The art and science of Yoga is first and foremost a Moksha Shastra meant to facilitate the attainment of the final freedom, liberation or emancipation of Kaivalya. However one of the important by-products of the Yogic way of living is attainment of health and wellbeing. This is brought about by right-use-ness of the body, emotions and mind with awareness and consciousness. This must be understood to be as healthy a dynamic state that may be attained inspite of the individual’s Sabija Karma that manifests as their genetic predispositions and the environment into which they are born. Yoga also helps us to maintain and sustain this dynamic state of health after it has been attained though disciplined self effort and conscious awareness of life itself.
Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj, the visionary founder of Ananda Ashram at the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER) in Pondicherry and one of the foremost authorities on Yoga in the past century, has explained the concept of Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga as a therapy) in the following lucid manner. “Yoga Chikitsa is virtually as old as Yoga itself, indeed, the ‘return of mind that feels separated from the Universe in which it exists’ represents the first Yoga therapy. Yoga Chikitsa could be termed as “man’s first attempt at unitive understanding of mind-emotions-physical distress and is the oldest wholistic concept and therapy in the world.
To achieve this Yogic integration at all levels of our being, it is essential that we take into consideration the all encompassing multi dimensional aspects of Yoga that include the following: a healthy life nourishing diet, a healthy and natural environment, a wholistic lifestyle, adequate bodywork through Asanas, Mudras and Kriyas, invigorating breath work through the use of Pranayama and the production of a healthy thought process through the higher practices of Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.
Yogi Swatmarama in the Hathayoga Pradipika, one of the classical Yoga texts gives us the assurance, “One who tirelessly practises Yoga attains success irrespective of whether they are young, old decrepit, diseased or weak”. He gives us the guarantee that Yoga improves health of all alike and wards off disease, provided we properly abide by the rules and regulations (yuvaa vrddho ativriddho vaa vyaadhito durbalo pi vaa abhyaasaat siddhimaapnoti sarvayogeshvatandritah-Hathayoga Pradipika I:64).
YOGIC PERSPECTIVE ON HEALTH:
Yoga aims to enable the individual to attain and maintain a dynamic sukha sthanam that may be defined as a dynamic sense of physical, mental and spiritual well being. The Bhagavad Gita defines Yoga as samatvam meaning thereby that Yoga is equanimity at all levels (yogasthah kurukarmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya siddiyasidhyoh samobutva samatvam yoga uchyate – Bhagavad Gita II: 48). This may be also understood as a perfect state of health wherein physical homeostasis and mental equanimity occur in a balanced and healthy harmony.
Yoga understands health and well being as a dynamic continuum of human nature and not a mere ‘state’ to be attained and maintained. The lowest point on the continuum with the lowest speed of vibration is that of death whereas the highest point with the highest vibration is that of immortality. In between these two extremes lie the states of normal health and disease. For many, their state of health is defined as that ‘state’ in which they are able to function without hindrance whereas in reality, health is part of our evolutionary process towards Divinity. The lowest point on the dynamic health continuum with lowest speed of vibration may be equated with lowest forms of life and mineral matter while the highest point with highest speed of vibration may be equated with Divinity.
Structural aspects of the human being: Yoga considers that we are not just the physical body but are of a multifold universal nature. Concepts of pancha kosha (fivefold aspects of our existence) and trisharira (threefold aspect of our bodily nature) help us understand our multi-dimensional real nature where health and result from a dynamic interaction at all levels of existence. At the level of the gross body, Yoga and Ayurveda consider that the human body is made up of seven substances. These sapta dhatus are rasa (chyle), rakta (blood), maamsa (flesh), medas (adipose), asthi (bone), majjaa (marrow) and sukra (semen). Both these ancient health sciences understand importance of tridosha (three humors) whose balance is vital for good health. Health is further also understood as harmony of prana vayus (major energies of physiological function), upa prana vayus (minor energies of physiological function) and stability of nadis (subtle energy channels) with proper function of all chakras (major energy centres that may be correlated to the psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine axis).
