Health is conventionally understood as the absence of disease or sickness. While this definition is partially valid, it lacks the breadth of a more comprehensive understanding. The Amrit philosophy of Five Pillars of Health will effortlessly help you assess your holistic health and wellness on a wider spectrum. Wellness addresses all the facets of a human being and means more than just controlling your blood pressure with medications or avoiding the flu each year.
Optimal health and wellness are holistically sustained by five pillars: Mindfulness, Nutrition, Fitness, Relaxation, and Sleep. These components of health are not chosen randomly but have their origins in the ancient traditions of Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga.
The names of these pillars will give you a sense of the general road map toward your optimal wellness, but they do not define your specific turns, rest stops, or speed limits. That’s because the path to wellness is not one-size-fits-all. The journey is unique and different for each individual.
Your biology, personality, and environment will determine what wellness means for you. That’s why your approach must be personalized. The common thread for everyone is that wellness requires a holistic approach that incorporates approaches from each of the Five Pillars.
It’s not unusual that when someone first begins taking an integrative approach to wellness or to a specific health problem, they quickly feel overwhelmed by the dozens of new things to do and change. New supplements to take, new ways to eat, new exercise routines–even new ways to breathe! Perhaps you’ve experienced this.
Part of the difficulty comes from the way we’ve been conditioned by conventional medicine: get a diagnosis, then get a pill. There’s no learning curve required, and it’s certainly easier. But more and more of us have realized that this “take a pill for it” treatment paradigm doesn’t help because, while it sometimes can suppress our symptoms, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. If you stop taking the pill because you don’t like the side effects, can’t afford it, or just forget you’ll be left with the same old problem–or a new one often brought on by the treatment itself.
Integrative medicine, on the other hand, is a little more participatory on the part of the individual—which means you not only perform the recommendations of your doctor but also participate in designing them.
Integrative Medicine, and especially Ayurvedic Medicine, recognizes several other things too that often get lost in a conventional medical approach.
First, although it is important to recognize and understand the disease process occurring, it is just as important to recognize and understand the individual in whom the process is taking place. One person’s genetics, epigenetics, habits, activities, relationships, nutrition, and capacity to adapt to stress may make them express a disease in a markedly different way than another person with different makeup and habits. We’ve all observed that during flu season or in an office setting where a “cold” is spreading, some people get sick while others do not. It’s the “seed and the soil” metaphor which explains this. The soil (individual constitution) must be permissive for the seed (disease) to flourish. Addressing only the disease without addressing the personal mind-body environment is less than half the battle.
Second, integrative medicine recognizes that most diseases afflicting members of modern society are long-latency diseases. These diseases often begin with low grade but chronic disruptions of bioenergetic balance, which eventually crystallize into biochemical abnormalities. If we’ve been living well, our natural reparative mechanisms help us avoid prolonged illness. But at some point, the body’s innate healing mechanisms can get overwhelmed, and disease begins to express. The process has been happening for years, but we only see it when the balance between overt symptoms and self-healing processes is significantly askew. Depending on an individual’s unique constitution, physical disease, which begins as energetic imbalance, can express in many different ways.
And third, integrative medicine uses those robust innate healing mechanisms to get things back in balance on both the subtle and physical levels. By eliminating disease-promoting inputs like inflammatory and carcinogenic foods, unnecessary antibiotics and drugs, sedentarism, poor sleep, and stress, and by providing health-promoting inputs like organic, anti-inflammatory foods, individualized botanical preparations, optimizing sleep, and individualized programs of exercise and meditation, the body’s self-healing mechanisms can be resuscitated and enhanced thereby relieving the root cause of the symptoms.
It is this multi-faceted integrative approach itself that can lead to the feeling that there is just too much to do to get better! We all acknowledge the complex interwoven nature of the body’s energetic and biochemical systems, and how one’s health status can change only if all facets of health all are optimized simultaneously. It becomes clear why several small interventions are more effective than one heroic change.
And so, we have the Rule of Fives. If you and your doctor mutually discover 5 things that you can do—a simple mindfulness practice, a small diet changes, adjustment of your sleep routine, tweaking your exercise program, having regular and suitable Spa treatments—and each intervention contributes a 20% improvement in your health, then pretty soon, you are at 100%. Over time or in different seasons, those five things may change. With a little help and professional guidance, you have allowed your body to heal itself and emerge into a new state of well-being. This process is the heart of Ayurveda and integrative medicine.