“The basis of holistic health lies in understanding the purpose of life and
learning how to achieve that purpose.”
--Swami Rama of the Himalayas
Health and well-being are becoming the most important concern in the 21st century, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic woke up many people to the need for strengthening our immune systems and keeping ourselves protected from unwanted viruses or vaccinations. Many people are also becoming more interested in “holistic” health practices. Sometimes those practices are called Complementary and Alternative Modalities (CAMs) or Integrative Health Practices.
The Yoga Tradition and its sister scientific tradition, Ayurveda, have long understood the importance of holistic health. Their entire focus is on making the body physically free of oppressive inflammation through herbs and proper lifestyle choices, freeing the mind from burdensome emotions and concerns through relaxation and meditation practices, and connecting to the spiritual core of the individual through pranayama and advanced meditation disciplines.
I learned this dramatically during my stem cell transplant experience. Shortly after I received the massive dose of a drug that was to kill all the cancer cells in my body, I received my new stem cells. All was going well until my heart started to beat too fast. I had to go back into the hospital to be monitored for this unhealthy heartbeat. The medical doctors were worried that I might have a stroke or heart attack.
A few days passed and my heart rate continued its fast pace. I had eliminated all heavy proteins from my diet so my body would not have to work hard to digest them. I had also set up a relaxation and meditation pattern that was intended to reduce any worry and concern for my mind. It would also allow my body to focus on what it needed to do to heal my erratic heart and deal with the new cells and the aftermath of the anti-cancer drug.
Nothing worked until I began to practice nadi shodhana, a pranayama practice that in English is called “alternate nostril breathing.” Yoga teaches how important breathing is to the heart. Every time we take a full breath, our lungs massage the heart. When that massage is a slow, smooth, continuous and even, the heart gets the message to relax into a smooth, continuous, even, and deep way.
Shortly after a couple of rounds of nadi shodhana, the heart rate became normal. The practice of the pranayama was the last component I needed to complete my treatment. I left the hospital with my body and my stem cells ready to bring me back to robust health.
My experience proved that the holistic health practices of Yoga and Ayurveda work. My life again proceeded forward in the pursuit of its purpose—to do the will of God and build the Presence (Kingdom) of God in my life and in the world of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
I pray to the divinity within you!