It is better to be safe than sorry. This applies to the way we take care of our mind, body and soul to achieve harmony, writes K S IYER
Holistic health is a philosophy of healthcare that encompasses body, mind and soul as the three are closely interconnected. The holistic concept of wellness is more than just taking care of various singular components that are part of the physical body. It incorporates aspects such as emotional and spiritual wellbeing. By this approach, the focus is on the whole and not just the malady, thereby covering total healthcare and disease management.
Prevention is better than cure. The social, economic, cultural and physical environments, in which we live, have a significant influence on our health. A study conducted by The Disease Control Centre, USA, indicates that the key factors and their share of contribution influencing healthcare are:
- Quality of medical care: 10%
- Heredity factors: 18%
- Environment influence: 19%
- Daily lifestyle choices: 53%
A holistic approach to healthcare will also help in restoring and maintaining the dynamic balance of individuals, families and other social groups. Healthcare at all levels will consist of balancing and resolving stressful situations by individual and collective social actions. A good healthcare system must consist of a comprehensive, effective and well-integrated system of preventive care.
The individual health and healthcare of human beings are determined by their behaviour, food and environment. The individual has to take the responsibility to keep his mind-body-soul in balance by observing a number of simple rules:
- Taking care of behaviour, sleep, food, exercise, drugs, yoga exercises, meditation and prayer
- Seeking help of health professionals and therapists
- Healthy living habits, wholesome foods, physical exercises, avoiding unhealthy practices, relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques.
- Individual personal freedom is often curtailed by social and cultural conditioning. Many health problems arise or get aggravated by economic and political factors that can be modified only by collective action.
The degree of wellness — if represented as a continuous horizontal line — will depict all possible levels of health. The far left end of the line will represent premature death. The far right end will be the highest possible level of wellness or maximum wellbeing. The centre point of the line will represent the state of absence of apparent disease. The right half will show that even when no illness seems to be present, there is still lot of scope for improvement. Through poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise or by not being in a state of harmony with one’s own family or with society, the body can lose its balance and it is at times like this that illnesses occur. Illness is not to be thought of as an intruder but as something that happens with a pattern of causes leading to disharmony and imbalance. The natural tendency is to return to a dynamic state of balance. Going in and out of balance is perceived as a natural process that happens throughout one’s life cycle.
A system of medicine and remedial measures which regards balance and harmony with the environment as the basis of health will be likely to emphasise preventive measures.
The results of positive lifestyle changes make people enjoy both vitality and wellbeing. In the Chinese ‘yin-yang’ system, the entire universe, both natural and social, is in a state of dynamic balance with all its components oscillating between the two archetypal poles. The human organism is a microcosm of the universe; the parts are assigned yin-yang qualities, and thus the individual’s place in the great cosmic order is firmly established. The correlative and dynamic way of analysing is basic to the conceptual system of Chinese medicine.
A healthy individual and society are integral parts of a greater pattern and illness is disharmony at the individual or social level. Following the Tao means keeping our minds open, our bodies relaxed, and releasing the tension of modern life through regular exercise.
Taoist-yoga, breathing and tai chi help regulate the flow of ‘chi’, the energy of Tao which circulates through our bodies and all creation. According to Chinese medicine, chi moves in continuous cycles from our head to our feet, nurturing all vital organs. If this energy is blocked — by stress, negative emotions, poor diet, and lack of sleep or insufficient exercise — we become ill. We too, can adopt preventive measures by becoming more aware of our energies, strengthening our chi with regular exercises and the techniques prescribed.