How to optimize health and healing
|Devereux performs a gentle body-mind medicine technique. Photo by Cynthia Cero|
Living Well, Aging Well
By Elizabeth Devereux
It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Now widely accepted by the most prestigious medical institutions here and around the world, Complementary and Alternative Medicine—CAM—is a popular label for holistic health and wellness therapies outside the realm of conventional Western medicine.
A great way to understand this world of integrative therapies and practices is to group them into broader categories: whole medical systems; mind-body medicine; nutrition- and biologically-based practices; manipulative and body-based practices; and energy medicine. Some systems use techniques from more than one category.
Whole medical systems
Whole medical systems are not a single practice or remedy, such as massage, but complete systems of theory and practice centering on a philosophy, such as the presence of energy in the body or "like cures like."
Among whole medical systems are the ancient healing methods that were in existence long before conventional Western medicine. These include Ayurveda from India and traditional Chinese medicine.
Another is homeopathy, an approach using minute doses of a substance that stimulate the body's self-healing response based on the principle of “like cures like.”
Finally, naturopathy is a broad discipline using noninvasive treatments such as hydrotherapy, homeopathy, herbal remedies and dietary/lifestyle coaching to help the body do its own healing.
Mind-body medicine focuses on the interplay between mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual factors influencing health.
Among mind-body medicine is yoga, a type of meditation in motion, which facilitates the connection of mind and body through a series of postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and inward focus. Meditation is a mindfulness practice, a type of mind-training.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong, components of traditional Chinese medicine, combine gentle movements, meditation and the regulation of breath to enhance the flow of vital energy or qi. Acupuncture, one of the world’s oldest healing practices, involves stimulating specific points on the body by inserting needles into the skin.
Hypnotherapy allows participants to focus intently on specific challenges and their resolutions while resting comfortably. Access Consciousness Bars/Body Processes are dynamic tools that unlock unconscious patterns sabotaging health.
Nutrition and biologically-based practices
These practices include the use of natural substances—herbs, foods and vitamins. Herbal remedies, an ancient form of healing based on the curative energy of plants, is believed to represent some of the first attempts to improve the human condition.
Dietary approaches detoxify, balance and refortify: macrobiotic, vegan and whole-foods diets. Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports-nutrition and other products intended to enhance the nutritional content of the diet.
Aromatherapy, a sensory therapy believed to affect mood or health through the olfactory nerves, uses essential oils extracted from flowers, leaves, barks and other parts of plants. Flower essences are extractions made from the flowering part of the plant and uniquely address physical, emotional, mental, social/lifestyle and spiritual aspects of wellness.
Manipulative and body-based practices
These practices use human touch to move or manipulate the body for healing.
Chiropractic focuses on the relationship between bodily structure (primarily the spine) and function and their effects on the preservation and the restoration of health. Osteopathy is a form of conventional medicine focusing on disease arising in the musculoskeletal system. Massage manipulates muscle and connective tissue to enhance function and promote relaxation and well-being.
Energy medicine practitioners believe an invisible energy force flows through and around the body; when that energy is blocked or unbalanced, disease can arise. Different traditions call this energy by different names: chi, prana and life force. The goal of these therapies is to unblock or rebalance the energy force.
Access Consciousness Bars/Body Processes allows gentle hands-on techniques and verbal processing to clear and balance the energy field. Reiki is a Japanese hands-on technique for relaxation and healing, while Qi Gong/Chi Kung is a gentle movement practice cultivating and balancing qi or chi (intrinsic life energy).
Magnet therapy uses magnets of varying sizes and strengths placed on the body to relieve pain and treat disease. Light therapy treats seasonal-affective disorder—a type of seasonal depression—by exposure to artificial light.
Last month’s article featured Big Canoe neighbor, Sara Lindkrantz, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2012. In spite of the cancer, Lindkrantz continues to thrive. She gives credit not only to her medical doctors but also to the broad range of CAM practices she has developed.
“Looking back, I see yoga was the beginning of my holistic practices,” said Lindkrantz. “I started going to classes when I moved to Big Canoe as a way to meet people. I knew it would feel good to move and stretch but didn’t realize, until my cancer diagnosis, how much the mindfulness habits learned through yoga help in dealing with the psychological challenges of a life-threatening disease. After that realization, I explored other integrative approaches and found a passionate, experienced Complementary and Alternative Medicine guide/practitioner in Big Canoe.
“Now my whole-self care approach includes yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, flower essences, new dietary approaches and a weekly Access Bars™ session. It feels so empowering to be able to choose modalities that so enrich my life."
Elizabeth Devereux has been teaching yoga and meditation for 17 years and has been actively working in the holistic wellness field for 23 years. More information on Devereux can be found at peaceonearthinc.com.