By James Hall
Health is a subject never far from the lips of everyday people as well as the media, politicians and of course the myriad of professionals who make up and service our public and private health care institutions. Health is one of the three largest revenue streams to any fiscal budget and the costs seem to grow year on year. However with all our advancements in technology and treatment modalities why are we becoming sicker as a nation? A likely retort to this would be that as the mean age of the population increases then so with age does our susceptibility to heart disease, cancer and Dementia! However the logic in this argument seems to be flawed!, If indeed our health service is at the cutting edge of increased longevity then why are we living longer but as sick people?.
I feel that the answer comes from both our views and attitude to the pace of life and our over reliance on the pharmacological model. Two hundred years ago old age was a rarity within the western cultures of Europe. People died of hot diseases related to fevers and sanitation. However in America, India and the Far East old age was a common occurrence. The difference was related to the quality of their lives and their attitudes. Hard work was still the same but the quality of rest and nutrition differed to that of Europe. People spent their whole lives in one place and the pace was leisurely. The food was, fresh and organic and prepared daily without the use of preservatives unless natural like salt. The lifestyle varied from nomadic to subsistence and illness was treated with herbs. The body was viewed as a spiritual vessel and treated with prayers and the correction first of the astral and causal sheaths. This treatment assumed that the unblocking of energy currents could rejuvenate the body and restore health. The children were cared for by the elders and knowledge passed on as the parents tended to the needs of the people. Yoga like other systems has its roots stretching back to over 5000 years with the works of the Vedas and Pantanjali , although no one can tell for certain where the origins came from although periods like that of fable Atlantis are often muted.
Fast forward to the 21st century now where in western culture the population through hygiene and medicine is aging more than ever before. Conquered are the hot diseases of yester year replaced by the cold diseases of cancer, dementia and coronary heart disease. The body is first treated on a physical level with synthetic chemicals able to partly mimic the natural compounds historically used. The pace of life has increased to such an extent that a lifetime can be experienced in six months compared to 100 years ago. Families become fragmented and stress through work and financial constraints is endemic.
The health care model is now so focused on pharmacological interventions that the aging process is paid for at great cost to mind body and spirit. A medicated population is now accepted as the norm but from a point of symptom management and not affecting a cure as there is no money for the drug companies in a well patient.
Health must encompass a fundamental change in its prevention and treatment perception if we are to reverse this trend. It’s pointless for instance eating fresh food if it is genetically modified as the long term effects are any bodies guess and this list goes on and on. The change in perception must occur within the multi disciplinary team at the coal face but primarily the medical profession. Age old stereotypes of the body being the sum of its physical parts must be redressed and timeless proven holistic systems incorporated.
Yoga ideally could and should be taught to school children as this is the first arena where minds and associated bodily responses are melded in a person’s life. For those fortunate to be unschooled this may not be a problem, but for most the immersion in this “one box fits all” artificial environment can affect the psych in such a way that can last for a life time. Children are steered away from the daily meditation of living in the moment to be taught what to say, what to think and importantly what to feel. The focus is academia and competition but at what cost? Enforced socialization with other children and peer groups can lead to dis harmonization within the child and life in the moment. Remember back to your childhood days and remember when every day seemed as long as a life age. Instead of reading, teach children mediation to balance their sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous responses together with Pranayama techniques to help manage stressful situations. Combine this with none resistance Asana based exercise to aid the bodies health. Include a sattvic diet at an early age and Viola the health of a nation is on the mend.
Not all of the limbs of yoga will suit everyone but they do provide pointers to a healthier lifestyle. Health is abused now at an increasing earlier age and symptoms of disharmony are left unchecked. People try to limit the pain of a missing component to their lives through the acquisition of things. The relief however is only temporary as the next acquisition takes over and the need for more things drives the ego. I learnt a while ago that there are three paths to this life to walk. The first is the path of the humble and gentle soul. These tend to favor a more solitary or monastic lifestyle with inner introspection. These souls are almost indifferent to the world and have divorced themselves from it. The second path is the path of the worldly wise. They feel some part of their life is unfulfilled and the pain is dulled with the constant acquisition of more material things. They are in this world and feel that they are of this world. The third path is of the fringe dweller, the person who does not fit mold one or two. These people tend to have had a troubled life but try to rise above the Maya of this world. They strive for some tangible spiritual experience and find their own way. In essence they did not divorce themselves from this reality but realized that this reality had divorced itself from them.
More and more people are finding this direction as they awake in some part from the illusion of form. However the majority of worldly people still form the largest component in terms of the health sector and when the lack of harmony transmutes into physical or psychological illness they expect a quick fix to cure this. Enter the role of the diagnosis, the needy mind becoming the illness and a pharmacological intervention. The most common illness of coronary disease and cancer are treated with drug and fearful rehabilitation where the disease abates or the patient eventually succumbs. As a nurse I can say that we need a more holistic balanced approach to health care but this is a drug led neighborhood. Doctors are actively discouraged from holistic intervention by big pharma who sponsor many chairs at medical universities. History as testified to the many successful facets of yoga on health and wellness however it has not had FDA approval and 500 million dollars spent on double blind RCT’s. The option is to medicate which has side effects and then mange the side effects with more medication.
Yoga is needed in the health care setting along with other holistic modalities. Mediation and Pranayama can for instance lower blood pressure and directly affect the Sympathetic/Parasympathetic nervous responses lowering Cortisol etc. This needs to be both a short term approach and a long term approach. The same approach needs encouraging for staff who regularly abuse sex, drugs and alcohol to affect a state of peace.