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Mastering the Art of Holistic Medicine

by Annique Bolliger

Are you interested in exploring holistic and alternative medicine? Cool, so start exploring some of the well-received therapies out there, like the ancient art of Therapeutic Reflexology. Find out more about it in this article.

What the heck is holistic?

You’ve heard it before, but never really understood what it meant, right? Yup, it’s one of the terms people often use to sound like super smart New Age gurus. It’s a trendy word, few people who use it actually realise the meaning it carries.

Let’s check out the dictionary definition: something is holistic when it is characterised by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole thing.

Simply put, it means that something holistic cannot just be separated into pieces, but is part of a bigger and interconnected system.

Still confused? Here’s an example. Let’s look at the prevalence of HIV.

Someone with a ‘non-holistic’ and more theoretical approach to this topic might argue that what causes the spread of HIV is

  • unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive

This is, of course, often true, but it’s taking into consideration only one specific aspect.

Now, a holistic approach would, in addition to having unprotected sex, consider things like:

  • lack of sexual education
  • poverty
  • cultural and religious belief systems
  • stigma
  • sexual abuse
  • prostitution

As these all contribute to the reason why HIV is spread. It’s holistic, because it’s about considering all aspects of the problem, in order to approach it with the bigger picture in mind.

It should make a bit more sense now, right?

Holistic Medicine – Healing the Whole Person

 Ok, so medicine is the science behind diseases – how to diagnose them, treat them, and also prevent them. Now, what might be a holistic approach to medicine look like?

Let’s consider the mental condition of anxiety.

If a doctor assumes a theoretical, partial approach to the treatment of anxiety, they might just prescribe anxiety medication, tell their patient to take the pills, and all symptoms will disappear. This might reduce the anxiety, but it doesn’t really solve the problem, right?

With a holistic approach, the doctor will not only focus on treating the symptoms of anxiety, but the whole person – taking into account all aspects and factors that play a role. They will focus on the science of anxiety and its symptoms, while also considering the contributing mental, emotional, and social factors.

In a nutshell, as WebMD puts it,

“Holistic medicine practitioners believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. In this way, if people have imbalances (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in their lives, it can negatively affect their overall health.”

It makes sense, if you reflect on it. Just think of times when you were going through something difficult with your partner, or at home – maybe it gave you headaches or made your stomach upset. Or imagine an athlete that sustains an injury and can’t be active for a few months – surely that will effect their mental or emotional wellbeing.

So, what are some of these therapies?

Any medical practitioner can adopt a holistic approach to their treatments, but there are a few therapies that are specifically focused on holistic healing. Some examples are

  • Psychotherapy (treatment through psychological means)
  • Acupuncture (stimulation of specific points on the skin through the insertion of fine needles)
  • Reiki (treatment through energy channeling)
  • Homeopathy (treatment through natural substances and ailments)
  • Rhythmic Massage (treatment through massage that activates the patient’s self-healing forces)
  • Reflexology (treatment through application of pressure to specific points on the hands and feet)
  • Meditation (treatment through training the mind, and entering an induced mode of consciousness)
  • Hypnosis (treatment through an induced state of consciousness in which the patient is susceptible to suggestion or direction)
  • Music & Art Therapies (treatment through generating creative, healing forces)

Holistic Healing with Therapeutic Reflexology

It’s not entirely clear where or when this form of holistic therapy originated, but it has been traced back to at least 4000 B.C., in the regions of China and Egypt. In the Western world today, it is a very popular form of alternative therapy.

Therapeutic reflexologists apply pressure to specific points on the hands, feet, or ears of a patient. Each point is linked to a specific part of the body, so when they apply pressure to that point, it results in an automatic reaction in the matching body part– basically, there is a reflex in the targeted area of the body.

Mastering the Art of Holistic Medicine – Therapeutic Reflexology

Not everyone believes in the healing properties of alternative therapies like reflexology. Many scientists think it’s a bunch of rubbish, and that any healing effects are just a state of placebo (as in, it’s all just in the mind). But there are quite a few peer-reviewed studies that suggest legitimate healing results from reflexology, as reviewed by Kunz and Kunz in 2008. The review reveals that various research has shown reflexology to

  • impact specific organs
  • improve symptoms
  • induce relaxation
  • reduce pain

Dr. Sharad Hansjee, expert lecturer at South Africa’s Potchefstroom Academy and Chairperson of the Professional Board for Therapeutic Massage, Aromatherapy and Reflexology (Allied Health Council Professions Council of SA) explains,

“The feet, hands, ears and face are considered a map of the whole body and corresponding organs. The corresponding reflexes to the organs are stimulated by means of pressure application using specific thumb and finger manipulation.

It is not a massage and it is not a substitute for medical treatment. It is a therapeutic way to relieve stress and an effective treatment to maintain the body’s overall well-being.”

Become a Therapeutic Reflexologist

If you are someone who wants to heal people and appreciates the blend of science, art, and the human body, then you should absolutely explore holistic medicine. Alterative healing and therapy is not just a hobby or New Age pass-time. It’s an Ancient approach to healing and has become an established field of study and career.

Potchefstroom Academy in Potschefstoom (Gauteng) offers a 2-year full-time Therapeutic Reflexology Diploma on an NQF Level 5.

Students in this course learn not only about Therapeutic Reflexology, but about subjects like

  • Anatomy
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business Management
  • Occupational Health & Safety
  • Nutrition

After students have completed the qualification and registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa, they will receive a practice number and can start their careers.

Possible jobs include

  • opening a business or practice
  • working in hospitals, medical clinics, or stress clinics
  • working at semi-medical clinics, like at sports institutions or retirement villages

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What do the graduates say?

Maryke van der Walt, a graduate from Potschefstroom Academy, completed a 3-year Higher Diploma in Somatology.

On Reflexology, she says

“In 2002 I specialised in Therapeutic Reflexology at the Potchefstroom Academy and received an award for best Reflexology student. Reflexology is a wonderful relaxing therapy that works on many levels: soothing, calming, balancing and boosting your entire body.”

She elaborates how

Reflexology is non-invasive procedure that aims to encourage the body to work naturally to restore its own healthy balance by applying pressure on the feet or hands.

It is recognised as preventive & therapeutic and can address your particular needs. It has various benefits, including

  • reduction of stress, tension and pain
  • improvement of blood flow and your immune function
  • helping in post-operative recovery
  • impact on Physiological measures (e.g. blood pressure)
  • enhancement of medical care
  • benefits for mental health
  • complementing cancer care

You can contact Maryke directly for more questions about her experience. Check out her Facebook page Lipo Laser Pretoria.

For more info on the study of reflexology, as well as other courses offered by Potch, click here.

Keen to know more?

Check out this little Howcast video and watch how Chantel Lucier demonstrates the 5 Basic foot reflexology techniques.

EduConnect 2cents

You might be skeptical about alternative therapies, and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. However, before you form a fixed opinion, take some time to research and explore it. It has truly improved the lives of many, many people.

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