" I have been taken for a ride by so many doctors for so many years - can you believe, one day my doctor gave me 16 cortisone injections when my condition had worsened."
When she narrated the incident, there was no pain or agony on her face, but rather a new optimism, a will to fight. Henceforth she knew no one, including her disease is going to take her for a ride again, because she like many who had been benefitted from the Asthma Camp, is determined to defeat her disease. Never again is she going to resign herself to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" but rather to fight against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.
The frail white girl is VS who is working in a travel agency. She remembers her painful experiences without being emotional about them. In fact she seems to be proud of herself, about her fortitude to fight the disease which had made her a loner and kept her away from society. Her story would inspire thousands who have been similarly affected by asthma.
For VS Asthma had been her constant companion for the last fifteen years. She is not sure, though whether her feelings and emotions as the youngest child in the family had caused her disease, but she can recall that anxiety and fear used to precipitate the disease.
She desperately tried different medicines to get a relief from her disease without knowing she was being used as guinea pig by a doctor who was experimenting with corticosteriods on her. She also never realised that she was becoming a slave to these strong drugs.
But change came in her life when one day, Mrs. Hansa Jayadeva of The yoga Institute, Santa Cruz asked her to stop the drugs completely and took over the management of her asthma.
Getting out of the iron grip of the drugs was a terrible experience for VS. She struggled like a fish out of water without her ‘life saver’ . She had been taking two or three doses of corticosteroids per day, administered by a doctor who had promised to cure the disease completely, if she continued the treatment for five years.
" I felt that I was getting mad. I even felt like committing suicide." Life without her daily quota of corticosteriods was so difficult for her.
The Yoga Institute, slowly weaned her from her dependence on medicine. The seven days Asthma Camp brought her more realization about herself then she had gained in all these past years. The improvement she obtained, according to her own assessment at the end of the camp, was much better than during all those years put together. She has now taken up the challenge of curing her disease completely.
VS is optimistic of a radical cure. She draws inspiration from Dr. Jayadeva’s words "If you want to defeat the disease, your desire to get rid of it should be stronger than the persistence of the disease itself." Even before coming to The Yoga Institute she had tried some Yoga exercise, but she was aware only of the physical aspects of the Asanas and not about the mental aspects or the higher levels of Yoga. The concept of detachment was the most important factor which helped her as a person in fighting the disease. It reduced her unnecessary anxieties, fears and her urge to get constant attention.
" The word asthma comes from the Greek root meaning "I blow" or "pant." Hippocrates the father of modern medicine (460-370 BC) wrote that asthma is a disorder of the nervous system. He also described the ‘panting respiration’ due to cold or moisture in the air. Sir John Floyer, a British Physician who suffered from asthma himself (1649-1734 AD) ascribed the attack to the contractions of the muscle fibres of the air passages.
Asthma can be of two types: (1) Extrinsic if there is a family history of allergy. (2) Intrinsic if there is no family history of allergy. The intrinsic variety is the formidable one needing corticosteroids often.
It has been estimated that when both the parents have asthma or hay fever 75 to 100 percent of the offspring become allergic. When only one parent is affected, 50 to 75% of the offspring become allergic and when neither is affected probably upto 10% become affected. It is generally agreed that the greater the degree of inheritance, the greater the likelihood of the offspring becoming sensitive. Furthermore, when both the parents are affected, the disease in the children appears earlier, and often before puberty. Thus, a family history of allergy not only establishes predisposition but also determines the age at which allergy will appear.
One inherits an allergic predisposition rather than a specific allergic disease. Descendants of a parent suffering from hay fever may not get actual attacks but many of these individuals manifest abnormal sensitivity to the air passages to different stimuli like exercise, cough etc. These stimuli could bring some amount of narrowing in the air passages which could be measured by some sensitive instruments. Some allergic disorders may run in the cold frequently, rash on the skin, eczema or hay fever.
In infants any infection in the chest may bring about wheezing but that would not mean that the infact has asthma. But if there is strong family history of asthma then this may be regarded as the first sign of asthma.
