This article was published here at Everyday Ayurveda on 9/24/14.
Everyday, I see people who need help managing their health.
Often, clients come to me after they’ve tried traditional or mainstream treatments. I’m always happy when people take a more holistic approach to healing, but through the years I have realized something:
Most people don’t know how to ask the right questions to holistic health practitioners.
Is there an Ayurvedic trick to quit smoking?” someone asked me once. Or, “What yoga pose can I do to heal my back?” is a popular one.
Mainstream medicine has set us up to expect simple answers to what we’ve been lead to assume are simple problems.
High blood pressure? Try this prescription.
Have back pain? Take this pain reliever and try some yoga.
We’ve even come to believe that we can seek simple answers to our problems through holistic therapies, but we can’t.
The reason is because while Western medicine treats symptoms, Ayurveda and other holistic therapies treat the root cause of disease.
When we believe that every symptom is a simple anomaly in an otherwise healthy body, as we’ve been lead to believe through traditional medicine, then we’ll continue to seek simple answers to complex problems even when we seek those answers from holistic modalities.
Ayurveda treats the body as a unit, a whole system, and doesn’t treat individual symptoms like mainstream medicine does. Our bodies do not exist in a vacuum. Ayurveda believes that everything our five sense organs take in – from the eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin – affects or has the potential to affect our health.
Therefore, treating the root cause of any disease must include healing through all five senses.
This type of healing is very different from providing simple symptomatic relief, and it takes some real detective work from an experienced practitioner to know how to proceed.
For example, one yoga pose that helps some types of back pain is bridge pose. Bridge pose would only help certain types of pain, and simply practicing bridge pose probably wouldn’t solve the root cause of the pain. In order to treat the root cause, a thorough understanding of the client would be needed, including a complete Ayurvedic analysis of prakriti and vikruti. Anything less would provide an incomplete, symptom-based response that wouldn’t address full-system healing.
We ask the wrong questions because we unconsciously assume that there’s only one approach to health.
We’ve been programmed to seek these simple answers to problems that are actually very complex. But it’s not our fault. This is how the system of mainstream medicine has taught us to approach health.
Now, as more and more of us seek holistic health care, the old “pill for every ill” mentality is insufficient because of the way that Ayurveda and other holistic therapies provide treatment.
Healing through mainstream medicine works to relieve symptoms through relatively simple means (i.e. prescription medications or surgery) and expects results to occur in a linear fashion. This type of healing generally assumes that the doctor is responsible for healing, since he or she is seen as the expert. The patient receives little responsibility for their own healing.
Healing through holistic therapies like Ayurveda requires entering into a healing process which seeks to bring the entire system back into balance.
This process, which isn’t always linear, utilizes a more comprehensive and complex method for healing, including therapies for all five senses as well as therapies for the mind like meditation.
This type of healing assumes that you are ultimately in charge of your healing, and that the practitioner is a guide or teacher who is responsible to offer you the best care possible in the form of information and education. In the holistic healing process, you are ultimately responsible for your own healing.
When we are aware that holistic healing modalities like Ayurveda will engage us in a process of healing, and when we understand what our responsibilities are regarding this healing process, we can ask our holistic practitioners better questions.
Good questions have three basic assumptions:
1. Healing is a process.
2. I am ultimately responsible for my own healing.
3. Some of the choices I am making could be influencing my current state of discomfort.
When these concepts are understood, you can ask the right questions to receive the best, most holistic answers.
Instead of this: “Is there an Ayurvedic trick to help me quit smoking?”
Ask this: “How can Ayurveda help me break my smoking addiction?”
Instead of this: “What yoga pose can I do to heal my back?”
Ask this: “What benefits can yoga provide to help me heal back pain?”
Instead of this: “What are a couple of things I can do to manage stress?”
Ask this: “How can Ayurveda help me let go of my patterns of stress?”