Achieving Holistic Health
Mind-body therapies are growing in number and diversity world wide, offering an alternative to the more normative systems of health. These alternatives propose an integration between top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top approaches, or what us called the holistic approach of working with mind and body simultaneously. The first is the regulation of volitional processes, like attention and intentions, in order to modify the physical systems of the body, while the latter is the work with body movements, breath and physiology, in order to change what we experience as the mind (thoughts, emotions and intentions).
Ayurveda is well known for it’s medical integrative system, relating body functions to effects in the mind. A healthy person, through the lens of Ayurveda, is one that is living in the state of Svastha, a sanskrit word to denote a person that is not only well regarding the body (like muscles, joints, digestion, circulation, etc) but also whose senses and mind are calm and pleasant. This person is said to be established in ‘Self’ (svastha). As a side note, Aryurveda points that majority of diseases arise due to misuse (over and under) of the mind (including the senses of knowledge – hearing, smelling, seeing, touching, tasting) and improper food consumption (choice of items, digestive power, proper elimination of digestive byproducts).
Yoga, considered by many as a sister system of Ayurveda, when applied in proper ways that respect the limitations of the body and mind, and with attention to the slow and gradual development of the human system, can also influence the establishment of ‘Self’. A growing body of modern research is trying to understand how these practices can induce healing effects, and in general they point to their effect in the nervous system.
When the body actions of Yoga are practiced without a sense of competition (even with your own self), and specially with long, conscious and controlled breathing patterns, an effect of calming stimulation to the nerves is created. There is stimulation due to the physical requirements of the postures, but the constant attention and the support of the breath can regulate it by creating a sense of safety and integration. A proper Yoga practice can also include some specifics “attitudes”, e.g. experiencing a sense of expansion and lightness on the body with every inhalation and receptive strength with every exhalation. The incorporation of meditation can function as the application of these attitudes in a still body.
The approach of Ayurveda as a life style, with it’s treatments, medicines, daily routines, food and life views, and Yoga, with its movements, breathing exercises, philosophy and meditations, work both from the body-up and from the mind-down. Our view at Plantation Villa is that health is an experience that can only truly arise in a well formed sense of being: when body, mind and spirit (the integrative perception that we are all formed from the same substance) are working together. Natural environments, a supportive community, and a sense of moral conduct can also be part of this wholistic nourishment.