Holistic Living and Healing

picture of savasana

One of the first things that appealed to me about yoga was its holistic nature and how it made me feel better physically, mentally, emotionally, and even on some level, spiritually. I didn't know much about yoga in those early years, aside from the never ending introduction of interesting and challenging poses. Savasana always resonated as a very potent end to yoga classes; the deep relaxation would often, though not always, transport me to a quiet and soothing place.

Over the years my understanding of yoga deepened as did my practice. It became clear how an more integrated approach that involves other techniques would result in the benefits of practice accruing at a much faster rate. Coupling the knowledge that I was gaining about yoga with that of Ayurveda really catapulted me into a much more holistic way of being in the world. I strive to live and teach holistically.

But, having knowledge and using it well are two different things. As a teacher I sometimes find that I'm not employing the balanced approach to life that I advocate to students. It is then that I need a kick in the pants from my teacher and someone who is in a position to play that role. This week it was my naturopath. I'm sure Dr Korah didn't realize at the time that he was giving me a swift kick, but he did and I thank him for it.

For many years I had a small patch of eczema on my finger. It finally went away and was absent for two years. This to me was a symbol that my holistic and balanced approach was truly paying off. However around December of last year it reappeared. I found this both interesting and frustrating. Just when you think you've arrived, you realize there's more work to be done!

From an Ayurvedic point of view these flare-ups indicate an aggravated pitta - too much heat. So over the last few months I've been very mindful about not provoking my lovely fire, yet the eczema only worsened, spreading to other fingers and even a few small patches on the other hand. After several unsuccessful attempts at addressing this problem through my own means I decided that it was time to visit Dr Korah and see what he could tell me.

A very thorough assessment and examination resulted in Dr Korah advising me that there are two things going on: I have an abundance of heat and at the same time I am depleted. These are actually contradictions - a recurring theme in my life it seems. One thing he pointed out is that my adrenals are need a little TLC. Depletion means my body's immunities are compromised and eczema is the symptom. He prescribed some homeopathic remedies and emphasized what I already know about cooling beverages and foods for the summer.

The visit to see him was impressive. It was an holistic approach to well-being that is absent in our "health-care" system today. Where doctors are only allowed to address one issue per visit - the exact opposite of holistic medicine - Dr Korah spent 45 minutes asking questions, examining and tending to my needs with care and compassion. Had I visited my family doctor I would have waited for a good half-hour or more to get in to my appointed, then waited again in the examination room for his eventual arrival. I would have had his ear for about 2 minutes then a prescription for cortisone cream would have been written. The issue within my system that created the flare-up would not have been unearthed.

Yoga, naturopathy and other holistic approaches to well-being are what is needed to fix a broken health system and - dare I say - society.  It starts with individuals learning about what they need to establish well-being in their lives and then taking personal responsibility for the foods they eat and their lifestyle choices. Most of us have no clue. We eat what's available and do what is popular. 

The challenge ahead of us is monumental. With the pace of our lives getting ramped up even more and the ubiquitous technologies that keep us distracted, many of us have nary a moment to pause and really relax. What most of us need are the long deeply releasing savasanas that resonated so much for me in my early days of yoga - and still do. We also need the smarts to recognize when our well-being is compromised by our daily choices.

I don't think that there will be a wellness app coming out anytime soon that will actually accomplish any of the above. It's not rocket science though. We just need to start doing it.

This summer I've decided to be more holistic.  I will be taking time away from teaching for a well-deserved break and I will be taking advantage of some of the many summer activities that Ottawa has to offer. I will see you at the Ottawa Jazz Festival as a start. 

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