Tridoshas and health: The tridosha theory of health and disease that developed during the late Vedic period (circa 1500-800 BC) is common to virtually all Indian systems of medicine. Tridosha concept has correlation with pancha mahabhutas (elements of the manifest universe) as well as triguna (inherent qualities of nature). Health is understood to be the balanced harmony of the three humours in accordance with individual predisposition while disease results from an imbalanced disharmony.
Qualities of physical health according to Yoga: The Yogic view of health is exemplified in Shvetaasvatara Upanishad where it is said that the first signs of entering Yoga are lightness of body, health, thirstlessness of mind, clearness of complexion, a beautiful voice, an agreeable odour and scantiness of excretions (laghutvam arogyam alolupatvam varnaprasadam svara sausthavam ca ganghas subho mootra pureesam Yoga pravrittim prathamam vadanti- Shvetaasvatara Upanishad: II-13).
The Hathayoga Pradipika echoes these qualities when Yogi Svatmarama says, “Slimness of body, lustre on face, clarity of voice, brightness of eyes, freedom from disease, control over seminal ejaculation, stimulation of gastric heat and purification of subtle energy channels are marks of success in Hathayoga” (vapuh krsatvam vadane prasannataa naadasputatvam nayane sunirmale arogataa bindujayogni diipanam naadiivishuddhir hatha siddhi lakshanam- Hathayoga Pradipika II-78).
In the Patanjala Yoga Darshan we find an excellent description of the attributes of bodily perfection (kaya sampat). It is said in Vibhuti Pada that perfection of body includes beauty, gracefulness, strength, and adamantine hardness (rupa lavanya bala vajra samhanana kaya sampat-Yoga Darshan III: 47). The effulgence that is characteristic of good health is also mentioned when it is said that deep concentration on samana (energy of digestion) leads to radiant effulgence (samana jayat jvalanam -Yoga Darshan III: 41).
Qualities of mental health according to Yoga: Yoga not only considers physical health but also more importantly mental health. Qualities of a mentally healthy person (stitha prajna) are enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita as follows:
• Beyond passion, fear and anger (veeta raga bhaya krodhah-BG II.56)
• Devoid of possessiveness and egoism (nirmamo nirahamkarah- BG -II.7)
• Firm in understanding and unbewildered (sthira buddhir asammudhah-BG - V.20)
• Engaged in doing good to all creatures (sarva bhutahiteratah- BG V.25)
• Friendly and compassionate to all ( maitrah karuna eva ca- BG XII.13)
• Pure hearted and skilful without expectation (anapekshah sucir daksah- BG XII.16)
The central theme of Yoga is the golden mean, finding the middle path, a constant search for moderation and a harmonious homoeostatic balance. Yoga is the “unitive impulse” of life, which always seeks to unite diverse streams into a single powerful force. Proper practice produces an inner balance of mind that remains stable and serene even in the midst of chaos. This ancient science shows its adherents a clear path to the “eye of the storm” and ensures a stability that endures within, even as the cyclone rages externally.
Qualities of spiritual health according to Yoga: The Bhagavad Gita delineates qualities of a spiritually healthy person in verses 1, 2 and 3 of chapter XVI. These include: fearlessness (abhayam), purity of inner being (sattva samshuddhih), steadfastness in the path of knowledge (jnanayoga vyavasthitih), charity (danam), self control (dama), spirit of sacrifice (yajna), self analysis (svadhyaya), disciplined life (tapa), uprightness (arjavam), non violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satyam), freedom from anger (akrodhah), spirit of renunciation (tyagah), tranquility (shanti), aversion to defamation (apaishunam), compassion to all living creatures (daya bhutesv), non covetedness (aloluptvam), gentleness (maardavam), modesty (hrir acaapalam), vigour (tejah), forgiveness (kshama), fortitude (dhritih), cleanliness of body and mind (saucam), freedom from malice (adroho), and absence of pride (naa timaanita).
