Perfect Health – the complete body mind guide was written by Deepak Chopra and first published in 1990. Since then it has been reprinted, revised, updated and translated into other languages and it remains popular to this day. Deepak Chopra was born in India, where he studied medicine. He moved to the USA in the 1970’s, where he undertook more medical training before working in a hospital. After coming into contact with meditation, he changed his career direction, becoming a strong advocate for alternative health. Chopra focuses on the relationship between the mind and the body, and how that influences our health.
Chopra writes that the state of perfect health is the state of wholeness. It is wholeness that leads to true healing. In his approach, which can be called mind-body medicine, he uses simple language, with reference to recent scientific research, to take you on a journey of exploration and learning. The book contains practical things that you can implement into your daily life, some with minimal fuss.
Perfect Health is based on the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda. The word “Ayurveda” is Sanskrit and can be translated as “the knowledge (or science) of life”. The core principles of Ayurveda is that there are five basic elements in the universe: fire, air, water, earth and space. Each person is made up of these five elements. There are three main mind-body types, known as doshas: Vata, Kapha and Pitta. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that the mind body and spirit are inter-connected, with each aspect influencing the other. In many Western countries, Ayurveda is classified as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Ayurveda is a personalised approach to health. It holds that ill-health and disease are due to imbalances in your own personal body type. As a system, Ayurveda promotes good health, rather than fighting disease, but you can use Ayurveda if you are ill, so that you can return to balance. Breathing is an important part of this system, so too is what you eat, sleep and “tuning in” to the messages we receive from our body.
Deepak has written many books over the years, including the titles Quantum Healing, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Ageless Body-Timeless Mind and Journey into Healing. Perfect Health is one of the many books that we have on the shelf in our retreat library. He also offers a regular meditation podcast, for you to practice meditation at home. For more information you can look at his website, which contains lots of articles, videos and more (external link to Deepaks website).
Core messages from Perfect Health
In summary, Chopra believes that by bringing the mind into balance, this balance can then be extended to the body, to create health. Meditation is one tool that is important in maintaining (or creating) balance in the mind. The book is in three parts:
Part 1 is called A place called perfect health. The first few sentences of chapter 1 sets the tone of the book: “There exists in every person a place that is free from disease, that never feels pain, that cannot age or die. When you go to this place, limitations which all of us accept cease to exist…. This is the place called perfect health”. The chapters in this first part include a description of the Ayurvedic programme, including a more detailed explanation of the doshas, with a chapter on how the doshas get out of balance and another explaining how to bring them back into balance. In chapter 2, discovering your body type, there is a quiz that you can take, containing practical questions about you, which will help you to identify your mind-body type.
In part 2, entitled The quantum mechanical human body, Chopra explores different approaches to therapy, like meditation, music and aromatherapy, and he explains how they work to bring balance back to your body. There are also chapters looking at addictions which is interesting.
Part 3 is Living in tune with nature. Chapters focus on diet, exercise and how the seasons can influence us. In the diet chapter, Chopra explains how different doshas, mind-body types need different types of food, and covers the basics of how some foods can aggravate or calm certain mind-body types. It becomes quite a personal approach to eating, so if you are interested in learning more, this is a great place to start.
The revised version includes new meditations and visualisations that you can use at home.
I first came across this book in my late 20’s, when I started to get interested in health and in particular the relationship between our mind and our health. By then, Deepak Chopra was well known and well respected world-over for his approach to health and wellness. At that point I dipped into and out of the book and did not really make an effort to apply or practice anything in there (apart from taking the quiz!). The time Perfect Health had the biggest impact on me was when I read this book from cover to cover, sat in a garden in western Australia, after giving up my stressful London job and life to go travelling for six months. Everything seemed to resonate with me and make perfect sense!
I found the quiz in chapter 2 particularly fascinating and useful. In the book I had on my bookshelf at home, I had marked in pencil my answers to each of the questions and had even added a date when I did first answered the quiz. Many years later, I re-answered the questions and it became clear where some parts of my life had gone out of balance and where other parts had become more balanced.
During my yoga training, one of our core texts was Yoga for your type. This book also offered a quiz to identify my ayurvedic “type” (individualised balance of vata-pitta-kapha). It identified the yoga asanas (and ways to practice the asanas) that were most beneficial for bringing calm, balance or to increase energy for each of the main types. Although the approach might be slightly simplistic, I found it fascinating that what I had read in Deepak Chopra´s book could be applied in my approach to yoga and my own personal practice.
Deepak Chopra does have a number of critics and if you look on the internet you will find many prominent scientists discarding his work and the Ayurvedic approach to health, as pseudo-science or gobble-de-gook. He also receives criticism for selling nutritional and herbal supplements. However, I still think his comments on health are well worth reading. If you are curious then this book is a good easy read.
Perfect Health is still in print and is available from major booksellers. You can also purchase a Kindle version or as an audio book. It has been translated into many different languages and remains popular world over. You might also find it on the shelf in your local library!
Our focus on the blog this month is creating a life that you love. I believe a central element to loving your life is to have good health, to feel balanced, centred and vibrant. Here at the retreat we provide a holistic approach to health – breath, food, exercise, rest (sleep) and in addition the life makeover workshops for our minds. Read more about our retreats here.
I hope you find this book useful in creating your own personal health and wellbeing.