Holistic Care – It’s About Connections
While in New York this week I had the opportunity to spend time with Yamuna in her home, feeling her work on myself and watching her work on others, and I gained a much deeper understanding of holistic care being about connections. The body has many layers interacting with each other all the time. Many of its processes go on without any awareness on our part—our hearts beat, our lungs breathe, our digestive system digests, our immune system fights off the bad guys, our neurological system carries on, and we move around pretty oblivious to the miracle taking place from moment to moment within our own being—unless we stop and notice and appreciate and marvel. There is a lot to marvel about.
Caring for the body and healing it requires that we think about these connecting systems and how everything affects everything else, but unfortunately we have a health care system that wants to separate and specialize and cut and paste and pass out drugs — focusing only on the presenting problem instead of taking time to really understand the problem’s roots and effects and how the whole system needs to be part of the healing process. There are some grass roots efforts in this direction, but they don’t have the power, patience, or resources to reach most of those who need this education. And far too often, opportunities to pursue this sort of education are rejected out of ignorance. Even if there is a desire to pursue such alternatives, the economics can often make it impossible—can’t do it if insurance does not cover it.
I have decided our hope must lie in the personal connections we make—either from the grass roots up or the system down. There is a powerful grass roots movement for holistic care and alternatives—practitioners who find alternatives and clients who find those practitioners and then pay them so they can pursue more education and be more effective practitioners. These practitioners generally have become fed up with the system and would rather spend their time healing people than trying to heal a broken an unresponsive system. Yamuna spoke with me about some of her early efforts to work with the system and how incredibly frustrating it was. She was telling me about this as she was getting ready to leave to work on the Princess of Morocco who was in New York and had been exposed to some of Yamuna’s work while in London and then sought her out in New York for some personal body work. This is often how it works—word of mouth and random exposure. This grass roots effort does not need to worry about governments or regulatory bodies or insurance. It is about people connecting with people and telling them about other people and what they can do to help and to heal.
While I was at Yamuna’s I met a man from Belgium who creates very innovative tables for holistic therapies—tables with powerful salts that can be heated, tables that can be tilted and moved to take advantage of the power of gravity in various ways. It was fascinating. He was talking with Yamuna about collaborating with his engineering firm and some other leading holistic healers. Intelligent, insightful, creative people connecting with other intelligent, insightful, creative people to make wonderful things happen. It was inspiring.
Really wonderful things can happen when these connections take place, and many people are able to find effective holistic healing options—but that does not heal the system. Thankfully, there are those brave souls who are willing to work from the top down in an effort to affect the system itself. I made reference a few weeks ago to Dr. Van der Kolk, the head of the trauma center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who is speaking out about alternative therapies for trauma victims. Generally, these advocates have worked within the system for years and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Much of the good comes from people—good people who sincerely want to help other people and who are constantly searching for better ways to do that. But there are some terrible hurdles which the system itself creates that stand squarely in the way of progress.
Academia and medicine do not innovate quickly. I remember 16 years ago when I began my Pilates training, there was no such training available in the universities. These organizations tend to push against innovation and change, making it difficult to allow other, and possibly better, solutions to “come to the top.” They can’t come to the top if they are not allowed in to begin with.
Money drives the big machines—insurance, medical device companies, hospitals, and, of course pharmaceuticals. I have had many people tell me they would prefer coming to me, but their insurance won’t cover it. So they spend more time, and the system spends a whole lot more money, on less effective and more invasive treatments. Education is at the core of what I do, but education takes time and patience while working with the learning process. Drugs are fast.
Regulation strangles creativity. There is a debate going on right now about whether yoga teachers can use the word “therapy” as they promote their yoga classes. I was also told at my last Pilates CEC training that you have to call certain movements by certain names or teachers can get in trouble. Regulatory bodies often become ruled by ego and money and position and power. There has always been a difficult tug of war between security and freedom, but what we have going on now is way beyond necessary precautions.
In spite of these hurdles, what I do see is dedicated doctors and other health professionals connecting and getting together to try to encourage dialogue about alternatives to traditional care and being proponents of many different options. Perhaps professionals getting together to combine their expertise and experience can begin a connective network that can move the system toward eventual improvement.
Respecting and developing connections is key to the health and well being of both the body and those seeking to heal and promote the body’s wellbeing. What connections have you discovered in the care of your own body? Are there connections you are seeing in the community around you that are moving towards more innovative health care?