Relationship between food and health: Yoga emphasizes the importance of not only eating the right type of food but also the right amount and with the right attitude. Importance of not eating alone, as well as preparation and serving of food with love are brought out in the Yogic scheme of right living. Guna (inherent nature) of food is taken into consideration to attain and maintain good health. Modern dietary science of diet can learn a lot from this ancient concept of classification of food according to inherent nature as it is a totally neglected aspect of modern diet. The great Tamil poet-saint Tiruvalluvar offers sane advice on right eating when he says, “He who eats after the previous meal has been digested, needs not any medicine.” (marunthuena vaendaavaam yaakkaikku arundiyathu atrathu poatri unnin-Tirukkural 942). He also says that life in the body becomes a pleasure if we eat food to digestive measure (attraal alavuarinthu unga aghduudambu pettraan nedithu uikkum aaru-Tirukkural 943). He also invokes the Yogic concept of Mitahara by advising that “eating medium quantity of agreeable foods produces health and wellbeing” (maarupaaduillaatha undi marutthuunnin oorupaadu illai uyirkku -Tirukkural 943).
YOGIC METHODS TO ATTAIN AND MAINTAIN HEALTH:
The science of Yoga has numerous practical techniques as well as advice for proper life style in order to attain and maintain health and well being. Bahiranga practices such as yama, niyama, asana and pranayama help produce physical health while antaranga practices of dharana and dhyana work on producing mental health along with pratyahara. A detailed description of these techniques and their benefits on health is beyond the preview of this chapter but it will suffice to say here that Yoga works towards restoration of normalcy in all systems of the human body with special emphasis on the psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine axis.
In addition to its preventive and restorative capabilities, Yoga also aims at promoting positive health that will help us to tide over health challenges that occur during our lifetime. Just as we save money in a bank to tide over financial crises, so also we can build up our positive health balance to help us manage unforeseen health challenges with faster recovery and recuperation. This concept of positive health is one of Yoga’s unique contributions to modern healthcare as Yoga has both a preventive as well as promotive role in the healthcare of our masses. It is also inexpensive and can be used in tandem with other systems of medicine in an integrated manner to benefit patients.
In the Gheranda Samhita, a classical treatise on Hathayoga, the human body is likened to an unbaked clay pot that is incapable of holding the contents and dissolves when faced with the challenge of water. It is only through intense heat generated by practice of Yoga that the human body gets baked, making it fit to hold the Divine Spirit (aama kumbha ivaambhastho jeeryamanah sada gatah yoganalena samdahya ghata shuddhim samacaret- Gheranda Samhita I:8).
Tirumoolar has given numerous references to therapeutic benefits of Yoga for attaining and maintaining health in his monumental Tirumandiram. He emphasizes Swara Yoga concepts when he says, “If breath flow dominates in left nostril on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays no bodily harm can occur” (velliven thingal vilangum budanmoondrun thalli idatthe tayangume yaamaagil olliya kaayatthuk koona milaiyendru- Tirumandiram 791). He has further described the human body as the temple of the divine and stresses on the proper preservation of the body with reverence and care. (udambinai munnam izhukken drirunden udambinuk kulle yuruporul kanden udambule uttaman koilkon daan endru udambinai yaanirun thombugin drene –Tirumandiram 725). He has emphasized purification of internal organs to attain an imperishable body with perfect health (chuzhattrik kodukkave chuttik kazhiyunj chuzhattri malatthaik kamalatthaip poorithu uzhattrik kodukkum ubayam arivaarkku azhattrith thavirththudal anjana mame- Tirumandiram 726).
According to Swami Kuvalayananda, founder of Kaivalyadhama, one of the oldest Yoga institutes in India, positive health does not mean mere freedom from disease but is a jubilant and energetic way of living and feeling that is the peak state of well being at all levels – physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. He says that one of the aims of Yoga is to encourage positive hygiene and health through development of inner natural powers of body and mind. In doing so, Yoga gives special attention to various eliminative processes and reconditions inherent powers of adaptation and adjustment of body and mind. Thus, the development of positive powers of adaptation and adjustment, inherent to the internal environment of man, helps him enjoy positive health and not just mere freedom from disease. He emphasizes that Yoga produces nadi shuddhi (purification of all channels of communication) and mala shuddhi (eradication of factors that disturb balanced working of body and mind).