A person can be allergic to a very large number of allergens. The allergens may be inhaled from the air, eaten, ingested or may come from contact or injection.
List of common allergens:
Some occupations are particularly hazardous for people with an allergic background. Bakers, farmers, poultrymen, dairy-workers and librarians are exposed to a large amount of spores. Gardeners, farmers and farm labourers are exposed to a large number of pollens; upholstery and mattress renovators are exposed to large quantities of house dust; flour-mill workers, wood-mill workers and carpenters are exposed to various dusts; beauticians, barbers or furriers are exposed to excessive amounts of animal dander. For a patient who already has asthma such occupations may lead to aggravation of symptoms.
Climate and weather conditions also influence the severity of the symptoms of a patient suffering from a chest disease. This applies particularly to bronchial asthma. Generally speaking, a dry climate is better suited to an asthmatic, than a humid one. Rainy and cloudy weather does not suit many asthmatics, nor does air polluted with industrial wastes.
Hormones are found to play an important role in asthma. It is found that a large number of asthmatic children become free from disease around adolescence. In some women severity of asthma increases before or during menstruation. Some others are more susceptible during the menopause. The influence of hormones is more prominent in women than in men.
Signs and Symptoms:
In a typical of asthma, the patient suddenly gets up early morning or in the late hours of night panting for breath. He may find difficulty in taking in air or breathing out or may be both. The musical sound ‘wheezing’ may be audible from a distance.
In mild cases attacks may come any time - usually it is worse on getting up from bed early in the morning. The breathing difficulty is mild and wheezing may persist for a short period. In some of these patients the attack is preceded by certain premonitory signs and symptoms. These are sneezing, watering from the nostrils or from the eyes, with change of season. In others it may be related to an attack of infection of upper or lower respiratory tract as evidenced by score throat, fever, cough etc. In some patients these attacks will be precipitated by strong fumes of chemicals, dusting of rooms etc.
Of late deeper insights into the causes of the disease prove that emotions play a very important role in precipitating the disease even though there is nothing like psychogenic or mental asthma, a person having asthma may get precipitation of the attack by fright, anxiety, mental shock, worries etc. Even though some feel that the factors which influence an asthmatic attack are allergy, infection and hormonal factors the initiating factor in asthma is psychological. Emotional stress is well known to bring about an attack. Immediate physical and mental rest is necessary. Since the mind and breath mirror each other, as long as the person is tense and frightened the attack will last. The moment the person relaxes, the attack is over.
Weiss (1922) advanced the hypothesis that asthma represented in a distracted form, the expression of intense emotion, a "suppressed cry of the mother." The view that a disturbed relationship of the mother to an asthmatic child plays a role in the disorder although difficult to prove conclusively has continued to interest clinicians. Willisius (1682) observed that "violent emotions of the body and mind lead to asthmatic attacks. Corsivert, Helmont Lainnac and Trosseau also made similar observations.
So the mental health of a person is very important. The expression of the emotional problem through a physical equivalent is more conspicuous in a child. A child cannot change a situation when he is bullied to do certain things which he may abhor. At the same time it is difficult for him to accept it. Since a child has little control over body the trauma will be expressed physically. If the child tries to cry the parent might scold the child and stop him from crying. The repression makes him appear to gasp. At this time the bronchi tense up and they cannot exhale and therefore gasp. They wish to express their hurt and anger but this is repressed. Any repressed feelings comes up and is expressed in some other way. All emotions have effect on the body.
The site in the brain where the emotions are generated is, in the hypothalamus, which in turn, affects the pituitary gland which controls the secretions of many other hormonal glands including the adrenal cortex. Secretions of adrenal glands are known to affect the bronchial musculature and the mucosa. The emotional state through the medium of adrenal gland may also indirectly affect antigen-antibody reaction.
The emotions affect in three ways: (1) On the smooth muscles causing tension (2) Can cause dilation of small vessels resulting in running nose (3) Effect on glands. All this leads to a lowered resistance which can cause a lot of problems.
