001 Adaptability & a Medicine of Health
I'm really excited to start this blog and series of podcasts all about health, fitness, and wellbeing. The blog is mainly going to be the transcripts of the podcasts, so that you can choose which way you'd like to receive the information.
Starting something like this has been on my mind for a while, but I've had to reflect quite a lot about how best to do this in a way that feels "right". A very important thing as a yoga practitioner is to always try to stay true to yoga principles. And, to be frank, it often feels like social media, and vlogs via youtube etc can very easily conflict with some of those principles. Basically it always comes down to that same question we have to ask ourselves if we want to have "right action" within this world: "where is this coming from?"
It is so easy for our sense of "I-ness", of identity to be caught up and seduced by the illusions of fame, power, and money - something social media can very easily exacerbate. But then I also see what amazing things platforms like instagram can achieve when utilised by individuals who are driven by a pure purpose. Ultimately, we are alive in the context in which we're alive, and yoga is most effective when its tools are implemented in a way that effortlessly adapts to context.
What I'm doing is not necessarily either of these things, but these are my ideals that will guide this engagement: trying to maintain a purity of intention whilst seeking for an effortless adaptation. For me, it feels like it's a shame that so many people can be put off practices like yoga and acupuncture because of their mainstream representation, and a lack of understanding. It is a small hope that by exploring some of the ideas that will be discussed in these blogs & podcasts, that some people will be exposed in a new way to what these forms of traditional medicine can achieve.
This first 'episode' is about trying to define what traditional medicine is, and how it relates and differs to contemporary medicine.
Listen and download the podcast here: A Medicine of Health.m4a
By traditional medicine, I’m talking about medicine that is thousands of years old, and by contemporary I’m, of course, meaning the type of medicine that is practiced worldwide in hospitals today.
Now clearly, as someone who practices and studies traditional medicine I am subject to some bias, but within the limitations of that bias I endeavour to be as objective as possible during these discussions.
I want it to be clear that I have great respect for modern medicine, as nothing can compare to it for saving lives in extreme situations.
That being said, it also has its downsides. And rather than being specific about those, I’m actually going to have more of a conceptual discussion on these two medicines, why they differ, and why contemporary medicine is so limited.
So essentially contemporary medicine is a medicine of disease. What does this mean? Ok, so think about what kind of connotations and associations are brought up for you when someone says they’re going to hospital, or to see a doctor. The assumption is that there is something wrong with them. This is because you only ever go to see a contemporary medicine practitioner when there is something significantly wrong enough with your state of health that you understand something must be done. In other words, you are conceptually in a state of disease. Thus, contemporary medicine is a medicine of disease.
On the other hand I would put forward that traditional medicine is a medicine of health. What this means is a little bit more complicated.
So first let’s break down what it means to be healthy. We can start by trying to see health as a spectrum. Ok, so if it’s a spectrum then we need some clear boundaries each end. On the one hand it’s pretty easy, we could put death on one end - because that’s ultimately what will happen to you if you’re in such an extreme state of disease that your body can no longer function. But what do we put on the other end? We can't simply put life, because you can be alive and unwell. So what does the ultimate picture of health look like? Well, that’s the thing, that’s every hard to define.
Is it that you got your regular health check up and everything was ok? I would argue no, because being passable is not what optimal means. Is it that you’re a top athlete and you're fitter than most people around you? Again, I would argue no - many top athletes can have numerous things wrong with them, they can have nagging injuries, they can have chronic health concerns. And perhaps more importantly, so what if you’re someone who is fit and healthy on a physical level if you suffer from mental health conditions, or if you have really bad relationships, because how are either of those things healthy?
So really what we’re dealing with, when we talk about being "healthy", is an idea that inherently alludes to the infinite, to the limitless. In other words, we can always be better. Yes, we have our prime, when our health is likely to be physically optimal in terms of our age, but within our physical limitations of being a mortal human being there will always be an area of our health and wellbeing that we can improve (if we want to).
So, to come back to traditional medicine, yes, it is true because of our modern culture surrounding health and disease people often go to see acupuncturists, herbal doctors etc, when they are in a technical 'state of disease', but the fact is you could also go to see one of these practitioners when you are not in a contemporary medicine defined state of disease, and they should be able discern what it is you could do to become even better, to be even healthier.
And this is often the reason why you get people coming to traditional medicine practitioners for all the chronic types of problems for which contemporary medicine has no known cause, no known cure, or clear treatment procedure - because a medicine of health doesn't require a disease label in order to proceed with a clear rehabilitative process.
Ok, so I hope this opened up the idea of traditional medicine a bit more, helped clarify what sets it apart from contemporary medicine, and that you found these ideas interesting. Next episode I’m going to continue in a similar way, staying pretty conceptual for the time being, and then once a lot of these big ideas are established we'll start getting more specific and practical.
Thanks for reading!