There is a growing wave of alternative thinking in the world, and most of us are blessed to have a choice between conventional and alternative ways of living. This can include lifestyle choices, food choices, medical decisions, consumerism, spirituality and education, to name a few. What used to be considered radical is now finding its way into the mainstream.
In Boulder, Colo., where I live, there is an abundance of options for natural grocers, alternative health care practitioners and holistic education centers. Even our pets have access to natural foods and medicines. And for a city of only 100,000, there are more than 60 yoga studios in the community. Needless to say, I am at home in this place.
Here, my tendencies toward natural living are fed by the abundant and accessible information about how to integrate even more natural practices into my daily life. For instance, I was thrilled to slowly cut out every toxic product from my routine and replace it with something that wasn’t (in my mind) ruined by processing, chemicals or the like. I felt so proud of myself and my ability to live a sustainable, plant-based, organic existence!
That said, you can only imagine how I must have felt when I was faced with a very unwanted health condition that every doctor — holistic and conventional — seemed unable to diagnose.
Putting on my armor
One would think that in a community where natural births abound and almost every family participates in a CSA, finding a natural solution to a very common health condition would be a piece of cake. Well, after over a year of trial and error with my holistic doctors, I found myself in a financial position where I had to lean on my medical insurance. I thought for sure that even orthodox medical doctors in the area would be in alignment with the beliefs and values of the community and that I would be nurtured and cared for in a similar way.
What I found, though, was quite the contrary. My beloved ultra-alternative space was treated with distaste and skepticism by conventional medicine. Every time I went to see an MD, I felt as if I had to put on a suit of armor, heading into battle to defend my choice as a woman committed to a natural way of life.
I finally found myself feeling defeated by my own attempts, no longer able to stand up for my convictions or strong enough to plead with my physicians to actually help me find the root cause of my condition rather than simply prescribing another pill.
The yoga Rx
It is here that I began to think about my yoga. One universal translation of the word yoga is “union.” To my disappointment, this is not just union of things that I selectively choose to allow in my frame of consciousness based on preference and likability. What it actually means is union of all things in the spectrum of existence, whether I like it or not. If yoga is not only something I practice but something I teach and stand behind, then there must be room for union in this place and with this situation.
So I laid down my mental and emotional armor, my weapons and my tears, and decided to send myself on a spiritual quest to discover the middle ground between my alternative methods and conventional medicine.
Not two days later, the universe answered back while I was having a conversation with a woman whom I admire and respect. She told me that years ago she was faced with the same mysterious health crisis that I find myself struggling with today. She told me how whole-heartedly she believes in modern medicine, because it gave her her life back. She is the daughter of a physician and so is a self-professed “product of western thinking,” but she looked at me from her heart and I saw the goodness in the approach I had come to fear so much.
I realized then that I was digging my heels into the wrong place. By being so concerned with separating these seemingly competing beliefs, I had added more negative energy to my own condition and potentially created more illness out of that separation where I could have been seeking integration in service of health.
There aren’t two sides here. There is only one, and we are all on it, actively helping to create the opportunity for a happy and healthy life for everyone. There is a time and a place for everything, and instead of rowing in opposite directions from the same boat, we can row together working with one another, rather than against.
When all is said and done, I will likely continue to go against the grain in many of my personal approaches in life. But in this one, I choose a higher option — neither the conventional nor the alternative. The approach I choose is union of the two. The approach I choose is yoga.