When I first started doing yoga and meditating regularly, a friend of mine poked fun at me and asked if I was going to go join an ashram next. He thought I was engaged in some combination of mysticism, spirituality and nonsense, and laughed it off as a phase I was going through. I explained to him that I’d begun doing yoga to become more mindful and more flexible; focusing on the feelings in my body to identify sources of discomfort, and adjusting my posture to alleviate that discomfort. I was somewhat unaware of my own physical discomforts before, eschewing them in favour of discomforts of the mind; only in practicing did I begin to realize both were from the same source.

What I was trying to explain to my friend was that holistic health isn’t just a spiritual dalliance, though spirituality can play an important part in holistic health. The holistic philosophy simply acknowledges that your mind and body are not separate; what you feel mentally informs what you feel physically, and vice versa. When you’re stressed, your jaw clenches, your shoulders tighten, your breath grows more rapid; these are the physical effects of mental discomfort. To claim that treating physical ailments is sufficient is untrue on the face of it; we know that a broken arm puts us in a bad mood, and that being in a bad mood makes us more sensitive to physical discomfort. We even use the same language for mental and physical anguish: “I’m feeling sore today” “My heart is broken”.

There’s no surprise Western society became so focused on treating physical ailment; it is, in some sense, the easiest type of ailment to treat. When your arm is sore, we can use topical anesthetics to stop the pain; a headache can be treated with ibuprofen. The body is simple compared to the mind, so it’s easy to simply target pain and ailment, give a prescription that matches the symptoms, and be done with it. We are, however, seeing a surge of illnesses that can only be described as multiple symptoms with no single easily identified cause. Leaky gut, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, even seizures can be caused by problems with diet or a pained mental state, rather than by a rogue bacteria or virus.

Holisticism isn’t mysticism; it is the only type of healthcare that looks at your mind, body and spirit for pain, and tries to treat it all. Sometimes the symptoms you experience will be the result of an easily treatable infection, and in these cases medication may suffice. There are times, however, especially with recurring symptoms, that a change of diet, or exercise, or meditation can seriously help alleviate symptoms. Mental anguish, spiritual stress; these are huge contributors to physical health. Healthy gut flora, healthy social interactions and a healthy sense of self all play a part in your overall well-being.

To dismiss holistic health as fantasy is a grave mistake; holistic health incorporates any and all techniques that can help improve you totally, and uses those techniques. Western medicine, Eastern philosophy, Southern comfort, Northern traditions; it doesn’t matter where the techniques come from, all that matters is that they work. Doctors, priests, nurses, nutritionists; anyone who can help in your care is accepted. Treat your whole self; consider holistic health, and visit the best holistic medicine centre.