According to Swami Kuvalayananda, Yoga helps cultivation of positive health through three integral steps:
1. Cultivation of correct psychological attitudes (maitri, karuna, mudita and upekshanam towards those who are suka, duhkha, punya and apunya),
2. Reconditioning of neuro-muscular and neuro-glandular system – in fact, the whole body – enabling it to withstand stress and strain better,
3. Laying great emphasis on appropriate diet conducive to such a peak state of health, and encouraging the natural processes of elimination through various processes of nadi shuddhi or mala shuddhi.
According to Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, Director ICYER at Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, Yoga has a step-by-step method for producing and maintaining perfect health at all levels of existence. She explains that social behaviour is first optimized through an understanding and control of the lower animal nature (pancha yama) and development and enhancement of the higher humane nature (pancha niyama). The body is then strengthened, disciplined, purified, sensitized, lightened, energized and made obedient to the higher will through asana. Universal pranic energy that flows through body-mind-emotions-spirit continuum is intensified and controlled through pranayama using breath control as a method to attain controlled expansion of the vital cosmic energy. The externally oriented senses are explored, refined, sharpened and made acute, until finally the individual can detach themselves from sensory impressions at will through pratyahara. The restless mind is then purified, cleansed, focused and strengthened through concentration (dharana). If these six steps are thoroughly understood and practiced then the seventh, dhyana or meditation (a state of union of the mind with the object of contemplation) is possible. Intense meditation produces samadhi, or the enstatic feeling of Union, Oneness with the Universe. This is the perfect state of integration or harmonious health.
YOGIC CONCEPTS OF DISEASE:
Vyadhi (disease) is considered one of the nine obstacles (antaraya) to integrative oneness of Yoga (samadhi) according to Maharishi Patanjali (Yoga Darshan I: 30). Patanjali also enumerates manifest symptoms such as duhkha (mental or physical pain), daurmanasya (sadness or dejection), angamejayatva (anxious tremor) and shvasa prashvasah (respiratory irregularities) as concomitant expressions of mental disturbances (Yoga Darshan I: 31). These antaraya are one of the major causes of disintegration (vyadhi) according to the late Dr ML Gharote, an eminent Yoga expert of Kaivalyadhama. He has described samadhi as the ideal state of health which is disturbed by the chitta vikshepa (disturbances in mind) due to the kleshas and antarayas. He has further also stated that mind is responsible for bondage and liberation as well as happiness and unhappiness. According to him the purpose of Yoga is to lessen the impact of these factors (klesha tanukaranam) and promote the state of integration (samadhi bhavanam). Maharishi Patanjali gives us a clue to control the mental agitation by advising us to concentrate on slow and deep flow of respiration to still the mind (prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranasya - Yoga Darshan I: 34). He also advises concentration on a painless inner state of luminosity to produce stability and tranquility (vishokava jyotishmati- Yoga Darshan I.36).
Patanjali has also explained the primary causation of stress based disorders through concept of pancha klesha (psychological afflictions). These are avidya (ignorance of the ultimate reality leading to bodily identification), asmita (a false sense of identification), raga-dwesha (addiction and aversion), abhinivesha (clinging on to life for fear of death), (avidya asmita raga dwesha abhinivesha kleshah -Yoga Darshan II: 3). Avidya as the root cause enables other kleshas to manifest in different forms from time to time. They may be dormant, attenuated, manifest or overpowering in their causation of pain and suffering. (avidya kshetram uttaresham prasupta tanu vicchinna udaranam- Yoga Darshan II: 4).
