Barbara Tedlock Author of THE WOMAN IN A SHAMAN'S BODY03/06/06
Americans are incorporating alternative therapies and medicines into their lives more than ever before. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, 36% of adults in the U.S. are using some form of alternative medicine. When megavitamin therapy and prayer specifically for health reasons are included, that number rises to 62%. "Weâ€™re in a major change moment," says Barbara Tedlock, Ph. D., a noted anthropologist and author of the new book The Woman in the Shamanâ€™s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine. "Beliefs and spirituality are coming back into medicine."
"Some doctors are prescribing patients yoga training and acupuncture," continues Tedlock, a distinguished University of Buffalo anthropology professor, whoâ€™s a fully initiated shaman. "Iâ€™m excited that weâ€™re seeing a major shift of our regular Western paradigm. Weâ€™re in a moment where this whole thing is breaking into the mainstream. Americans are extremely pragmatic. If something works, weâ€™ll do it. Well, guess what? Itâ€™s working."
While many people are still just beginning to explore and benefit from alternative healing practices, Tedlock has long known of their tremendous power. As a child in the late 1950â€™s, she was stricken with polio. The entire left side of her body was paralyzed. Doctors put the four-year-old Tedlock into a tank respirator, better known as an iron lung. She was confined to the immobilizing metal machine for a year-and-a-half.
It wasnâ€™t until her grandmother, a shaman, herbalist and midwife, talked her parents into releasing her from the hospital that she got better. A still ailing Tedlock was brought home to a difficult regimen of daily swims and sweat baths that were intended to awaken the muscles. Her grandmother complemented that treatment by massaging her with ointments made from various healing herbs.