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East vs. West, having nothing to do with 90s hip-hop tragedies.

April 24, 2012

I love the East, and I love the West. One holds my roots and one holds my future…in more than one sense. At this point (if you’ve ever read this  blog) it should be no grand surprise that I harbor more than a small obsession with traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda. Not too long ago, I considered going back to school for Ayurvedic studies, and even looked at some schools. Presently, this isn’t my reality, so I have just settled to start being a patient of this school of medicine.

To date, I have been the patient of two Ayurveda doctors. Historically, I’m not a very good patient of any type of medicine, so I’ve only been to each of these docs one time. My first experience was with Pratima Raichur in her chic Soho spa/clinic. I was a wreck and had been under a lot of stress and was glad to meet with her. Her initial consultation is pretty steep, however…so that part I wasn’t really looking forward to. The initial visit is $135 and each follow up is $100. Obviously, since this is Eastern medicine our Western insurance will not pay for it. I may have already reported on Pratima, but I must again now for the sake of comparison. Pratima had a 30 minute consultation with me in a little back office where she inspected my nails, eyes, tongue and my mind by way of a small interview. As previously stated, I was a wreck at this point in time and the little interview included my tears, and Pratima’s assurance that I didn’t have it so bad and that instead of being so wretched that I should thank God for my good fortunes. This was all well and good, and she concluded the appointment with an exhaustive list of things to avoid, herbs to take, and precisely when to take them and how many.  All and all, had I spent almost $200 that day and I didn’t even get all of the recommended herbs. I got some facial products which I now find indispensable and some herbs that I sort of took for a short period of time and forgot about. I also had “prescriptions” for facials and massage. I have nothing negative to say about Dr. Raichur, she is an intelligent and clever woman who also seems to be very good at doing  business. She is also endorsed by doctors  Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil. My appraisal of Dr. Raichur is that she does a phenomenal job with skin and that is her bread and butter. Her recommendations were too hard for me to follow, so perhaps I can’t fairly say that she was not thorough with my internal matters. It is also possible that my focus and health were just entirely different at that point in time than they are right now.

Yesterday I went to a new Ayurvedic doctor. This time I did not find the doctor on the internet, but instead found him through the recommendations of friends from yoga. Some of these friends are even Indian (that surely makes this a legit recommendation, no?) This second experience was nothing like the first. First of all, there is no spa and no clinic. I do not even know the doctor’s full name…he was referred to as Kumar. The space that Kumar operates out of is called Butala Emporium. In the rear of the store there is a small area that is partitioned off where the ayurvedic herds appear to be stored. The same area houses three plastic lawn chairs and an old beat up grey file cabinet. This small enclave was where I was lead by Kumar after I requested a consultation with no appointment. He was standing behind the counter and I was introduced by my friend Jason, a veteran client. The manner of introduction was sparse at best as Kumar requested my name, age and telephone number which was then recorded in a college rule notebook with a pencil. After that what happened was anyone’s guess. He took my pulse for what seemed to be an eternity, first on my right wrist and then on my left. After he seemed satisfied with the pulse-taking he requested to look in to my eyes and my mouth. That was my intake and my assessment. He then sat across from me for a few moments ruminating over his findings and then began to scribble into his  book. After a few more moments, with out any prompting prior to the appointment, he asked if a list of things were bothering me (exactly the list, I might mention, that led me to seek his counsel). I was impressed of course, and confirmed that yes, all of the things he had mentioned were giving me a bit of trouble and then he explained all about the imbalances going on in my system and how they had come to be the cause of my troubles. I sat there with my jaw dropped as he pulled 4 bottles of mysterious herbs off a shelf and decided how I should take them in the coming weeks to help me achieve health through balance. My jaw dropped further when he pulled out a pricing gun and labeled each my my bottles at only $9.99 (this was a pretty steep difference from the Pratima experience.) He finished the package off with a post it that said $50, a shopping basket to hold my things and a warm smile before shooing me off to the register. My total bill was about $100, and according to Jason any follow up appointments are only $25. Suffice it to say that these prices are totally affordable, even without insurance.

Do I know that any of this is going to work to fix my ailments? No. Despite the hopes of many past employers I do not have, nor have I ever had, a crystal ball. I do know, however, how I like to be treated as a person and a patient rather than a customer. It has been a long time since I have trusted a western doctor. I might even venture to say that I have always been pretty suspicious of them…especially mental health professionals.  Recently I found a place called the Center for Health and Healing through a colleague of mine and I have been very happy with the entire situation there. The staff is lovely, the facility is welcoming and the doctors are good and well  rounded individuals. When I call freaking out, they almost always squeeze me in. I will say though, that I feel a bit as if the doctors treat me like a hypochondriac. Ok, maybe I am a hypochondriac…but it is also my body and I consider myself an individual who is extremely well in tune with my body and its functions. If I show up at your office and say something is wrong, I expect proper testing to be performed to eliminate the possibilities that something is wrong and for them to prove I am a hypochondriac.  I don’t feel that this has been sufficiently done, really. The appointments are too quick, and if they do tests, I am never informed of their findings. I don’t ONLY want to know about serious deficiencies, I want to know it all…and they never tell me squat.

I appreciate the possibility that western medicine offers hard empirical evidence of its findings. Sometimes, Eastern medicine is a little bit more of a leap of faith. I will always go to a western gynecologist because us ladies always need to have someone checking under the hood with regularity. And, if I ever need to have a cancerous lump removed, I will gladly see a western doctor…because lets face it, I’m not so stubborn about this east vs. west thing that I want to die for it. I will say, however, that in my gut the Eastern approach to medicine seems to be more in tune with the human system rather than the capitalist system.

Call me kooky (you probably wouldn’t be wrong) but I’m going to try to find some nice little balance of East meets West for all my medical needs. Perhaps the answer isn’t in one or the other, but as in all other questions in life…in the balance.

[image: wikipedia]

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