This is an article that intends to help define for you what Holistic Healing is on a very elementary level and what Holistic Healing includes.
I feel as though Holistic Healing can be like a big mall. There are a variety of stores, selling their own thing but they’re all housed under one common property. There can be clothes, shoes, home furnishings, and on and on. It’s all there for you; you can choose whatever you want.
You will find that there are many definitions of Holistic Healing out there. Essentially the holistic approach takes the broadest possible view of illness and disease, identifying multiple causes (both internal and external), and offering multi-dimensional healing, as opposed to specific cures.
One of my favorite online writers of holistic healing topics and more is Phylamean lila Desy. I love that in her description of holistic healing she includes the distinction that holistic healing has over complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or integrative medicine. The distinction is that physical health is not necessarily the main focus [and] it is often the experience of physical discomfort that will (…) prompt a person’s pursuit of holistic healing.
Holistic healing takes into account one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health; Doing so, holistic healing addresses all parts of the individual. While holistic healing can be complimentary to conventional medicine, it isn’t so much an alternative to it. The fact is that some illnesses are best managed with conventional medicine. We can have the best of both worlds in the sense that we can use both conventional and holistic options for optimum health. (I think it’s important to mention that we are all unique individuals and the relationship that you have to yourself is a very key element in knowing what works best for you, whether it’s conventional medicine for one thing and CAM for another and holistic healing methods for something else).
The Holistic healing paradigm allows for there to be various contributing factors to the actualization of an illness and some of those factors are not all tangible/physical. Because Holistic healing embraces this multi-dimensionality, it can help us answer our deepest questions regarding ourselves, including how to be healthier, how to live fuller, and how to be more whole. Holistic healing helps to create harmony among the body, mind and spirit.
Switching up the focus just slightly, let’s turn to some of the methods that fall under the holistic healing umbrella. I mentioned CAM above so let me touch on that now. Complementary medicine is used in addition to conventional western medicine. When this is done, it is then called Integrative medicine. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. [MayoClinic].
There is what’s called “whole medical systems”. These whole medical systems are the well known and the well studied traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. We’ve talked about these a little bit in previous postings. Homeopathy is yet another one that is well known. In homeopathy you take a pellet, tablet, or a dilution (liquid). This treats your condition or illness with (I liked this explanation best) highly diluted concentrations of natural ingredients that mimic the symptoms of the condition being treated. It is really that simple. The medicine is not herbal. It uses a minute dose of plant or mineral substance to address the symptoms. Herbal medicine uses a larger quantity of plant material per does. They are considered by the FDA to be drugs not food, as is the case with herbs.
There is also naturopathy. Naturopaths believe in nature’s power to heal. The practice can be best summed up by the 6 basic principles of naturopathic medicine.
- Nature has the power to heal
- Treat the whole person
- Treat the cause not the effect
- Do not harm
- Encourage prevention
- Act as Teacher
Naturopaths have various tools of technique to pull out of their doctor bags. The course of treatment can include any of the following: clinical nutrition (food and supplements), botanical medicine (plants and herbs), physical medicine (treatment of the person physically a la massage, exercise, chiropractic adjustments, hydrotherapy), Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques such as acupuncture, and Psychological medicine (life style counseling).
Another category closely related to naturopathy are the biologically based practices which are basically dietary supplements and herbal remedies. Selenium, glucosamine sulfate, and omega3-fatty acids are examples of dietary supplements. Selenium gets incorporated into proteins that are important antioxidant enzymes. These antioxidant properties help prevent cellular damage from free radicals (damaging to the human body). Glucosamine sulfate is taken for joint flexibility and fluidity. Omega-3Fatty Acids are essential for human health though the body can’t make them. They may reduce risk of heart disease play a key role in brain function and may reduce risk of heart disease. Ginseng, Echinacea and ginkgo, for example are herbs. Herbs can be taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules.
Then there is mind-body medicine. This type of medicine is primarily intended to strengthen communication between your mind and your body. These include but are not limited to modes such as meditation, yoga, tai-chi, prayer, spiritual direction, hypnosis, guided imagery, and breathing and relaxation techniques, as well as various art therapies like journaling or painting. Thought power and emotions are used to influence physical health. Mind body medicine helps us to realize how our intentions, our beliefs, our images influence the chemistry of our bodies, which may have harmful effects on well being/health.
Body based practices include methods that use human touch and or include body manipulation. There is a rainbow of color when it comes to the variety in body work. I can only list a few here because to do so would be a whole other subject matter. I will discuss a few of the modes and then give a short description of them.
Chiropractic medicine adjusts musculoskeletal areas which are not functioning properly. The examination of the spine to evaluate structure and function is what makes chiropractic different from other health care. Chiropractors use manual therapy that includes the manipulation of the spine.
Massage Therapy generally uses gliding long strokes, kneading, friction and percussive techniques like hacking, cupping, or plucking. Amongst many benefits it improved circulation, relieves tension, helps clear lactic acid and other waste which reduces pain.
Acupressure is a Japanese form of body work where pressure is primarily applied with the thumbs along meridian lines. Literally, it means finger pressure. Acupressure focuses on using effective points and treats whole meridians. Shiatsu is essentially acupressure. It blends traditional Japanese massage with Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are different styles of Shiatsu. I learned the Zen style Shiatsu, but there are many, such as barefoot Shiatsu (macrobiotic), five elements, and Jin Shin Do to point out a few. [Styles of Shiatsu].
Reflexology is another type of bodywork. This work focuses on the feet. The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are reflex areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body.
Yoga may also be considered body work along with Tai-Chi and Qi-gong. Yoga means union and refers to the union between the mind, body and spirit. Yoga, as it is commonly referred to, is the practice of physical postures or poses. Tai chi is a system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. There are a series of postures and slow graceful movements. The body is in constant motion, without pause each posture flows into the next. Qigong is the art and science of using gentle movement, breathing techniques, and meditation to strengthen and circulate the life energy – chi.
Energy medicine is another area under the holistic healing umbrella. Practitioners of energy medicine believe in an invisible energy force that flows through the body and in everything living. When this energy flow is blocked or unbalanced in the body it can cause or contribute to illness. Different traditions of energy medicine use different names to describe the energy, names like chi, ki, prana, ka, or life force. This kind of therapy intends unblock and re-balance one’s energy force.
Some of the energy medicines that you may have heard of include: Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT, sometimes called Meridian Therapy because like acupressure, it works through the electrical pulses in the body. It reorganizes and normalizes disrupted energy patterns that run through the meridians of the whole body.
There’s also Reiki, is a laying-on of hands healing that balances the subtle energies within the body. It addresses the whole self – body, mind, spirit and emotions. A practitioner needs attunements before they can practice. I came across a great description of the attunements that basically says the process of attunements is a ceremony of spirit that creates an energy pattern which attunes the practitioner’s energy field to the energies represented by the symbols used in the attunement. The symbols are a very important part of Reiki for they are used to access the Reiki energy. There are 3 main ones and one for the master level.
Healing Touch is a modality developed by an RN, originally for those in the medical field but now open to all. HT provides varying techniques to use on specific conditions. Practitioners have an understanding of the 12 meridians, the chakras and how to open blocked energies.
Quantum Touch or QT gets people in touch with their own energy flow. It uses specific breathing techniques to intensify the healing energy. Through breathing and body awareness exercises, the practitioner aims to entrain the client’s energy to a higher level.
By discussing and describing what typically falls under the holistic healing umbrella we’re touching upon what healing is. The discussion around what it means to heal will be saved for the next discussion/blog post.