Holistic health

Swami Nityamuktananda, een van onze ‘senior teachers’ deelt haar grote kennis op het gebied van de Holistische Gezondheid, een onderwep dat ook in de yogadocentenopleiding veel aandacht krijgt.


Holistic Health

Swami Nityamiktananda

In our present world we have many diseases that did not exist 100 years ago, and more diseases appear all the time: disease of the physical body and the mind. One of the main reasons for this increase is that the way we live has changed – and not for the better!

In most countries influenced by western civilization, the lifestyle and diet have changed over the last 50 years; our life has become much more sedentary, with a huge reduction in physical activity. Swami Rama pointed out, that we an artificial life; living artificially decreases the natural resistance and balance, with the result that we get more ill.

The strange thing is that we choose to live more and more artificial and call it progress.

For example:

– We work at night and all hours in artificial light, decreasing the natural intake of Vitamin D (re: calcium absorption/bones) and call it progress, but as a result suffer from all manner of osteoporoses!

– We eat a diet rich in “white foods” (white flour, white sugar, salt ) and expand to obesity and at the same time shrink our physiological flexibilities. We call it progress…no more simple foods, yet as a result diabetes is skyrocketing!

– We take the car to go where we want to go instead of walking and loose the natural ability to clean lactic acids and fats through our muscular activity. Progress?

-We over stimulate our brain and nervous system by all manner of digital input, from watching TV to playing games – that on average a person needs to sleep one hour more – than before the appearance of TV, to clean the back-log of input; and we complain about insomnia, or the many forms of children’s attention deficit syndromes. We enjoy this sign of progress but at what cost!

– Since the 70ies many countries increased their meat intake; having meat on the dining table every day of the week is considered progress. Yet the consumption of beef etc. has grown so much, that cattle, pigs and cows are now the biggest producers of greenhouse gasses. At the same time we cut down the forests to feed them.

Moreover, we are unaware that still one of the ten most terrible diseases on earth is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (mad cow disease) , which stems from cows being fed by cow-meat in one form or another. The disease causes the spine and brain cells to melt!

Progress or stupidity?

– We breath polluted air and more and more people suffer from lung disease, and the raise of asthma is phenomenal especially amongst children; even tuberculosis is on the increase. But we deem pollution a necessity – a result of progress!

-We live a life of stress and fear which stops us breathing properly and our shallow breath causes many problems of toxicity and acidity which attacks our nerves, bones and joints. But we are proud of the progress our society has made!

-We eat food that is dead, through chemicals, hormones pesticides and refrigeration. All the goodness (Prana is killed) but we call it progress…

Now we even have genetically modified food, which no one knows how it will effect humans or the eco-balance in the future.

-Since 60 years we use plastic; it does not completely decompose, but small particles remain, get in the groundwater, rivers and ocean and are swallowed by fish and thus enter our food-chain! Jellyfish and other fish have already been found who’s interiors are filled with plastic! Yet we call it progress!

– Our cells have natural intelligence in their nucleus: how to fulfill a function; how to correctly reproduce, and how to store memory. All forms of life hold the information of their past in the DNA, including our cells. When we move our body, we move according to the memory stored and recalled in each cell. This inherent intelligence, is a form of our own inner wisdom – yet somehow we manage to destroy this natural intelligence in the cells by the way we live, so that cells lose their inherent intelligence – becoming rogue cells which do not follow their own inherent intelligence (just as we are not following our own natural intelligence), the phenomenon is called cancer!

There is an overwhelming body of evidence, that changes in diet (i.e. the food we consume) are a major influential factor in creating cancer – we have lost our inner wisdom how to live and eat.

We lost the way of how to live from pour wisdom – the list is endless. We are reluctant to admit that all resulting suffering is self-created! If not by the individual, then by the society that has lost the natural intelligence of healthy living.

A new branch of medicine has emerged that talks about disease that arises out of the combined result of the person’s biological, psychological, social and existential condition (not simply pathological or even psychosomatic), thus reflecting on the lifestyle, body and mind (FSS – Functional somatic syndromes).

We think there is progress but really, from which ever angle we look, we are destroying ourselves. We need a complete lifestyle and diet change and that on a grand scale not just individually but as a society – even as citizens of one globe!

Let’s look at it another way:

Our bodies are largely water… we know that polluted water is damaging… but we keep polluting the water in our body!

We know that polluted air is damaging, but we continue to still pollute the air we take into our body.

We know that earth full of chemicals and toxins cannot produce healthy food, but we expect our body to be able to cope with it.