As a proponent of preventive medicine, he advises us to prevent that which can be prevented so as to avoid future pain and suffering (heyam duhkham anagatam -Yoga Darshan II: 16). This helps us to understand that disease is not something to be feared but is an indicator of where we have been erroneous in our lifestyle, thinking pattern or diet. When this is done with awareness and conscious self analysis is made, it can become an impetus for healthy change putting us back on the right track to a happier and healthier life. Suffering or duhkha can be a dynamic springboard in our evolution if we have the right attitude towards it and don’t wallow in self pity. Yoga helps train our whole process of thinking thus creating right attitudes for evolutionary growth, every moment of our life.
The Yogic concept of health and disease enables us to understand that the cause of physical disorders stems from the seed in the mind and beyond. Adhi (the disturbed mind) is the cause and vyadhi (the physical disease) only the manifest effect in the Yogic scheme of things. By paying careful attention to personal history, one can nearly always trace origins of psychosomatic disease back to patterns of mental and emotional pressures.
From the Yogic viewpoint of disease it can be seen that psychosomatic, stress related disorders appear to progress through four distinct phases. These can be understood as follows:
1. Psychic Phase: This phase is marked by mild but persistent psychological and behavioural symptoms of stress like irritability, disturbed sleep and other minor symptoms. This phase can be correlated with vijnanamaya and manomaya koshas. Yoga as a therapy is very effective in this phase.
2. Psychosomatic Phase: If the stress continues there is an increase in symptoms, along with the appearance of generalized physiological symptoms such as occasional hypertension and tremors. This phase can be correlated with manomaya and pranamaya koshas. Yoga as a therapy is very effective in this phase
3. Somatic Phase: This phase is marked by disturbed function of organs, particularly the target, or involved organ. At this stage one begins to identify the diseased state. This phase can be correlated with pranamaya and annamaya koshas. Yoga as a therapy is less effective in this phase and may need to be used in conjunction with other methods of treatment.
4. Organic Phase: This phase is marked by full manifestation of the diseased state, with pathological changes such as an ulcerated stomach or chronic hypertension, becoming manifest in their totality with their resultant complications. This phase can be correlated with the annamaya kosha as the disease has become fixed in the physical body. Yoga as a therapy has a palliative and quality of life improving effect in this phase. It does also produce positive emotional and psychological effects even in terminal and end of life situations.
Often, however, the early stages of the disease process are overlooked and the final stage is seen as an entity unto itself, having little relationship to one’s living habits and patterns. This is because modern medicine only looks at the physical aspects and neglects effects of pancha kosha and trisharira on health and disease.
One of the major Indian concepts of disease causation is the imbalances of tridosha. This is found in numerous classical texts of Yoga and Ayurveda like Shiva Swarodaya, Sushruta Samhita, Charaka Samhita and Tirumandiram. According to the Dravidian poet-saint Tiruvalluvar, disease results from tridosha imbalance (miginum kuraiyinum noiseyyum noolor valimudhalaa enniya moondru -Tirukkural 941). Vata is the energy of the body that moves like the wind and causes flow in the body. It may be related to the nervous system as well as joints that enable us to move. Pitta is related to bilious secretion and is the cause of heat in the body. It is the energy of catabolism that is essential for digestion. Kapha is the glue that holds everything together and is the energy of anabolism helping generative and regenerative processes. According to Mark Halpern, Founder-Director, California College of Ayurveda, USA the tridosha fluctuate constantly. As they move out of balance, they affect particular areas of our bodies in characteristic ways. When vata is out of balance—typically in excess—we are prone to diseases of the large intestines, like constipation and gas, along with diseases of nervous system, immune system, and joints. When pitta is in excess, we are prone to diseases of the small intestines, like diarrhoea, along with diseases of the liver, spleen, thyroid, blood, skin, and eyes. When kapha is in excess, we are prone to diseases of the stomach and lungs, most notably mucous conditions, along with diseases of water metabolism, such as swelling.
