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An Essay on Alternative Therapies

by Sunita Pant Bansal

I must have been five when I had my first brush with alternative therapy. I was with my grandparents in Almora when I had this excruciating stomach pain at night - when it is not easy to get a doctor, especially in the hills. While the other family members were hunting for some pills, my unperturbed grandmother took out a little book wrapped in a red cloth. She made me lie on the bed and chanted some mantras. She then produced a peacock feather from the same box and, still chanting, ran it over my body several times. My pain suddenly disappeared!

Home remedies using herbs and condiments have been practiced in our family as far back as I can remember. Later, I married a doctor - a super specialist in respiratory medicine - who believes that at the end of the day, the patient should feel better; the curative measures are not important. He may not practice it himself, but he's open to any form of alternative therapy as long as it gives results. I treat my children with homeopathy. For chronic ailments, I prescribe acupressure and magnet therapy to friends and relatives.

Alternative medicine is fast catching on. Flip through the Yellow Pages, you will find heads such as: ayurvedic medicines, homeopathic consultants, acupuncturists, nature cure, yoga center, herbal clinics and so on. Newspapers regularly carry advertisements of workshops on reiki, stress management, past life therapy etc. What's happening?

Whichever way you turn, people tell you to consider another path. Dissatisfaction with today's way of living is leading to a reappraisal of old ideas and systems. This is reintroducing a holistic view of life, which brings in the intimate relationship between body, mind and spirit. Truly, well-being depends on harmony. That means not only being well balanced as an individual physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but also being one with everyone and everything around you.

By the same token, disease is a result of disruption of that harmony. Holistic health, therefore, takes a much broader view of life than orthodox medicine, which defines health narrowly as the absence of disease. We have always had yoga, ayurveda, naturopathy, even magnet therapy, unani and Tibetan medicine to turn to if all else failed. But lately, the choices have widened - aromatherapy, Bach flower remedies, color therapy, pyramids, marma therapy, ozone therapy, water therapy… the list is endless.

These systems are not new. In fact, they are the oldest in the world - it's just that they have now been urbanized. Alternative medicine is attracting people as it offers hope when orthodox medicine cannot. For some, the philosophy behind the therapy is as important as its effects. The very fact that an individual is able to participate in his/her cure is a welcome alternative to passive pill taking.

A common denominator linking holistic therapies is a belief in the curative power of nature. Treatment is invariably aimed at unlocking the individual's self-healing potential rather than being interventionist. India has a number of doctors who are blending alternative therapies with conventional medicine. Psychiatrists are using hypnotherapy. Anesthesiologists are taking help from acupuncture. Physiotherapists are using acupressure and reflexology. Despite the fact that mainstream medical thinking is still rooted in the science of the past, it seems inevitable that the tide will turn towards holistic health.

It's not necessarily a matter of dumping everything that medical science has stood for, but of redrawing the boundaries. One factor that accounts for orthodox medicine's obsession with the physical is that psychological factors are elusive and virtually impossible to quantify precisely. The irony is that orthodox medicine lags behind science. Quantum mechanics and other branches of physics have revealed that laws of the mechanistic world only operate at one level. When you go to the domains of the very small, the world of protons, neutrons and other atomic particles, or the very large, the universal scale, other laws apply.

A comparable set of possibilities applies in the field of health and disease. Many forms of alternative medicine deal with aspects of our nature which have been ignored by orthodox medicine.

Reprinted with the permission of Life Positive and Sunita's site, SPB Enterprises



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