Healing - Holistic health
by Dr. Suresh Duggal
The alternative therapies have become popular globally. There are more than 100 systems of alternative therapies. This system considers the human body as the sum total of its physical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions. There is a growing acceptance that health is more than just the absence of disease and involves more than just the physical body. Moreover, alternative therapy treats you as a person who is a part of nature rather than just a case of a particular disease.
Alternative healing can be classified into six major domains of practice:
• Alternative medical systems
• Mind-body techniques
• Biologically-based therapies
• Body-based therapies
• Energy therapies
• Spiritual healing
Some approaches are better understandable within the concepts of modern science, others less.
Alternative medical systems
A number of alternative medical systems exist, including ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy.
Ayurveda: Ayurveda is the traditional medical system of India, having originated more than 4,000 years ago. It is based on the theory that illness results from imbalance of the body´s life force, or prana. The balancing of this life force is determined by the equilibrium of the three bodily qualities, called doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Ayurveda uses herbs, massage, yoga and internal cleansing to restore balance within the body and with nature.
Traditional Chinese medicine: This originated thousands of years ago and is based on the theory that illness results from the improper flow of life force (Qi) through the body. Qi is restored by balancing the opposite forces of yin and yang, which manifest in the body as heat and cold, external and internal, and deficiency and excess. This medicine uses acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies, massage etc.
Acupuncture is now widely used in western countries. This involves stimulating specific points on the body, usually by inserting fine needles into the skin and underlying tissues. Stimulating these points is believed to unblock the flow of Qi along energy pathways (meridians) and thus restore balance between yin and yang. Side effects of acupuncture are uncommon if the procedure is performed correctly.
Homeopathy: Homeopathy developed in Germany, and is based on the principle that ‘like cures like’. In other words, a substance that in large doses causes illness is believed to cure the same illness if given in minute doses. The remedies used in homeopathy are derived from naturally occurring substances, such as plant extracts and minerals.
Naturopathy: uses a combination of various methods, mentioned above.
Mind-body techniques are based on the theory that mental and emotional imbalance can influence physical health. Methods such as relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, affirmations and crystal healing, for example, are used in the treatment of artery disease, headaches, insomnia, and loss of control. Relaxation techniques are practices specifically designed to relieve tension and strain.
Meditation focuses on stilling the mind and allowing for greater awareness. It involves sitting quietly, sometimes with a repetition of a mantra. Meditation is a safe and simple way to balance a person´s physical, emotional and mental states and has shown to offer numerous health benefits.
Biofeedback involves the use of electronic devices to measure information about your biological functions, such as heart rate, pressure, and muscle tension, which is not usually under your conscious control, so that you can learn to control them.
Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis as a therapeutic technique. In this a person is put into an advanced state of relaxation in which he is relatively unaware, but not entirely unconscious, of his surroundings. Hypnotic techniques can help a person stop smoking, overcome alcohol, and reduce overeating.
Affirmations: The use of positive affirmations is a technique to change negative self-talk into something more positive.
Crystal healing: Crystal healing refers to the use of crystals to bring about healing and positive changes in the mind and body. The theory is that gemstones carry different vibrational rates. By placing a gemstone within the individual's aura, the aura´s vibration rate changes to that of the gemstone. Often, the effects are indirect, but very potent. Other times, the effects are very direct and repeatable.
Biologically-based therapies involve the use of chemicals, although these chemicals are derived from natural sources. Herbal medicine: Herbal medicine, the oldest known form of health care uses plants to treat disease and promote health. Either a single herb or a mixture of different herbs can be used. Unlike conventional drugs, in which the active substance is extracted from the herb and used, herbal medicine usually treats you with the herb in its whole form.
The scope of herbal medicine ranges from mild-acting plant medicines such as chamomile to very potent ones such as foxglove (from which the drug digitalis is derived). Herbal medicines are available as extracts, tinctures, pills and powders.
Acupressure Body-based therapies
Body-based therapies include techniques that treat various conditions through bodily manipulation.
Chiropractic: In chiropractic, the relationship between the structure of spine and the function of the nervous system is seen as key to maintaining or restoring health. The main method for achieving this balance is spinal manipulation. The primary goals of chiropractic therapy are relief of musculoskeletal pain and restoration of mobility.