No one can confidently say that he is not affected by mental problems. In some cases the reaction to allergy when traced, the origin may be the mental condition. For example a man who is allergic to a rose is found to react even to an artificial rose. Unless and until a person becomes introspective and understands the contents of the subconscious, he will not be able to cope with different problems of his own disease. Unless one learns the right way to deal with mental problems psychosomatic problems are bound to happen. One has to face the realities and conflicts instead of avoiding them, but should solve them in a socially acceptable manner.
A proper understanding of the fears of the patient through sympathetic conversation helps an asthma patient very much. A majority of the asthma patients are prone to accept suggestions. It has been seen time and again that when a prescription is given or a line of treatment is started with the emphatic suggestion that this will definitely give relief it decidedly works and the patient fulfils expectation. A therapeutic approach that takes care of all the above factors has a much better chance of doing good to the patient. Yoga is concerned not merely with relief from attacks but in preventing their occurrence in future-which means going to the root cause of the problem. Relaxation techniques are therefore considered secondary to cultivating a relaxed attitude to life. Once the patient’s tensions are taken care of his asthma will disappear.
When Dr. Mahashur, Professor and Head of the Department of Respiration Diseases, Nair Hospital decided to investigate the claims of yoga for curing the disease, he was not completely sure whether yoga could help in curing asthma. But he felt that is general a patient who followed yogis instructions is much more prepared to fight the disease since he followed a disciplined life and had much control over the mind and body.
According to Dr. Mahashur even though the disease is very small, the functional overlay caused by anxiety and depression increased the severity of the disease. This functional overlay can be reduced by a wider perspective of life which yoga offers. A be reduced by a wider perspective of life which yoga offers. A patient is more confident of encountering the disease. He develops the attitude of treating himself rather than resigning completely on the doctor. Because of this he found that in these instances on the doctor. Because of this he found that in these instances the dependence of drugs is reduced. Moreover the practices like pranayama could help in increasing the capacity of the lungs.
Though he was sure that yoga had subjectively improved the person, he wanted to know to what extent, it helped a patient objectively. The Airway camp for asthmatics showed specific instances where the patients had been benefited by a yogic way of living. The lung function tests done before the camp and at the end of one month conclusively showed the efficacy of yoga.
PD FINDS IT FRUITFUL:
For instance PD working as a marketing promoter has found a lot of relief after attending the camp. He is confident of encountering not only his disease but his life itself in a better way. The grip which was 84 became 139 in July and 126 in August. His vital capacity before camp which was 1000c.c. had increased to 1600c.c. in July.
He was a nervous and anxious person before attending the camp. He used to suffer from breathing difficulties almost every night. Since he was a marketing promoter, he had to go for frequent tours and never bothered about a disciplined life or diet. He used to take about 15 to 20 cups of tea everyday. Moreover since he did not have any motivation and direction he wanted to do many things at a time which made him a scattered and anxious personality. The worst part of it was that he tried to hide his nervousness and portray an image of calmness which his profession demanded of him. This further aggravated his problem. He was of the opinion that more than 80% of his problems were psychosomatic.
Sharing his problems with others in the group as well as the personal talks with Dr. Jayadeva had helped him to open up his emotional problems. This gave him an opportunity to know more about himself and to understand that others also had the same problems like him.
Though initially he was sceptical about the camp, he decided to give yoga a fair chance. But taking a chance proved fruitful because he got something invaluable for a life time. Yes, it is for a life time because the Institute had tried to tackle the disease from the spiritual, mental, social, emotional angles and had tried to develop a balance between all these aspects.
By reminding the patient, of the need for faith in a higher reality, the Institute caters to the spiritual aspects, by providing a philosophical framework, the Institute tries to develop a steady and positive mind, by making one aware of his duties towards his family and society, it tries to solve the emotional aspects and through different asanas, relaxation techniques, kriyas as well as diet, it tries to solve the physical aspect of an individual. Thus a person is taken care of as a whole.
