An increasing number of studies indicate that a holistic approach to health may be as scientifically sound as pharmaceutical remedies.
Conventional wisdom has it that when something goes wrong — I mean really wrong, like being in pain all day, every day — we need to pull out the big guns: costly MRIs, elaborate surgical procedures, and hi-tech pharmaceuticals. We need to outsource the solution, as it were.
Following a hit-and-run, head-on car collision and years of unresolved chronic pain, however, I stumbled upon the discovery that relief came from inside my body and was just a boom box away: Dance.
You heard me. Dance.
Like most people in pain, I had stopped dancing because of, well, pain. By re-conceptualizing dance as something other than leaps, twirls, and fancy footwork, however, I came to understand that I actually could use it to heal myself.
I would put on music I loved, artistically move whatever body part was not in pain, and find some kind of alchemy taking over — melting away my pain zones, until I’d be blissfully tearing up the living room dance floor.
The spontaneous transformation seemed completely impossible, save for the fact that I experienced it. Repeatedly. So I put my journalistic skills to use, on a mission to uncover the science behind the dance.
That quest launched my foray into the world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) – a field that proved to be more scientifically sound than most of us are led to believe. In many cases, I was surprised to learn, it is in fact more scientifically sound than conventional medicine.
According to a recent article by the National Institute of Health, Americans spend 33.9 billion out of pocket expenses for CAM treatment. Most health insurance policies, however, still do not recognize these treatments as being as equally valid as conventional methods.
American health care “has us all dependent on high-tech solutions,” says Andrew Weil, MD — world-renown integrated medicine specialist and author of the newly-published Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine that Can Transform Our Future. According to Weil, pharmaceutical companies are “just capitalizing on a mindset that has taken hold of both doctors and patients in our culture, that the only legitimate way to treat illness is drugs.”
Americans have little confidence in their body’s ability to restore health, Weil asserts, echoing the sentiments of David Bresler, PhD, LAc, president of the Academy for Guided Imagery:
“Medical training leads us to believe that the human body is a walking time bomb,” Bresler says. “In fact, the human body is a walking miracle, and what it lets us get away with is just fantastic. When you think about our lifestyles — how we eat, how we deal with stress and all this sort of stuff — the fact that most of us are still walking around is amazing.”
And yet, Bresler cautions, when our skepticism is stronger than our willingness to believe, the power of the mind is such that we can impose artificial limits on our bodies’ capacity to heal (kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy). To the contrary, when we have the willingness to step beyond our limited notions of what is possible, and when we take the time to educate ourselves about how holistic methods work, we can tap into the body’s extraordinary self-healing abilities.
“The most powerful pharmacy is not the Rite-Aid or the Save-On or the Walgreens; it’s the human body,” says David Simon, MD — medical director and CEO of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing and author of the newly-published Free to Love Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions. “
A healthily-functioning human body creates the chemistry of well-being. The holistic model says given the right environment, given the right experience, given the right circumstance, we can activate that internal pharmacy to start doing what it used to do, or is supposed to do, rather than immediately surrendering to something external.”
I recently have fielded a number of questions about whether I take medication to treat my pain. Well, yeah: I dance! I don’t need science to confirm for me that it works, becuase I have been my own living laboratory for years. It’s been fun, however, to find out about all the neurology and biomechanics behind my method, because utilizing dance to self-heal from pain apparently puts me at the forefront of today’s scientific discoveries.
Which reminds me of a little diddy: Run run run run catch me if you can…