Holistic Health – What does it really mean?

  • Holistic Health: What is it?

Holistic. Over the past few years, this word has often been linked to medicine, food, environment, yoga, fitness, mindset and lifestyle. All too often it is thrown around as a fashionable term for marketing a technique or product, but what exactly is it?

From the origin holism, “a theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting as wholes (as a set of living organisms) that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles” (www.i.word.com/idictionary/holism).

In general terms, holistic relates to the whole of anything as characterised by the intimate, interconnected relationships that form it.  Take yoga for example. The average person may associate this with poses in a mat, dressed in fashion-forward fitness gear, perhaps chanting a few rounds of “Om” to begin the class. But it goes so much deeper.

Yoga essentially means union. It is discipline, awakening, awareness, oneness, harmony and total union of the body, mind and spirit. It can be practised in many forms such as asana (postures, poses), pranayama (mindful control of the breath and energies throughout the body), mantra (powerful chanting techniques), kriyas (cleansing techniques), mudras (gestures formed by the hands), meditation (control of the mind), pure diet and dedication to the Nam and Niyam (measures of saintly living).  Through this whole practise that we called ‘Yoga’, we aim to reach a state of ‘Samadhi’ – total solution or total insight. Through this devotion, our body, mind and soul is able to achieve balance, freeing us from stress and illness throughout our lives.

Another way to relate it into today’s society is perhaps easier to grasp – that of holistic medicine. Holistic medicine is a treatment based on the whole person, taking into account not just the symptoms of disease, but the psychological, physical, spiritual and social factors that have brought the illness about.  Modern day GP’s will often use a holistic approach to treat clients involving a combination of traditional medicine practise and alternative therapies (integrative medicine) such as yoga, reiki, Chinese medicine, naturopathy, personal training, cleansing, detoxification, Ayurveda, rehabilitation, reflexology and massage treatments.  Whether they conduct these treatments themselves, or make recommendations is at their discretion. As the world becomes more aware of the mind-body connection, the demand for alternative medicine will most likely increase seeing the vast population becoming more self-aware.

When we talk about holistic health collaboratively, we refer to the diverse field of alternative medicine available in modern society that is designed to treat the whole ‘self’ (body, mind and soul) to remain harmonised. Ideally, before symptoms have the opportunity to present in the physical form.  Scientifically, this can go deeper into biological terms of cells, tissues, organs and bodily systems.

Holistic health can further be broken down into two categories:

  • Preventative
  • Treatment of illness

Preventative techniques are generally from more of a spiritual category aiming to keep the body and mind in harmony. Yoga, cleansing, detox, meditation (walking, surfing, cycling, chanting, mantra and even sitting in stillness are examples), Ayurveda (Indian science of the body), pranayama (breath work), massage, sleep and correct nutrition are a few examples within this category. When these elements are balanced, stress levels are kept at bay, allowing the opportunity for disease to be kicked curb-side. When these elements are subjected to sudden changes, it can throw the body-mind connection into turmoil often resulting in physical symptoms until unity is found again.

However, sometimes in today’s fast-paced society one can easily let their lifestyle slip due to unforeseen circumstance or dramatic lifestyle changes. For example a new job, childbirth, romantic relationships, poor nutritional options, shift-work, travel etc. can all through your routine out of whack and give illness an opportunity to disrupt the body’s flow unannounced. This is when treatments are administered to renew the body-mind connection and restore it to optimal health.  Aside from seeing a general practitioner whom might suggest antibiotics, you can opt for a more gut friendly approach by visiting a naturopath, nutritionist, reflexologist, massage therapist, energetic healer, yoga teacher… the list goes on!

In summary, holistic health is the equilibrium of the mind, body and soul achieved by taking care of one’s self naturally in order to prevent disease.