Questions about alternative forms of medicine and healing is normal and even healthy. You need — and deserve — to know how it will affect your body. I have decided to answer some common questions about holistic healing and using Ayurveda as an alternative healing style.
What is holistic healing?
The American Holistic Health Association describes holistic medicine as, “the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person — body, mind, and spirit.” Unlike Western medicine where the immediate symptoms are diagnosed and treated, holistic medicine and healing focuses on the underlying cause of the symptoms, whether that’s stress, inflammation, poor diet, gut health issues, etc. Holistic medicine focuses on curing that underlying cause, which will then promote optimal health.
Another subtle but important distinction is that in Western medicine the absence of disease equates to health. However, in holistic healing, the absence of disease does not always equate to being vibrant and feeling well. Holistic healing believes that prevention is key. As an example, if digestion and elimination are not functioning properly, if sleep is poor, or if constant stress is present these are signs that health is not optimal. Let's examine elimination (bowel movements) from the Western perspective in comparison to Ayurvedic medicine. Western medicine does not see lack of daily elimination as a health concern. If someone were to skip a day or two then that's within the normal range of elimination. However, in Ayurveda, we recognize this as the first sign of an imbalance and breeding ground for disease to manifest. Toxins are being recirculated in the body, and it just doesn't feel good!
Why do people use holistic healing/ medicine?
Holistic healing and medicine’s focus on mind and spirit is what makes it stand out from Western medicine and what makes it appealing. By focusing on a patient’s mind and spirit, holistic healers and physicians form a special relationship with each of their patients. They get to know them on a deeply personal and spiritual level. Holistic healers and physicians urge their patients to, “evoke the healing power of love, hope, humor, and enthusiasm, and to release the toxic consequences of hostility, shame, greed, depression, and prolonged fear, anger, and grief,” (ahha.org).
What types of practices are considered “holistic?”
According to Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, PhD from the University of Minnesota, holistic healing encompasses an array of practices and therapies. Below is a breakdown of different methodologies:
Biologically based therapies (or naturally occurring therapies) include herbal medicines and aromatherapy (essential oils). Both of these therapies use plant and other biological based materials topically and as ingestibles. These therapies have gained popularity recently but have been used for thousands of years. Diet therapy is another notable holistic healing form.
Manipulative body based therapies encompass the healing power of touch through massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments and reiki, a vibrational healing practice.
Mind-body interventions include relaxation classes and focus on behavioral, spiritual, social, and psychological approaches like meditation and visualizations. Yoga nidra is a another great example.
Energy therapies use energy in the form of electromagnetic, ultrasonic, thermal, or subtle energy to heal. Examples include reiki, healing touch and chakra exploration/awareness through the subtle body energies.
Alternative medical systems which includes Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. Both healing systems focus on healing through physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Chinese Medicine includes practices such as acupuncture, tai chi and qi gong. Ayurveda, known as the sister-science of yoga, includes meditation, sleep, a nourishing and balanced diet, and nature and love as healing modalities. Read more about Ayurveda below.
What healing modalities does Ayurveda include?
Ayurveda includes many healing modalities! Some practices include: yoga, aromatherapy, massage, diet, meditation, sleep, herbal remedies, self-care, lifestyle recommendations, counseling, jyotish, panchakarma, subtle body awareness and marma point therapy.
Is holistic healing for me?
In my experience, people who try any method of holistic healing see benefit. By focusing on curing the root cause of the ailment they are able to gain profound understanding of how the mind, body, and spirit work harmoniously together. Individuals learn to appreciate the energies and emotions within and around them. J.R. Worsley, the man credited with bringing acupuncture to the West said, “If the body is sick, the mind worries and the spirit grieves; if the mind is sick, the body and spirit will suffer from its confusion; if the spirit is sick, there will be no one to care for the body or mind.”
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