It is not just ignorance- it is also stupidity, and a streak of self-destruction.

There could be enough healthy water, air and food on the globe for all, if we only would use our inner wisdom; if only we lived in harmony with nature and ourselves. I hope it is not too late to rekindle the fire of the ancient knowledge of how to live holistically, and not just for an “awakened individual” but for the human race.

Whoever returns to ancient wisdom is doing sadhana!

Each life-form has inherently its own inner wisdom (like our cells); the indigenous people from across the world have preserved some of this wisdom.

“Every stirring within tree and animal, every stillness and transmutation within mountain and earth, every flow and confluence of streams and rivers, every leap of a kangaroo, flight of the deer, hop of a rabbit, gait of a tiger, fluttering of a sparrow, gliding of an eagle , every motion signifies sadhana. This is the pattern based on the memory of the universe. I propose we introduce (this kind of) sadhana into our lives as a wholesome guide to remembering nature. Sadhana stirs our cognitive memory and revives the lost art of beauty, grace and accommodation. Through sadhana we are able to garner the vibrations of the universe to help us meld with the earth body (and heal our earthly bodies)” (Maya Tiwari)

We need to respect and heal the vessel we have been given by the Great Mother; without the vessel we cannot do sadhana and discover our higher potentials!

In the Yogic tradition some of this wisdom has survived in scriptures, including the Ayurvedic scriptures. Salabhanjika is the primal force of the wise Earth; She is the flowing sap of life that makes all flourish. We need to attune anew with this spiritual power. We need to look at our lives, our bodies and the earth of whose body we are “one cell” and look to rebalance, to find health and well-being again!

We need to become aware that wisdom is not limited to us; it is also in everything that is on this earth. Everything presently living on earth has memory, has wisdom enshrined in its DNA. Wise people of many shades even see that memory in stones, in matter – in the elements. Once we start observing ourselves and the world around us, we “thaw out” this frozen memories, this wisdom from all existence.

We need to start to listen to that knowledge, which all indigenous elders try to preserve!

We need to relearn about biology, physiology, psychology, philosophy…from within their inherent wisdom; which is all one wisdom school in billions of phenomena. It is all One!

Unfortunately our world suffers from specialization; the pendulum has swung too far to one side! People look at one thing only and try to maximize the profit on that and loose the picture of the whole. Let’s paint a cartoon..:

Imagine a bus full of people going along some really difficult mountain roads. In the bus are many ordinary people and some medical doctors; a cardiologist, a gynecologist, and anesthetist, a urologist. There is an accident and many people sustain severe injuries, broken bones…. And no one can help!

The universe and our earth are one whole interconnected organism; in the present we are focused on being individuals and forget that all aspects of life are connected; they are connected in eternal wisdom – and that in health and illness (for us and the planet). We need to relearn to see ourselves within the unified whole; we need to reconnect; we need to become aware again of the inner wisdom in all – it is an awesome picture to see the universal data available in all DNS’s; we need to awaken to our inner guides and the ancient wisdom of how to live.

In Yoga there is a very basic role in how to live healthily:

Study yourself and learn how to regulate your lifestyle and your dietary habits. Your activities and thinking have to be according to your capacity and your constitution…for that you have to train your skills of observation and self-awareness.

We can take again a “cartoon”:

Your body is a aeroplane within which the ‘Inner-Being’ travels.

Your ‘Inner-Being’ has chosen a certain type of body to help to achieve a certain aim and purpose in life…to travel to a certain destination. If the plane is not maintained properly it crashes!

If your body and mind are not maintained, they probably crash, they fall ill.

There are three categories of people travelling through life:

We could say there are three different planes one chooses: a glider, a propeller plane and a jet-plane.

Swami Rama gives these three categories:

-There are people who move through life not knowing why they live, not knowing what they want to do; where they come from or where they are going. They are stuck, unaware, tamasic.

-Then there are people who are goal orientated; they can discipline themselves and apply themselves with determination, to go where they want to go; but their goal is in the material world only. “I want a car, a good job, a nice house, a beautiful wife/husband …etc..” They are orientated to material goals and have the ‘get up and go’ to get these. They go for it; they are active … rajasic.

-Then there are people, who are purpose orientated; whatever they think or do is orientated towards the purpose they have in life. They regulate their lives, discipline their lives (their habits and tendencies); they know what they mentally and physically need to fulfill their existence here on earth.

