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What is the meaning of 'holistic'? And why is it important?

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

The word 'holistic' can be used in many contexts - lifestyle, medicine, philosophy, ecology - with the simplified definition, "relating to the whole of something, rather than just individual parts."

It also relates to 'holism' as a concept or philosophy rooted in the idea that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, in terms of biological processes and social structures; even psychological patterns such as thought-action-behaviour are intrinsically linked and affect one another as part of the whole process.

In terms of health, holistic medicine aims to treat the whole person - mind, body and often elements of spirit - not just the symptoms of disease.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

I'm not in any way discrediting conventional approaches to medicine; surgery for a broken bone is necessary, a filling for a cracked tooth prevents further dental decay and life-saving procedures often have successful outcomes because the focus has been on treating one specific problem or injury.

The area I'm interested in is how a holistic approach to long term health can work with and around symptomatic approaches. Naturopathy is a system of healthcare which encourages the body's natural self-healing mechanisms using interconnected and functional applications, one of which is nutrition. This, alongside many years of guiding people to move mindfully and regain their capacity to breathe fully through yoga, has shown me that we need more than just a miracle cure to remedy the increasing stressors in our lives. We need a roadmap that we can come back to when we feel lost in the (often conflicting) ocean of health advice and just want to feel better in ourselves. This is what I aim to provide people through a range of services; yoga, nutritional therapy and educational workshops. Of course, these are not the only practices which can support wellbeing; there are many other modalities out there which all fall under the umbrella of complimentary or holistic healthcare. It is dependant on the individual, their needs, wants and personality as to which route they choose.

The body thrives when all the systems within it are working together, as biologically intended, to maintain homeostasis (balance) between the multitude of hormonal, chemical and neurological reactions that happen every breath we take. By the time you finish reading this blog post, trillions of chemical-biological reactions will have occurred in your body. Trillions! This always amazes me and is a stark reminder of just how incredibly efficient our bodies are, especially when we provide the right conditions for them to thrive.

Let's look at the term 'wellness', a very hot-topic right now; It seems everyone is on a mission to be their 'best selves' through various wellness practices, products and procedures. It is certainly a positive thing that we are more aware of the importance of our health, but much like fad diets that come and go leaving us none the wiser nor happier with ourselves, the wellness industry has become a minefield of conflicting information that is largely fuelled by quick-sales via quick-fixes. But if we look at wellness from a naturopathic perspective, it refers to the ability to maintain balance in the body so that dis-ease does not take hold. This is an ongoing process that, depending on the starting point, takes time, patience and discipline to maintain. If you're anything like me, discipline is not easy to maintain alone, so seeking support to stay on track and achieve my health goals is something I have done and highly recommend others to do. Many ancient, traditional practices (such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine) focus on keeping a patient 'well' using holistic, preventative measures as the basis of successful healthcare. A naturopath strives to enhance the patient's level of wellbeing, regardless of their level of health or disease. Wellness is relative to the context of the individual.

So, with this in mind, a holistic approach is how I aim to support anyone I work with in terms of mental, physical and emotional health. It means each yoga class, workshop or nutritional consultation is tailored to your individual needs, supporting you as a whole person to feel well in your own skin.

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