The Stigma of Eastern Medicine

The Stigma of Eastern Medicine

When two worlds meet – dog rose and a bug.

I remember being taught how to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation, while I was hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic. All the time I had a very strong feeling that I already know how to do it. I thought: »Oh no, it’s the déjà vu again.« But it was not. I later looked into a book about yoga and the guidelines for the ending relaxation after a set of yoga exercises were very similar to the guidelines for Progressive Muscle Relaxation at the clinic. It was the book, where I had learned yoga exercises from long before that hospitalization.

As Wikipedia states: »Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions …« (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness) I used to be angry at Western psychology for giving the Buddhist practices new names and hence concealing their origin. Last week it dawned on me that their intensions were probably honest and sincere. Since Buddhism has been stigmatized as ‘something weird from the East’ up until today, the psychologists were probably only trying to insure that Westerners would use the techniques and not reject them only because of their origin.

My self help book for example quotes His Holiness The Dalai Lama, a Buddhist leader, or Louise Hay, a Western new age teacher. I remember an opinion maker in mental health field who read my book and who is a very open-minded person saying to me: »I must admit that I was suspicious of the new age methods, described in ‘Balancing the Beast’, for example the mirror work according to Louise Hay. When I read the book, however, I realized that I am teaching the members of my mental health self-help group the same things, only in different words.« Thus in my opinion the stigma of Eastern Medicine really exists. And the Western psychology did the right thing concealing the origins of new techniques.

I, on the other hand, did not feel the need to conceal anything. Simply because the times are so hard that we cannot afford to have prejudice against yoga, meditation, visualizations etc. Why not? Because there are simply too many patients per day trying to reach individual psychiatrists. In my opinion we will gradually become forced to solve the minor mental health problems by ourselves, leaving the psychiatrists only with severe cases, which will lead to normal working conditions for psychiatrists. In addition to that also the severer cases can back up the psychiatric treatment with home exercises, which will again reduce their visits to psychiatrists.

You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. Sam Pitroda, a counselor of the prime minister of India, stated in March this year at the event of opening a new Ajurveda and Holistic Medicine Institute in Bangalore (south of India), that India cannot afford to blindly follow the Western model of highly sophisticated clinics and hospitals. He strongly suggested India should return to their roots and develop a cheaper health system, including traditional Indian prevention and traditional Indian healing. (Source: Dnevnik (Slovene daily newspaper), April 26, 2011.)

This blog was inspired by another text, titled Mindfulness – The Ultimate Mood Stabilizer, written by John McManamy, an award-winning mental health journalist and author.

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