For them to maintain physical and mental health comes from the desire to tune the instrument of their body (through which they operate) much like a musician would tune his violin…so that it can carry out the purpose for which it is created…to the best of their ability.

These people are rare, they are what is called sattvic; this state is what we are aspiring to in yoga, because we need a healthy vessel which to use as an instrument with which to make the experiments, we call life – in order to give us answers:

Who am I / why am I here?

What is the purpose of my life?

From where have I come and where am I going…

We need to know where we start from on this journey we call life, hence need to observe ourselves. The journey is long, (especially for the first two types) and we can’t waist anymore time on unhealthy living and a lifestyle that undermines our quest!

To continue with the analogy of the airplanes…we need to inquire what kind of fuel to put into “my plane”; a jet plane cannot depend on the currents of the wind! There are obvious differences- but also some general pointers:

From the Yogic point of view all food is Brahman. We hear that, we might even use it as a prayer before meals – but do we “know” it? What we eat originally (before we temper with it) has the same divine memory as we ourselves; it too has the knowing, the cosmic intelligence stored within its DNA chain. We, our body/mind, the food, the earth, the wind, the water, the fire and the space all co-operate and interact through this stored wisdom.

Our path through life , the development of our Soul-purpose is in interdependence with , or even depends on, our “food-body” (we work out our karma and ascend to a higher purpose within the physical body). If our food-body (or the planets food-body) is out of balance – we suffer. It means the natural intelligence is out of balance – how far can it get out of balance before it doesn’t return to center?

Health is not being without disease or disturbance – but whether we can get back to balance! With genetic modified food we might one day not be able to get back to balance in a big way; one day we might plant lettuce seeds and carrots will grow? Is this a joke? Or the consequence of natural intelligence losing its identity, just like healthy cells lose their identity and become cancerous!

Many indigenous cultures, Yoga and Ayurveda know about the importance of healthy food, and yes there are differences, but all are in tune with advocating sattvic food and fostering a sattvic life-style!

The basis of sattva is ahimsa, hence by enlarge sattvic diet emphasizes natural food, or what we call these days ‘organic’(the mere choices of words show what dire straits our food-industry is in), and …vegetarian!

It advocates food cooked with love and consciousness…well that cuts out all fast food straight away! In many countries nowadays we have this craze that people go to a department store and buy pre-prepared or frozen meals! No more cooking!

Some people even advocate eating only raw food…but there is an equal strong school that advocates only cooked food, because raw food is harder to digest and thus doesn’t provide so much nutrition, yet it is richer in prana and cleans the nadis. So what to do?

It all depends what your body and its constitution needs. Cooked foods are better for giving strength to the body…raw food is better for promoting subtle energies. Traditionally Yogic diet consisted of fruits, roots and milk – but than its said the advanced Yogi can live of Air… it’s not us yet!

The second issue around yogic food is: meat – eating meat violates the highest yogic principle (ahimsa)! But that isn’t all: we cannot readily break down animal tissue- so it stays a long time in the digestive system and “rots”, making us toxic ourselves) !

Meat increases the animal fire and tendencies in the body; we ingest their samskaras – this promotes anger, fear and other negative emotions. Meat produces tamasic energy, “bringing the energy of death” into the auric field and cellular knowledge. Violence and crime rise in societies that are strong meat-eaters!

We cannot truly ascend as a species if we do not give up eating our brothers and sisters!

In Western cultures there is a lot of talk about the dangers of dairy foods. In India dairy foods have always been considered excellent and totally yogic, promoting health and long life. But then the milk came from free cows which were treated with great respect. Today the milk “harvested” is full of hormones, chemicals and preservatives.

Some people lack the enzymes necessary to digest them…

Still overall dairy products, milk and ghee are excellent for the practice of yoga; milk is best boiled with spices (Ginger, cinnamon or cardamom etc.).

Spices are another issue in the yogic context, suffice to say here, that sweet spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, basil (tulsi), fennel are very sattvic. And natural sugars honey and molasses as well as sweet fruits, nuts and seeds…are recommended.

However here we are not so much concerned about details of what and what not to eat but more about the quality of foods and how we eat.

We should take time to learn about good healthy food, appropriate for our constitution. We should prepare and cook it with love and eat it with awareness of the shared divinity between the food and ourselves. We should offer gratitude for the sacrifice that the living foods make for the benefit of our entire Being.

Once we learn to treat food with such respect, other changes in our life-style will happen naturally, and we become aware of our shared existence.

“…see Me in all beings and all beings in Me” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, Ch.6)