According to Dr. Jayadeva, a patient should consider getting rid of the disease as a part of his duty because the most important duty of a person is to himself. So it is very important that a person is clear about the priorities of duties and organise them accordingly. Hence it becomes essential to avoid helping others at the cost of oneself.
At the same time while doing duties one should be able to accept life as it is because we cannot have everything according to our own choice.
In the beginning of the camp Dr. Jayadeva asked the patients to develop an attitude of commitment and perseverance while doing the daily routine prescribed. He also stressed the need for setting up a higher goal in life. A higher goal gives a clarity which enables the body and mind to function well so as to reach the goal. The change in attitudes have helped some of the patients very much, as in the case of DS an industrialist.
ON LIVING IN THE MOMENT:
For DS the concept of Karma yoga was completely new. When Dr. Jayadeva in his lectures stressed the need for completely involving in the work at hand, it opened for him a new dimension in life. Formerly he used to carry all his tensions and worries with him wherever he went. This changed attitude towards life was of great help to him.
He later said that we are 90% in the past and future instead of working in the present. He became aware that only by concentration in the present. He became aware that only by concentration in the present can we contribute towards life. This understanding helped him to realize the need for one-pointedness while doing the asanas and the need for the mind to be lost in the concentration of a larger reality. DS who has been an asthma patient for the past 14 years has found that a disciplined life as well as the changed attitude has helped to contain the disease.
He did not have any severe attacks after the camp. He has considerably reduced the use of inhalers. Formerly he had to use the bronchodilator spray four or five times. During the camp itself he had reduced the use of spray to once or twice a day. Now he has used it only occasionally. He has also stopped taking tablets like Vent which he used to have three per day. The vital capacity of his lungs have also improved tremendously from 900 c.c. before the camp to 1900 c.c. in July and 2000 c.c. in August. The grip which was 146 before the camp rose to 196 in July.
DS who had led a very hectic life, full of tension for so many years is giving more time to himself now. Regular exercise has become a part of his life. This has also helped him to reduce his weight from 72.5 kg. in August. His BP which was 116/80 before the camp was 110/80 in July and 120/80 in August. He devotionally undertakes all the healthy routines of hot water drinking, steam inhalation, sunbathing etc. He is more conscious about the diet and has reduced intake of rajasik food. Thus small changes in lifestyle have paid rich dividends for DS. But the most important of all is the positivity he gained which no amount of riches can purchase for him.
The example of DS shows how small changes in routine can influence a patient’s life. So the Institute gives, importance to small but healthy routines which can greatly benefit the patients. The daily routines include hot water drinking, conditioning session, application of hot water bags, steam inhalation, infra red ray, sun bathing candle blowing, nispanda bhava.
A DAY IN THE CAMP:
The day of the patient starts with cleaning process of the entire system. As soon as the patient gets up, he takes one or two cups of hot water. It is for loosening the secretions of the throat. It is followed by light pressure on the abdomen which helps to vomit out the left overs in the stomach.
At the conditioning sessions Dr. Jayadeva gives a seed thought for the day to ponder upon. This helps to quieten the mind as well as for instilling positivity in the minds of the patients so that the person is prepared for the day.
The patients are also given some small responsibilities or work to do and asked to watch the workings of the mind. This is to make them mind. This is to make them realise the attitude behind Karam Yoga. In the group discussion which follows they are to share their problems among themselves. Thus on the one hand they are able to feel one with the society and also able to let out their feelings. After food, hot water bag is applied in order to increase circulation. Infra red rays are applied for formation.
The need for hygiene and strengthening the body was reiterated. Once the body is strengthening, it will have better resistance to different infections. Since the body is like an earthen pot it should be baked to become strong through tapa (fortitude). Body should be cleaned in three ways: Externally, internally and ‘mentally’.
