Saturday, May 22, 2010

What is health?

What is health? We have asked many doctors for a definition. The usual reply is “normal, balanced function” or “freedom from disease.” When we asked what disease was, the answer came: “absence of health.” So we were back where we started. The frankest answer we ever had came from an American doctor who had practiced medicine for sixty years. To our question “Do you know what health is?” he answered without hesitation “Of course not.” We believe we are correct in stating that no medical school in the United States offers a course on health.
~Living the Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing

The Nearings wrote this in 1954 and it is still so true! While medical school has been absolutely excellent in teaching me about disease, it has taught me little about health. The Nearings are right, we should be asking what is health? 

One reason I am so drawn to yoga is because it helps answer this question. At its core, yoga is the study and practice of the essential components of health: strength, flexibility, balance, concentration, discipline, energy, vitality, community, and more.


  1. "What is health?"

    Too many doctors seem to think that good health is a quantifiable thing that must be measured in terms of blood pressure, blood glucose, blood lipid levels, etc.

    To meet their numerical goals, they often prescribe all kinds of bizarre chemicals. The result often is a patient with nice numbers, but the patient feels terrible because of all the drug side-effects.

    Let me propose a different definition: Good health is a condition that means the individual feels good and has lots of energy, without the use of unnatural chemicals.

    That probably mean a simple, natural diet, an active lifestyle ... and, yes, maybe some yoga.

  2. I totally agree with Jim Purdy. Beautifully put.