Day Four: Perspective on Health and Illness (plus self-massage technique)
The guiding principle of Ayurveda and the other Eastern healing arts is the interconnection of all things. We aren’t simply an isolated collection of atoms and molecules, but are an inseparable part of the infinite field of intelligence. From this holistic perspective, health isn’t merely the absence of illness or symptoms—it is a higher state of consciousness that allows vitality, wellbeing, creativity, and joy to flow into our experience.
In contrast, illness is a disruption—a blockage in the flow of energy and information that creates a sense of separation or alienation from the field. Symptoms and sickness are the body’s signal that we need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing the blockages, and reestablish the healthy flow of energy and information.
Unlike conventional Western medicine, which has devoted a lot of effort to isolating the differences among various diseases, Ayurveda focuses on the unique qualities of individuals, pointing out that diseases differ mainly because people are so different.
Ayurveda teaches that all health-related measures—whether an exercise program, dietary plan, or herbal supplement—must be based on an understanding of an individual’s unique mind-body constitution. By knowing a patient’s dosha, an Ayurvedic doctor can tell which diet, physical activities, and medical therapies are most likely to help, and which might do no good or even cause harm.
In addition, while Western medicine has tended to treat the symptoms of disease, Ayurveda seeks to eliminate illness by treating the underlying cause. For example, for a patient suffering from depression, an allopathic physician would likely prescribe a standard course of antidepressants and, perhaps, therapy.
An Ayurvedic doctor, on the other hand, would seek to understand the root imbalances contributing to the depression. The doctor would look at the patient as a whole, taking into consideration his or lifestyle, activities, diet, recent stressful events, beliefs, and mind-body constitution. The Ayurvedic practitioner would then recommend a treatment plan taking all of these factors into account. Ayurveda doesn’t reject the use of antidepressants and other prescription medications—in fact, Ayurveda’s central principle is that we should make use of whatever healing modalities will restore health and balance to the body, including herbal remedies, dietary changes, pharmaceutical medications, meditation, exercise, psychotherapy, and so on.
Be attentive to your body by practicing an Ayurvedic self-oil massage, found here.