What is Holistic Health?
Holistic Health by definition is an approach to life encompassing the connection of mind, body and soul. Rather than focusing on specific parts of the body, illness or injuries, holistic health considers the whole person, and their interactions and relationships with their environment.
Growing up, my biggest influences were my mother, and my great-aunt (who is also my godmother). My godmother was herself raised in the same small town I grew up in, during the 1960’s and she was quite possibly born before her time. She has always practiced a holistic lifestyle and had a strong influence on my mom when she was growing up. Having two strong role-models who practiced living holistically around me strongly influenced me to be who I am today. It’s just a natural way of live in my family. We always lived a very plant-based life, using plants and herbs to heal minor ailments. We saw a homeopath often and our family doctor on rare occurences. Our household medicine cabinet included things like arnica for bruises, peppermint tea for belly aches, and lavender oil for our pillows at night.
Upon completing my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree I felt an internal divide between the scientific world I had been so thoroughly immersed in, and my holistic upbringing. I started my career as a medical surgical nurse in a large city hospital and witnessed the life saving miracles of modern western medicine. I also witnessed how the western system produced many people with dependence on pharmaceuticals and a revolving door of patients trying to treat side effects with more artificial medicines, which in turn fueled a growing amount of people adopting a victimhood mentality and lifestyle. Although I felt this conflict within me, regarding how I viewed the western system overall, I felt a deep gratitude for my upbringing and the wisdom that was passed down to me through my family. I used Yoga to de-stress and strengthen my body throughout university, so naturally continuing with this practice as my life moved forward helped me to navigate life’s challenges and changes. I was dedicated to Bikram yoga and became addicted to the self-realization and self-growth that came with the practice and felt a deep sense of responsibility to share this practice with the world. I though that if maybe I could help more people to find and love yoga, that possibly people would start to take better care of them selves and see a great reduction in illness.
Yoga teacher training was about so much more than learning to teach yoga poses. The personal development and wisdom that came from surrounding myself with a group of 450 international like-minded yogis for 9 weeks resulted in profound life altering growth. I felt confident and at peace with the direction I was taking myself in. Bikram often said “it is our mission as teachers to reach half of the world’s population, in order to begin healing our world.” He said that people have junkyard bodies, screws loose brains and broken souls, and that through Yoga they could start to heal their bodies, clean up their minds and thoughts and start to knock on the door of their own souls.
That’s the thing about dedicating to a yoga practice – it starts to affect all areas of your life. You learn how to calm your mind, and start to control your thoughts and your subconscious feelings. You create an awareness of how you feel in your body, and what you are putting into it, and how these connections start to shift your world, your paradigm and how you interact with your environment. Through yoga, living a holistic life comes naturally and you naturally start to connect to people around you who also value health and wellness.
While there are holistic approaches to healing ailments and dis-ease of the mind and body, there is also a holistic lifestyle one can lead to maintain health and consistently aim towards living a balanced life. The institute for integrative nutrition focuses on a balanced approach to a healthy lifestyle incorporating all aspects of life including: creativity, finances, career, education, health, physical activity, home cooking and home environment, relationships, social life, joy and spirituality. Primarily, holistic health is about taking control of your own health, and your life, and knowing that you are in the driver’s seat of your life. YOU are in control of the direction that your life is going.
As Louise Hay says, “you have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we are not. We always have the power of our minds. Claim and consciously use your power.”
Looking at the mind through the lens of holistic health, we know that the mind encompasses our mental health, our thoughts and beliefs. The Law of Attraction states that we have the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on, negative or positive. Through our thoughts we can create our own subjective world. Positive affirmations, or thoughts that we affirm to ourselves, can create abundance and joy in our lives. Louise also says “Every thought we think is creating our future. Your thoughts and beliefs of the past have created this moment, and all the moments up to this moment. What you are now choosing to believe and think and say will create the next moment and the next day and the next month and the next year. Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmation. All of your self-talk, your internal dialogue, is a string of affirmations. You’re using affirmations every moment whether you know it or not. You’re affirming and creating your life experiences with every word and thought.”
Our thoughts also have a great effect on our bodies. Not only is the universe listening to our internal dialogue, but our body receives our thoughts as well. These thoughts can either be beneficial and healing to our bodies or detrimental and self sabotaging. We can create disease in our bodies by being at dis-ease in our minds and our heart. Repressed emotions become stored in the facia of the body and can create various illness, dis-ease, and ailments. There is a direct correlation between various thoughts and emotions and the specific joints or organs in the body they can effect. Louise Hay’s book “You can heal your Life” outlines disease symptoms and their correlating thought patterns, and the affirmations you can use to help turn the process around. For example, resisting change or moving forward in life is often manifested as pain or injury in the hip joints. She writes “Resentment that is long held can eat away at the body and become the disease we call cancer. Criticism as a permanent habit can often lead to arthritis in the body. Guilt always looks for punishment, and punishment creates pain.” Learning these connections can give us insight into our bodies and how we relate mentally to what is going on in our lives.
Each body is an incredibly beautiful and profound machine, always working towards a state of equilibrium or balance. Everything we put into our bodies either helps or hinders the body’s natural processes and we are exposed to a plethora of options everyday regarding what we consume. The human body is consistently working to break down what enters the body, use what is good or beneficial and expose of the bad toxins. Our largest intake organ is our skin, where we absorb everything we put onto our skin, including perfumes and environmental toxins. Our greatest organs of elimination include the kidneys, bowels and skin as well, considering that the body eliminates through the process of sweating. Therefore, it is important to consider that food really is medicine, and the foods as well as fluids that we choose to put into our bodies are always enhancing either health or disease.
Our beliefs and emotions come from a place within our hearts, where our spiritual health is concerned. This is also true for our connections to other human beings. For us to become whole and healthy, we must balance the body, mind, and spirit. We need to take good care of our bodies. We need to have a positive mental attitude about ourselves and about life. And we need to have a strong spiritual connection. When these three things are balanced, we rejoice in living.
“No doctor or health practitioner can give us this unless we choose to take part in our healing process.” ~ Louise Hay
Having a strong spiritual connection means that we have faith in some higher power, and we can start to let go of always needing to have control. Knowing that there is a universal energy looking out for our greatest good can allow us to flow more easily with life’s challenges and changes, as well as let go of resistance. This spiritual awareness can allow us to build a deeper connection with those around us, and humanity at large. If we start to heal ourselves individually, we can heal our world collectively. Love is always the answer to healing of any kind. When we learn to love ourselves, we can love and care deeply for others.
The Practice of yoga is a practice of uniting mind, body and soul. Learning to quiet and focus the mind, and mindfully moving the body with purpose and intention, you can start to make connections between your body, your yoga practice and life off the yoga mat. You can relate challenges in your practice to challenges in life, and how you face these challenges. Yoga often teaches us better coping strategies and opens our awareness to how we accept or resist challenging situations. Therefore, by learning yoga, and applying its teachings to the rest of our life, we can start to live a life of holistic health and healing, and share this with those around us, ultimately contributing to healing the world as a whole. Holistic health means looking at the whole – the mental, spiritual, emotional and physical self. It means believing in something bigger than the self, and believing that we are all one, united and connected by a universal energy. To take care of oneself is to take care of those around you, the planet and humanity as a whole. Health, happiness, joy, fulfillment, and peace in all areas of life are attainable by living a holistic lifestyle. We do this by living in alignment with what we believe in, alignment with the planet and nature, and a higher power. This requires aiming for alignment physically, mentally and emotionally, and continuously working towards a state of equilibrium and balance.
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Love and light,