For external cleaning, sun bathing, fresh air and bathing are useful. Sunbathing kills germs. Care should be taken to clean all the parts which are exposed thoroughly, with water. Kriyas like Jalaneti helps one to clean the nasal passage and helps to have a free flow of air always. Massages on the existence of allergens cannot be stalled, by developing a strong body it can help resist the allergens.
Hatha yoga gives a lot of importance to kriyas. Three are nearly 50 kriyas to clear the inner organs. These kriyas also help to create a bond with nature which ultimately reduces the dependance on doctors for small problems.
The patients are taught to breathe equally and rhythmically,. This helps an asthmatic to have more control over breathing pattern. More emphasis was gradually placed on a prolonged exhalation in a tension free manner. The patients were constantly reminded that they should be aware of the breathing in work situations also. Uneven breathing is like a vehicle having unequal wheels so that it cannot function properly, they soon realized.
Since prana means lige, pranayama therefore in effect means control of life itself. Since breath and life are very much linked, once there is control over breath, it is almost equivalent to control over life itself. Breathing is also closely linked with the thought process. So greater the thought process is reduced life span is increased. Therefore it is imperative not to waste energy in any sense.
Unfortunately, we waste a lot of energy by talking unnecessarily or viewing things not worthy etc. In order to preserve our energy it is essential not to indulge in negative thinking as well as in bad habits since emotional excitements take up a lot of energy which otherwise could have been spent for higher purposes.
Special care was taken for the timing as well as the quality of food so as to avoid any spicy, cold, sweet or irritating foods. Sattvic food, easily digestible was served to the patients. Patients were instructed not to stuff their stomachs because it could cause indigestion or gas formation. Food was also given early as well as at regular intervals. Heavy or unsuitable food may bring difficulties partly due to sudden distension of abdomen pushing up the diaphragm thereby reducing the volume of lungs available for ventilation.
DR THE CHAIN SMOKER
Developing healthy habits can help reduce the bad habits and ultimately given win over them as in case of DR a chain smoker who could greatly reduce the number of cigarettes. On the day of registration for the camp, till the gate of the Institute, he was smoking because he felt that he had to be away from his beloved companion in the seven days to come. Though he was intellectually aware that smoking had precipitated his disease, he could not reduce the number of cigarettes, before. During the camp he did not smoke even one cigarette.
Healthy routines and exercise made him less dependant on cigarettes. After the camp, he could reduce the intake of the bronchodialater from two per day to once on alternate days. He is of the view that psychological problems cannot be isolated from the disease because he had seen that emotional ups and downs used to aggravate his disease.
AS LEARNS TO LET GO:
As feels that Dr. Jayadeva’s talks had helped him a great deal. They helped him to understand his problems like sensitivity. It also helped him to develop more acceptance. He it trying to take life easy and learning to "let go". Formerly he used to fret about unnecessary problems and was not able to share his problems- not even with his wife. Sharing his problems with others has helped him very much.
He was suffering from asthma from the age of 8 or 9 . He had been trying different systems including naturopathy to tackle the disease. But in spite of all that, in the last 2 to 3 years he used to get attacks every 15 days.
The camp has immensely benefited him. Since three months after attending the camp he has had no attacks. He had to take bronchodilaters only once. The vital capacity of the lungs which was 3000 cc before the camp was 3300 cc in July. His grip which was 196 before the camp rose to 203 in July and August. The change he felt was due to the overall change in his lifestyle and thinking . He has cut down on social activities with a view to devote more time to his wife and son. Though he had been doing exercise in different institutions he had never been aware of the attitudes behind the asanas. For the first time in his life he could fathom the deeper aspects of yoga. He could understand that the importance of yoga is not bending and twisting the body but making yoga as a way of life . Here realised that yoga is not a therapy but an improved way of living, which as a by- product reduces illness.
A HIGHER GOAL:
He was also aware of the need for higher goal of good health. Once a person is clear about this, his body and mind start functioning so as to reach the goal. If the mind is full of tensions and not relaxed the exercises would not be effective. He also understood the need for loving the body. The body would be healthy only if one would pay attention to it . He also felt that the practices like Vamanadhouti and steam inhalation had helped him a lot.
