Ayurveda101 · Health

From here to there: the path to health

Hello, readers! It’s been several years since my last post. But I haven’t given up health, healing, on you, or this journey.  

You see, over those past several years I’ve been recovering from a catastrophic injury.  At first, I could only lie there like one of those pill bugs I used to play with as a kid, rollie pollies we called them. Shiny little dark gray bugs with segmented outer shells and dozens of tiny legs that would flail helplessly if they got stuck on their backs. I would watch intently as they kicked in the air, and then I’d flip them over and help them right themselves. Sometimes they’d happily crawl away, other times they’d curl up into a little protective ball, their hard outer shells keeping their mushy insides safe from predators. Lying there on the couch, I needed some way to flip myself over and happily crawl away, but I didn’t know where to start. 

As I made a butt-shaped dent in the couch, hard-fought muscles and fitness atrophying, I felt lost and broken. I began to wonder:

How do I take the first step to heal myself? 

How do I get off this couch? 

How can I return to normal life? 

How can I stay in healthy if I can’t even move? 

How can I get from here to the bathroom? 

What am I supposed to do all day? 

I had so many questions about how to get from here to there. Where even is there?

The definition of health is…complicated

Often the image of peak health conjures up one of those people. You know them. They’re fitness influencers on Instagram and TikTok, all chiseled abs and gleaming smiles, balanced in an impossible yoga pose, millions of followers, with a motivational quote in the caption. They spend their days spent counting calories, drinking smoothies, working out, meditating, consuming supplements, all to cultivate peak physical health. 

We’re being sold a varnished, shallow view of health, one that’s curated, filtered, incomplete, sans warts and diarrhea—akin to tobacco companies selling an image of smoking being cool.

We hold up glorified specimens of health as some standard to achieve. Even after studying Ayurveda and yoga which take a more holistic view of health beyond the physical realm, I am still hypnotized by the thin, perfectly toned, six-pack abs and impossible beauty standards that often require extreme diets and cosmetic surgery. 

Doctors, the very people we entrust to keep us healthy, largely ascribe health to the physical. Every year, they listen to our hearts and lungs, look in our eyes and ears, ask us to open up and say “ahh.” They affix a blood pressure cuff, check our meds, we begrudgingly step on a scale to see if our weight falls into a healthy body mass index (BMI), a formula that determines if our bodies are within an “acceptable” range. 

Rarely–outside of making recommendations to eat less saturated fat, exercise more often, and reduce stress does our 18-minute annual primary care visit contain advice on how to eat, how to create a state of well being or even ways to lead a more fulfilling life. We’re largely treated as a collection of physical maladies, not a living being. The doctor scribbles a few little notes in their little folder and will see you next year.  

Doctors looking over a patient

So it should come as no surprise that the stats about global health are staggering and depressing. Worldwide, we’re getting sicker. About 11 million deaths a year are linked to poor diet around the globe. The number of people with chronic illness, preventable causes of health loss, and those with mental illness are increasing, too.   

Physical health is not complete

Health has been defined in many ways through the ages, evolving based on science, religion, psychology, and sometimes the sun and stars. Today science and evidence-based medicine heals us while insurance companies deal in ICD diagnoses and billing codes. All told, modern medicine treats us as a collection of physical maladies, or if we’re lucky, the absence of disease (dis-ease). 

Even the dictionary defines health as soundness of body or mind; freedom from disease or ailment. But just try to bring up mental health to a neurosurgeon. The doctor treats the brain but not its contents. They may listen intently, offer a few gentle words of empathy, but will swiftly change the subject and ultimately refer you to another doctor who can address the contents of your mind. 

While neuroscientists can perform brain scans and see thoughts light up our brains with electrical impulses, they haven’t figured out how to see actual thoughts or know the contents of our minds. Yet it all feels so real. Scientists are studying the link between brain, body, and mind—and what links to the two: our consciousness, our being, and what some might call our self or spirit.

Finding this deeper place doesn’t happen with gimmicks or “10-day get thin” diets. Believe me, I’ve tried literally all of them. The journey is highly personal, unique, individual. 

Through my own stories of health, healing, missteps, and ways back I hope to impart some of what I’ve learned to help you invest in your own self and to carve out your own definition of well being and true health. No matter where you live, how old you are, or how healthy (or unhealthy) you believe yourself to be.

Today I’m picking this journey back up, at a new location: this Substack. Because even though I’ve beat myself up and taken many wrong steps, through it all, I’ve also learned that within each of us is the ability to heal, to change, and transcend. I’ll explore health, share my journey to heal from a traumatic injury, and ways that healing is possible. Just like the rollie pollie, we all need someone to help us flip over and to crawl happily away.

Join me?

Image credit Unsplash

Related Posts

  • Modern medicine simply defines health as a lack of disease, injury, or pain, but it's much more than that. One of the reasons that Ayurveda still inspires me to this day is its broad definition of health, which is: "Samadosha Samagnischa Samadhatumala kriyaha Prasanna atmenindriya manaha Swasthya ityabhidheeyate" That Sanskrit…
    Tags: health, ayurveda
  • Note: this post was updated on November 15, 2013 to provide additional clarity. A famous supermodel once said that nothing tastes as good as thin feels, but I'd revise that statement to say that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. I spent so much of my life completely unconscious…
    Tags: health, ayurveda
  • One of the important lessons Ayurveda has taught me is the importance of moderation. (Though arguably I’ve exercised a bit too much moderation with my blogging lately.) Ayurveda means “the science of life,” helping those who follows its principles to live a very long, balanced, and healthy life. While I’ve…
    Tags: ayurveda
  • In computer programming, a hack refers to a clever bit of programming that solves a problem. In Ayurveda, there are also hacks (though I don't think the original sages who wrote the Ayurvedic texts had this term in mind). Since I began studying Ayurveda, I've come to learn countless simple…
    Tags: health, ayurveda
  • Frosty killer? Digestion destroyer? Gut buster? Isn't that a bit dramatic? Maybe so, but ice does nothing good for your body. And if you chow down at nearly any restaurant, home, or hospital in the United States, nearly any drink you're served will undoubtedly contain ice or be served very…
    Tags: ayurveda, health