Now while science and spirituality may not always see eye to eye, holistic treatment is now finding greater acceptance, and spirituality, among everything else, is recommended by doctors as part of the healing process.
"Spirituality as a therapeutic modality has immense potential," eminent cardiologist Ashok Seth of the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, told IANS. "Spirituality is as much about a disciplined, balanced approach to life as about pursuit of things metaphysical. In its various manifestations, for example music and prayer, spirituality has been observed to have a considerable impact in terms of preventing diseases and promoting healing," he added.
Seth's thoughts found resonance among other experts who believe that veering towards spirituality is walking towards a well-balanced, disciplined life that ultimately promotes health.
"A religious or spiritual person tends to live a disciplined life. Waking up early for prayers, which is a form of meditation that calms your mind and de-stresses you, is beneficial for one's health. Most people who call themselves religious or spiritual live healthy lives, shun alcohol and tobacco, eat simple, and are philanthropic, which are all antidotes in today's times," opined cardiologist Rakesh Sharma.
Sharma related the example of one of his patients, Saira Sheikh, who couldn't maintain a regular exercise regime and, after some discussion, decided to turn the spiritual way, and took to praying five times a day. "Praying regularly has helped me a lot. It has calmed my mind, plus, as the doctor says, it's a good exercise that I now do regularly," Sheikh said.
Mental health expert Sameer Malhotra of Max Super Speciality hospital also stressed that spirituality helps in the healing process.
"Spirituality reaffirms faith and hope and that helps in the healing process," Malhotra told IANS. "When you have hope, you have the will to get better. It improves the quality of life."
"What doctors are saying now we have known for ages," said Ranjana Das, a 50-year-old homemaker. "My sister fought breast cancer not just with medication but also with prayers. We all prayed for her together during those initial days, calling up each other to think of her every time she underwent therapy. After the initial loss of hope, she started believing that she could become better. And she did," Das added.
What all doctors, however, add is that spirituality or any other holistic treatment can only act as add-ons to the mainline allopathic treatment. "Such therapies do help, but not in lieu of allopathy," Seth said.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at email@example.com)