga that he now shows me are aimed at freeing them. He shows me how to do each exercise and observes me very carefully as I copy him. And then I write it all down, breath for breath. My blood haemoglobin level is rather low, says Dr Mishra. It is not bad, it is not an ailment that I should worry about – but the breathing exercises and dietary tips could help me to balance this little deficiency. I wonder how Nilantha noticed that during my earlier massage! I am at the same time relieved that my “problem with the blood” is nothing serious. But I am actually amazed, as a voice in my head reminds me a little later that there had in fact been something with my blood! When donating blood once I was told that I had slight anaemia, which was however nothing serious and so I soon forgot all about it.

My opinion: a revelation

The puzzle pieces came together as I researched further. Low haemoglobin means anaemia, which goes hand in hand with iron deficiency. Symptoms can include fatigue and occasional headaches. And that in turn would explain why I fall asleep every day on the sofa before 9 p.m.! Incredible: without any blood or allergy tests, but simply by taking my pulse, Dr Mishra has deduced all this from my body. Now I want to put his tips into practice! Will I succeed? Find out more next time!