In the beginning of the camp, one of the campers could not agree to the fact that there was any psychological problem for her disease. She gained more confidence from the camp, She confessed on the last day that anxiety about sexual intimacy caused her disease. Another lady found that frequent emotionally charged encounters with her mother-in-law aggravated her disease.
A young businessman could identify his suppressed anger against his elders in business as a major factor which contributed towards his disease. Sharing his feelings with others in a group helped him to understand himself better and also to give vent to his feelings. He could understand the doctor’s words on suppression of emotions.
The psychologist who analyzed the problems of the patients and gave them counselling found that in the beginning most of the patients felt that they had no control over their emotions or attitudes. Unless the patient has a desire to change, very little can be done therapeutically. She felt that the most important thing that the Institute had done was to give the patients hope that the disease could be tackled by them by their change of attitudes. According to Dr. Jayadeva since asthmatics are very sensitive people, it is very important for them to use their feelings in the right manner and not to allow such emotions to rule their lives. It is very important that they rise above likes and dislikes. One of the reasons that they are allergic to many things may be because of emotional imbalance. It seems that our likes and dislikes go on increasing as we grow older and a bond may develop between us and the object. Sometimes dislikes grow in such exaggerated proportions that they seem to outgrow the person. Thus many people run away from a cockroach. It is nothing but an exaggerated dislike and people tend to behave as if the cockroach is bigger than themselves. This exaggerated way of thinking causes an imbalance in a person. At such moments he would not be willing to hear any advice. This way of thinking is found many a times in asthmatics. Dr. Jayadeva reminded the participants that the emotions could be used for higher purpose of life.
The whole yoga philosophy stands on how one should act without hurting others. Even though we cannot help others we can at least not harm them. So reflection whether the anger we are harbouring against someone else is of any use. The five yamas of ahimsa (non-injury) satya (truth) asteya (non-stealing) brahmacharya (discipline in sex life) aparagraha (non-covetousness) were presented as guidelines for relationship with others.
The concept of cultivating patience, devoting time to understand oneself and trying to function at an intellectual level and not solely at an emotional level were presented by Smt. Hansa Jeyadeva. This requires on the one hand a commitment to change one’s outlook on life and a recognition of the limitation of the senses, as well as faith in a higher reality. What the Institute essentially tried to do was to bring about an understanding and insight into disease.
"The psychologist remarked, "Patients in a group are in one way the focus of the special camps at The Yoga Institute. When one considers this a number of questions arise. (It much be assumed that these patients wish to change or at least alleviate their symptoms.) When one wonders who expects the change to occur, the family? That is not enough. One must claim that he himself wants to change. If so, why does he want to change? In what respect does he want to change? In what way does he think the change will come about? Why does he come to The Yoga Institute for all this? All these questions have a conscious and an unconscious aspect. It is of limited value to ask the patient all this. Rather it is a matter of finding out the answer to all this by inference based on all communications, responses and attitudes. In a group a patient has a first hand opportunity of comparing and contrasting his own ways with those of others. He can see perhaps that what he thought peculiar to himself is usual, and what he thought usual is peculiar to him (minor reaction). He also becomes familiar with new ways of suffering and new ways of solutions as represented by other persons with him. The role of the Institute is to keep the individual in this new encounter such that what is learnt is made meaningful and can be used constructively. The question of how do people change whether generally in life or in this particular situation - the first condition of this seems to be experience, vital involved experience such as that provided by the residential camp."
During the interviews at the follow up sessions many of the participants indicated that they were more aware of themselves, of their rising emotions and how their whole lifestyle contributed to the maintaining of the disorder. Some made very concerted efforts to change and on seeing the results resolved to incorporate them in their lives.
Their enthusiasm was voiced by a young intelligent scientist who said. "These have been the best seven days of my life in terms of learning about myself and my disease condition and how I can overcome it."