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A typical childhood discussion about health would usually revolve around eating right, exercise, and good hygiene. By the time I was in seventh grade, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it meant to be truly healthy: minimize fast food consumption because it makes you break out, sugar was just empty calories and made your menstrual cramps worse, alcohol is an obvious no-no, and exercise is a must to keep your body in shape– at least three to four times a week. It seemed simple enough. I navigated much of my life silently condemning myself if I didn’t stick to these guidelines and silently praising myself if I did, viewing health not as a passion but instead as an obligation or as work. It led me to develop an unhealthy relationship not only with the world of health but also with my own body. 

It wasn’t until earlier this year when I could say that I fully understood health and how it relates to me as a person. During quarantine, as many people did, I attempted to pick up new hobbies. I considered baking, learning ASL, and painting, but what proved to be the most meaningful practice for me was yoga. Starting yoga opened a portal to a world of physical and spiritual wellness that I was severely lacking in without any knowledge. I began to recognize that physical health was not only a matter of how fast you can run or how many pounds you can squat, but a matter of how comfortable you feel in your own body and how well your body performs activities that are important to you. 

Through the practice of yoga, I began to cultivate a strong and loving relationship with my body, realizing that I could do anything that I wanted if I focused and worked at it enough. It helped me not only increase my flexibility and strength, but it also helped me strengthen my mind. By realizing the satisfaction and tranquility I got from stretching, bending, and holding my body in positions that were meant to promote circulation and grounding, I realized that the mind-body connection that I had been ignoring for my entire life was a crucial aspect of my happiness. The peace that I felt in centering myself, setting intentions, and simply peeking into the symbiotic relationship between my mind and body that had been working together my entire life led me to develop a deep appreciation for my body and myself as a being. 

While a healthy diet and exercise are undeniable aspects of a healthy lifestyle, I feel as if the larger picture of holistic health is often ignored or lost in communicating the most important aspects of health. I find that having a healthy body is almost meaningless to me without a healthy spirit and a healthy mind. 

As a human health major, I continuously seek out ways to criticize the medicalization of healthcare and its denial of the human experience. After I pursue an MPH and MD, I plan on using my education and resources to promote a holistic approach to health. For now, I’m going to use my platform on Destination HealthEU to spread awareness about the things that I am most passionate about in hopes that I can shift the current discourse surrounding health.