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Monday, June 26, 2006

Spirituality, mind-body medicine plays valid role in health, healing

-An article from Gurav Kale-

The concept of spirituality to study quality of life and health is not new, but has returned to the scene during recent years and has gone through an evolutionary process. Recently, most of the advanced hospitals have begun to incorporate spirituality with health to encourage patients in the faith aspect while they are hospitalized.
Spirituality and health in real meaning, is to look beyond the physical body. In ancient systems of body meditation, mind and soul were seen as interconnected and inseparable, and if one part of the whole system was stimulated, it affected the other parts as well.
MSU's initiative toward studying the effect of spirituality on cancer patients and validating the results can assure the use of holistic medicine in healing patients.
A recent study at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson center in coordination with Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana research foundation in Bangalore, India, showed that involving the practice of yoga during breast cancer treatment actually helped in improving the quality of life of the patients. Lorenzo Cohen, associate professor and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said, "Cancer and its treatments are associated with considerable distress, impaired quality of life and reduced physical function. This is true for women with breast cancer who receive multi-modality treatment over an extended period of time." The study showed significant increase in general health, physical function and enhanced quality of life of the participants.
Yoga is generally referred to as the union of the individual atma, or soul, with paramatma, or the universal soul. This translates to a union with the divine by integration of body, mind and spirit. Ayurveda — a Sanskrit term for knowledge of life — is a healing side of yoga, and yoga is a spiritual tradition from which Ayurveda emerged. It is based on the view that the elements, forces and principles that comprise all of nature, holding it together and making it function are also seen in human beings.
Through yoga one prepares the body and mind for self-realization or union with the divine, and through Ayurveda one supports the spiritual journey by maintaining body and mind in a state of balance and well-being.
According to Ayurveda, each person has a constitution that determines the basic physiology and personality. This constitution is an inherent balance of three doshas — a unique mix of three mind-body principles, which creates our specific mental and physical characteristics — which are vata (motion), pitta (metabolism) and kapha (cohesiveness).
The basic theory of mind-body medicine is to treat the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual states of human beings in such a way that there is a balance between them. According to Daniel Goleman and Joel Gurin, mind-body medicine is "an approach that sees the mind — our thoughts and emotions — as having a central impact on the body's health."
The therapies of mind-body medicine include relaxation training, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, guided imagery and prayer. Ayurveda provides an integrated approach in preventing and treating illness through lifestyle involvement and natural therapies. In Ayurveda, the mind, or consciousness, and the body not only influence each other, but also have to work together in overcoming a disease.
Another idea of mind-body medicine is prevention of disease by helping patients realize the healing potential in themselves by empowering them with the use of those therapies. The practice of yoga along with Ayurvedic therapies has been noted in ancient Ayurvedic texts and found to be beneficial in treating diseases or conditions such as hypertension, bronchial asthma, anxiety and depression, neurosis, gastrointestinal disorders, headache and insomnia.
Also, Ayurveda contributed a specialized and elaborate system of massage therapies like acupressure therapy. Martial arts, such as qi gong, tai chi and karate, were adopted and practiced in Chinese monasteries for centuries and also originate from Ayurvedic traditions.
Ayurveda is not only getting popular in medical establishments, but also in cosmetology institutes. Aveda Institutes headquarters in Blaine, Minn., took inspiration from Ayurveda in manufacturing of skin care, cosmetics, perfume and hair-care products, and trains students in cosmetology. Aveda's spa framework is based on the foundation of elemental nature philosophy from ancient wisdom of Ayurveda.
The United Nations health agency aims to bring traditional or alternative medicines, including Ayurveda, for research into their effectiveness and safety by promoting their proper use and regulation and by helping countries integrate them into their health-care services. The combination of integrative medicines, including mind-body therapies, with mainstream biomedical therapies in one practice that can offer added value to existing systems.

Gurav Kale is an MSU packaging graduate student. Reach him at

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