Massage therapy: Massage therapy is the manipulation of body tissues to promote wellness and reduce pain and stress. It is also frequently recommended for the treatment of minor sports injuries, and for the enhancement of physical conditioning. Examples are shiatsu, acupressure and neuromuscular massage. These techniques help the nervous, circulatory and musculoskeletal systems of the body.
Rolfing: Rolfing, also called structural integration, is based on the theory that good health depends on proper body alignment. It is a form of deep tissue massage that is typically performed over a series of sessions. Rolfing is not aimed at any specific injury or ailment. Instead, it promises to relieve stress, improve mobility and boost energy, thus improving your general well-being.
Reflexology: In reflexology, manual pressure is applied to specific areas of the foot, a microcosm of the entire body, which corresponds to different organs or systems of the body. Stimulation of these areas is believed to eliminate the blockage of energy responsible for pain or disease in the corresponding body part.
Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils, from any of a variety of plants, to bring about certain changes in the body and the mind. Aromatherapy can be done by inhalation, diffusion, massage, bathing and hot and cold compresses.
Flower essences: Flower essences are a lovely gentle therapy that heals at a deeply spiritual level. Working on emotions and mental states, it can bring healing to all levels, just as homeopathy does. Flower essences stemmed from Dr Bach´s study of homeopathy. The difference between the two therapies is in the preparation of the essences. Whereas in homeopathy the medicinal essence is prepared by crushing a substance, diluting and succussing it, flower essences are made with a more gentle approach. The flower is picked at sunrise and placed in a glass bowl of pure water and left in the sun for the day. The essence of the flower is diffused into the water. Another method used, for more woody substances, is boiling. The water becomes the remedy, the ‘stock’. The stock is then diluted down the same as with homeopathic remedies. Flower essences are neither harmful nor habit forming.
Yoga: Yoga is among the oldest known systems of health and offers a holistic solution. The physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation practices of yoga have been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, regulate heart rate, and even retard the ageing process. It also serves to improve co-ordination, posture, flexibility, range of motion, concentration, sleep and digestion.
Sound healing: Sound and music can have a very powerful effect on one´s health. Everything, including the human body, is composed of various frequencies of sound energy. Sound healing can correct imbalances in the body. A disease tells us that some sound within the body is out of tune. Each sound has a corresponding colour. When sound and colour healing techniques are used together, particularly when they are connected with chakra balancing, the effect on the body can be profound.
Colour therapy: Colour affects not only moods and emotions but has a healing properties too.
For example, red is a powerful colour to invoke when the patient is experiencing a blood dysfunction, whereas orange may be called in to vitalise a sluggish kidney.
Qigong: Qigong is a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control related to t'ai chi. Qigong combines movement, meditation and breath regulation to enhance the flow of vital energy in the body, improve blood circulation and enhance immune function. Qigong seeks to stimulate the flow of Qi along the invisible channels, or meridians, that are thought to course throughout the body.
Energy therapies focus on the energy fields thought to exist in and around the body. All energy therapies are based on a core belief in the existence of a universal life or subtle energy that resides in and around the body. Reiki: Reiki is a technique of Japanese origin in which the practitioner channels energy through his hands, into another person´s body to promote healing.
Quantum touch: Quantum touch is a powerful energy healing modality. This technique focuses and amplifies life-force energy by combining various breathing and body awareness exercises.
Spirituality involves the recognition and acceptance of a God beyond our own intelligence and with whom we can have a relationship. This God can provide an experience of inspiration, joy, security, peace of mind, and guidance.
Spiritual healing is when energy is transmitted to the person who needs it. The treatment works on the body, mind and spirit. If a separate healer is involved, the healer will place the hand on the person being treated to channel the energy from the Higher Source. The healing does not come from the healer, but through that Higher Source. On the other hand, you don´t need a healer to take advantage of spiritual healing. One can also pray.
Some books for further reading:
• Handbook of Alternative Therapies, RK Pruthi, UBS Publisher´s Distributors Pvt. Ltd.
• Acupressure, Dr Attar Singh, Acupressure Health Centre, Chandigarh
(Dr. Suresh Duggal is a scientist by profession, a reiki master, qigong teacher with many years of experience in nutrition, foot reflexology, acupressure, Bach flower remedies, massage techniques and as a spiritual companion. Email: a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com)
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