By Shoba Naidu
Shoba Naidu meets Dr Susana Urrutia from Chile, a child paediatrician who has infused yoga and ayurveda into her allopathy practice with stunning results
Integrative medicine is the new mantra all over the world. From Chile to Chennai, people are seeking out means to alleviate their physical and psychological problems through a plethora of alternative therapies available to them on their fingertips thanks to the information age. Treating the whole person – body, mind and soul – and not just the disease, is the core principle of this approach.
ealthDr Susana Urrutia has an MD degree in allopathic medicine with specialisation in paediatrics from University of Chile, Santiago, and has worked at the University Children’s Hospital there.
She has her own clinic in integrative medicine with ayurveda in Santiago where she combines several systems and uses a multi-pronged approach to treat her patients, achieving astounding successes in treating some seemingly untreatable conditions.
The spritely 63-year-old, who doesn’t look a day above 35, is prime example of how one can retain youth and vitality and joie de vivre by combining yoga, pranayama, meditation, spirituality and a healthy outlook on life. I met her during a yoga class and spoke to her about her experiences in this field.
You are a practising paediatrician, having an MD degree in Paediatrics. What made you look for alternative healing therapies?
During the years of study to get my medical degree, I was totally stressed out due to long hours of working which sometimes lasted for 36 hours at a stretch without rest. I worked in the University Children’s Hospital for several years during which I became very sick. Moreover, I suffered from irritable bowel syndrome since childhood which got aggravated during this period. A friend suggested that I try out Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) which was being taught in a centre in my city. To my great surprise and delight, my medical condition vanished within three months and I became stable after regular practice of TM. This experience changed my perspective of life and made me a different person. It made me explore the connection between the human body and mind and how each has a great impact on the other.
Where and when did your tryst with ayurveda begin?
A friend told me about the Indian medical system – ayurveda – after which I travelled to the US in 1986 to attend a course at the Maharishi University in US and also in Holland. I learnt ayurveda and panchakarma from them.
I updated my knowledge periodically by doing courses in India at Amrut Ayurveda Nursing Home, Nirayanan Ayurveda Clinic, Pune, Integrated Ayurveda Hospital in Bangalore and now at the Ramiah Indic Centre. I have a total of 700 hours of panchakarma training. These studies taught me to see the human being as a whole and not fragmentary and also to understand how the mind can change the physiology of the body. I began to practice and follow ayurvedic principles and diet on myself, and discovered and understood how the mind-body is changed by the kind of food we consume, the time we eat, and also the season. I learnt how to prescribe diet depending on your body type and according to changing seasons.
Now I can see disease as a reflection of the mind. I understood how the body’s nature called ‘doshas’ – vata, pitta or kapha _ has a bearing on the working of the mind. I complement this understanding with allopathic treatment but the drugs are used for a shorter time as ayurveda balances the body.
As a paediatrician what were the major diseases you treated with the combination system?
My patients range from newborn babies to teenagers up to 16 or 17 years. They mostly suffer from asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, food allergies, chronic diarrhoea, and skin diseases. Some neurological and psycho-neurological problems that arise include attention deficit disorders, school phobia and insomnia. By combining both the systems I am able to reduce the duration of treatment and my patients recover faster.
Parents come to me because they are looking for natural methods of treatment for their children. Awareness of natural medicine is rising in my country and I feel at least 30 per cent of the population is opting for natural systems now.
I involve the parents in the treatment and teach them how to make simple ayurvedic churnas and decoctions at home. I also teach them short duration pranayamas and meditation to calm them down as the parents’ mental make-up can impact the child’s health.
I also integrate pranayama (yogic breathing), asanas (yogic postures), meditation and sometimes even astrology as the medications alone will not help. Depending on their condition I recommend abhyanga (massage with warm oils), thalapothechil (application of a medicinal paste over the head), some kashayas (potions) and churnas (powders).
I have designed a simple pranayama exercise by combining breathing with drawing for children which has helped greatly in their quick recovery.
Interestingly, you mentioned astrology! How can astrology help in the treatment of diseases?
Many studies have found that there is a correlation between human physiology and planetary positions. I believe that wearing specific gemstones and doing pujas help in balancing physiology especially in mental conditions such as depression. After all, gemstones have their own energy which they impart to the wearer.
Ayurveda and yoga have to be used as a unit. You just cannot give ayurvedic medicines without also giving a diet chart, yoga and meditation. Yoga gives necessary tools to the mind to be used correctly and create a balance in the physiology. I prescribe pranayama, specific asanas and meditation for my patients along with the medicines. Yoga opens the mind and consciousness to the knowledge that is within us.
There are other elements for healing like jyotish shastra (astrology), sthapati shastra (architecture), and gandharva veda (music). For example, astrology is a science through which one can discern a correlation between the planets and human physiology. Emotional disturbance such as depression, for example, can be influenced by Shani or Saturn on the mind. I consult an astrologer here who may suggest some pujas or wearing of a particular gemstone for relief. As you cannot change the position of the planets in your chart you can perform pujas which are very good to produce balance in the organs that are affected by particular planets.
Can you give specific examples of how you have treated patients with the integrated system?
A seven-year-old boy was suffering from Crohn’s disease, a very severe condition and difficult to treat for almost one year. This is an auto immune inflammatory bowel disease, and requires steroid treatment for several years. I prescribed meditation and pranayama and a diet plan that included cereals and pulses and sweet fruits like papayas, peaches and asked the patient to maintain regular timings for meals. The patient was asked to avoid junk food such as chocolates and chips. He was cured in three months and is now 21 years old. He is one of the top tennis players of my country.
What is your daily routine like in Chile?
Well, I get up at six am and begin the day with surya namaskar and pranayama. I follow the Kriya yoga routine of Paramahamsa Yogananda.
After a light breakfast of fruit or toast with clarified ghee I am off to my clinic. I carry medicated water with me which I prepare every morning by boiling water with some ginger and other herbs.
Lunch is usually rice and cooked vegetables, lentils and salads. I avoid onion and garlic as they produce acidity. Dinner is again very light with soups and salads. I am mostly vegetarian but do have chicken once in a while.
About the author : Shoba Naidu has been a peripatetic journalist for the last 20 years. She now finds writing fiction more interesting than writing facts. Her present journey is to find the Self
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