Practice what you preach (Walk Your Talk)

Krystal Plonski, Bastyr student, shares her journey as a naturopathic medical student on the path to becoming an ND.

I have been in Naturopathic medical school for 4 years now, and during those 4 full years, I have not had the opportunity to take a vacation during any break between quarters. But, this spring break, I decided to make a much-needed exception.

My significant other and I decided to attend a yoga retreat in Mexico, located 30 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta, accessible only by panga, in the state of Jalisco. Frequently on this retreat, I found myself tying the Naturopathic Therapeutic Order into activities that we were participating in:

(1) Re-establish the basis for health. Through removing the obstacles to cure (a stressful school/work environment, removing air pollutants, drinking enough water and less coffee, eating clean, nutritious, food, moving my body more, and taking full, deep breaths), a healthier lifestyle had the opportunity to be achieved. This sense of health awareness occurred, for both travelers, the second that we stepped onto the plane, beginning our trip.

(2) Stimulate the Vis. Daily meditation and yoga was a major player in this step of the therapeutic order. I would consider myself neither a regular meditator nor a yogi, but I do enjoy practicing every now and then during the week. I found myself really enjoying practice of both activities first thing in the morning, as a gentle way to start the day and feel rejuvinated. I found myself being able to connect more with my breath, my heartbeat, other aspects of my body and awareness, in turn.
An additional way in which our Vis was stimulated was through the food of the retreat: locally caught, organic, and fresh food was served to us daily, as well as a fresh juice at all meals. The interesting part of all of the meals was the fact that it was sans gluten the entire length of the retreat (which may or may not have seriously stimulated the inspiration to re-evaluate my diet). I literally felt like a new person from eating my meals in a relaxed environment and having them prepared by a chef who was extremely passionate about what he did for a living, contrasted heavily from my normal breakfasts in the car to school, or dinners eaten in front of may many books, usually at my desk.

(3) Tonify Weakened Systems. Many different aspects of tonifying certain organ systems can be included under this title, including: breath, rest, recreation, stretching, homeopathy, counseling, art, prayer, laughter, play, exercise, and sleep. One aspect of tonifying weakened systems that stood out to me on this trip included the concept of play - within the sense of the word that includes the company of another, and feeling free, all at the same time.
Additionally, one of the nights of our trip, a yoga group from Seattle, WA (who just happened to be at the yoga retreat at the same time), invited us to join them for a community building exercise, which included discussion of the second chakra, journaling, and the true meanings of “freedom” and “going with the flow.” One would argue that this emotional sense of “freedom” and emotions surrounding this concept – whether regarding friendships, relationships, or even health, could also be considered under this third heading of tonifying weakened systems within the therapeutic order.

(4) Correct Structural Integrity. Our experience through correcting structural integrity mainly resided within our daily yoga, but also extended to a local hike that we signed up for, with one of our staff-friends at the retreat. He showed us the surrounding towns, beautiful mountainsides, and waterfalls of the surrounding areas, as well as introducing us to his neighbor friends. Maintaining awareness of posture and alignment was one of the most important things that I experienced during the exercise portion of our trip, contrary to my normal “hunched-over-the-computer” position most hours of the day.

So what did I learn from this trip? (Besides the fact that I'd really like to have a personal chef? Ha, kidding – but only to an extent.) As I have learned earlier within the Naturopathic medical program, an important point to emphasize is self-care. Self-care regarding total health: mind, body, and emotions. Like many patients that I have seen in the teaching clinic, I constantly find it a struggle to take care of myself during this stressful process. It is easy to succumb to the pressures of school, work, and relationships, and completely feel in over my head, without seeing an easy way out.

It was important to me to take the time for myself and reconnect. Reconnect with the status of my own health, reconnect with my body, and reconnect with my awareness – in a way that I can be an example to my future patients and look them in the eye and truly mean the words, “I know how you feel.” I know what it is like to be stressed and feel overwhelmed, and put my needs to the sideline. Now, the only challenge is being able to cultivate that same type of lifestyle within an everyday life – which is a puzzle I am eager to figure out.