Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
International Center for Humane Psychiatry


Non-western concepts of health are geared towards a more holistic approach and incorporate the concept of the soul, whereas Western psychiatry is based solely on a medical model and devoid of any spiritual conceptions or interest in experience. As with Western medicine, those within the practice of some non Western practices are also expected to adhere to an ethical code. The code is that a healer practicing ayurveda must be fully versed in his particular area of knowledge. He must have learned the appropriate methods of diagnosis and adhere to maintaining proper care. Unlike Western medicines, within Ayurveda there are expectations that the medications will be wholesome and not have adverse side effects.

Non-Western healing arts are various and the West is beginning to attain a greater awareness and integration of these practices.

Hinduism incorporates the use of ayurvedic practive and yoga. Ayus means life. Veda means science/knolwedge, thus ayurveda is a system of knowing life and knowing how to sustain life. There is no distinction in Indian thought between physical and spiritual well being, it is intimately connected. There is the term 'rta' which implies a fixed or settled roder. Antra is that which is contrary to order. Ayurveda consists of homeopathy and allopathy.

Indian philosophy's main quest has been for the elimination of moral and physical suffering. Ayurveda plays a role in this. There are the three gunas that ayurveda refers to: Sattva guna- the power that makes for happiness: Raja guna the power which allows us to experience pain; and tamas guna- indifference. The gunas are opposed to one another yet how they relate to one another helps to determine the nature of the person or thing.

The fitness of the body is important if one is to be able to reach a spiritual goal, thus ayurveda is seen as a method for the spiritual athlete to maintain his stamina. In ayurveda, much of health and healing are connected to food and its proper digestion. Undigested food is seen to cause disease. Disease is seen as external, internal, mental, and natural and the methods for dealing with disease are seen in the realms of curable, releivable, and incurable. The prescription may involve cleansing processes, proper diet, a sedative, and meditative practices. Balance is considered to be the most important part of maintaining health.

Yoga comes from the word emaning to yoke or bind. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna that yoga is a way to end pain and sorrow through a complete abandonment of desire. There are various forms of yogic practive. Jnana Yoga is the form meaning 'union of knowledge' and within it is the cocnept of seeking to understand one's self and is intellectually based. Bhakti is a form of yogic practice that involves personal devotion. Hatha Yoga is the manipulation of physical/astral bodies through the psotures and hand positions. Kundalini Yoga refers to the system of awakening within one's self the female creative energy referred to as Shakti. Kundalini speaks of the chakras, literally wheels which are the centers of energy flowing within the person. The vital force is channeled through nerves referred to as nadis. it is breath control that can be effective in purificaiton of the nadis. The Chakras are eaxh associated with a particular function. The Muadhara chakra which exists between the genitals and the anus is described as having four petals and is associated with the earth element of a person. Another chakra is located within the genital region and is associated with sexuality. The manipula chakra is centered in the navel and the anahata chakra is centered at the heart. When one awakens kundalini within the chakras, they may feel tingling and temperature changes as well as headaches. The headaches are often associated with the 'inner vision of the single eye' which refers to the move towards higher consciousness and the death of the ego. When one is said to awaken kundalini, they begin to take on greater qualities of selflessness and compassion. 1