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Concerns with Alternative Medicine- Defining 'Confirmation Bias'


Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

For a while now, I have been quite hesitant to write this blog post as I have met some amazing people doing the work that I do and being apart of the holistic health community--in part, I was thinking, "Maybe I shouldn't rock the boat and just let people do what they want." As people of my generation (the millennial generation) say, "You do you, boo."

Growing unsatisfied with this, I have decided to speak out publicly about my concerns with alternative medicine.

Within the last year, I have spent a significant amount of time doing research on all things related to alternative medicine; given that I had a lot of down time for healing and regaining my energy after being diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency.

In this time, I slowly began to confront some of the conflicting beliefs in relation to science that is so prevalent in the yoga/holistic health community.

Given my years of teaching yoga and being part of the yoga community, questionable beliefs are part of the norm. From a wide array of beliefs such as twisting postures ‘ring out toxins’ in the body, to extreme dietary restrictions, to the idea that all things 'natural/organic' are better for our health, and everything else in-between.

As of the last year, I have been very open with friends and family on my changing views; though professionally not so much.

This blog post is an attempt to bridge that gap and start a conversation.

With the extensive amount of research I have done in the last year, I feel obligated to educate the public and get this information out there.

With this intention in mind, I'll start by discussing the concept of confirmation bias.

The truth is, we as human beings are all susceptible to this.

Let me explain.

Scientific research in both the fields of Neuroscience and Psychology tell us that we often base our beliefs off of how something feels. When we are presented with evidence that is contrary to our beliefs, it doesn’t feel good and thus we disregard that evidence completely—this is known as confirmation bias--we only take-in information that confirms our already existing beliefs.

What I am saying is this...as human beings, we are susceptible to basing our beliefs off of how something feels rather than basing our beliefs off of empirical evidence/logic/science.

It is easier for our brain to reason emotionally speaking than logically speaking.

The most dangerous part of confirmation bias is that when the emotional part of the brain known as the limbic system is active, logic/critical-thinking centers of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex have reduced activity. Therefore, when we take-in information that only confirms our existing beliefs we have a decreased capacity to think about those beliefs in a logical/critical way.

This explains why many people’s beliefs go unquestioned.

Thus, confronting our hardwired beliefs is not easy and is a very uncomfortable process.

Through this process of questioning, I critically evaluated my own beliefs/biases by using my yoga practice to help work through much of the discomfort I was feeling on a somatic level.

One of the most interesting conclusions that came out of me addressing this discomfort was the acknowledgement that:

Yoga and science ask the same fundamental question and wish to achieve the same goal.

This question is…

What is the truth? Or, how close can we get to the truth?

It’s that simple--both systems of yoga and science allow us to explore these questions.

Yoga provides us the techniques to explore this question in an internal/spiritual way and science provides us the techniques to explore this question in an external/empirical way.

This question (What is the truth?), set the precedent for my deeper unbiased exploration of alternative medicine.

For those of you questioning many of the trends in the wellness/alternative medicine world, I encourage you to keep questioning, keep thinking critically, and keep searching for answers from reputable sources. In doing this, you are confronting your own confirmation bias--cheers to you!


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