Yoga Vashista, a classical Yoga text describes causation and manifestation of disease in an admirable manner. It describes both psychosomatic as well as non-psychosomatic ailments. It attributes all psychic disturbances and physical ailments to the fivefold elements namely the pancha mahabhuta in a manner similar to other systems of Indian medicine. Samanya adhija vyadhi are described as those arising from day-to-day causes while sara adhija vyadhi is the essential disease of being caught in the birth –rebirth cycle that can be understood in modern terms as congenital diseases. The former can be corrected by day-to-day remedial measures such as medicines and surgery whereas the sara adhija vyadhi doesn’t cease until knowledge of the self (atma jnana) is attained. The Guru Stotra from the Vishvasaaraatantra also takes a similar line in saying that the ultimate ‘wisdom of the self’ gained through the Guru destroys karmic bondages from many births (anekajanma samprapta karma bandha vidhahine atmajnana pradanena tasmai srigurave namah-Guru Stotra, verse 9). It is interesting to note that traditional Indian thought views the very occurrence of birth on this planet as a disease and a source of suffering! Tiruvalluvar reiterates this when he says, “It is knowledge of the ultimate truth that removes the folly of birth” (pirappu ennum pedaimai neenga chirappu ennum chem porul kaanbadhu arivu- Tirukkural 358)
Yoga understands that physical ailments that are not of a psychosomatic nature can be easily managed with surgery, medication, prayers, douches and lifestyle modifications as required. Various Yoga techniques may also be used to help correct the physical ailments and restore health with regeneration, recuperation and rehabilitation as necessary. Accident prevention is an important benefit of a Yoga life, for better alertness, reflexes and physical condition enables one to prevent accidents as well as avoid getting traumatized both physically and mentally by such occurrences.
Yoga Vashista gives an elaborate description of the mechanism by which psychosomatic disorders occur. Mental confusion leads to agitation of prana (life force) and haphazard flow along nadis resulting in depletion of energy and / or clogging up of these channels of vital energy. This leads to disturbance in the physical body with disturbances of metabolism, excessive appetite and improper functioning of the entire digestive system. Natural movement of food through the digestive tract is arrested giving rise to numerous physical ailments. We need to remember that this text is many thousands of years old whereas the concept of psychosomatic disorders in modern medicine has only been realized and accepted in recent times. Our ancients had great inner vision and it is up to us to realize their dreams and understand the great message they have left for humanity.
According to Shivaswarodaya, a classical text on Swara Yoga, disease develops when swara (smooth and regular air flow) in the nostrils do not adhere to their fixed timings and days. Normally swara flows in the nostrils in a certain pattern according to phases of the lunar cycle. It is also said that in case a disease develops due to erroneous functioning of swara, then a correction of that malfunctioning can cure that disease. The use of different techniques is also advocated for changing swara to relive various disorders.
Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri, founder of Ananda Ashram at Pondicherry has written extensively about the relationship between health and disease. He says, “Yoga views the vast proliferation of psychosomatic diseases as a natural outcome of stress and strain created by desire fostered by modern propaganda and abuse of the body condoned on all sides even by religion, science and philosophy. Add to this the synthetic “junk food” diet of modern society and you have the possibility of endless disorders developing…even the extinction of man by his own ignorance and misdeeds”.
He explains the root cause of disease as follows. “Yoga, a wholistic, unified concept of oneness, is adwaitam or non-dual in nature. It suggests happiness, harmony and ease. Dis-ease is created when duality or dwaitam arises in the human mind. This false concept of duality has produced all conflicts of human mind and the vast list of human disorders. Duality (dis-ease) is the primary cause of man’s downfall. Yoga helps return man to his pristine, whole nature. All diseases, maladies, tensions, are manifestations of divisions of what should be man’s complete nature, the atman or ‘Self’. This ‘Self’ is “ease”. A loss of “ease” creates “dis-ease”. Duality is the first insanity, the first disease, the unreasonable thought that “I am different from the whole…. I am unique. I am me.” The ego is a manifestation of disease. Only a distorted ego could feel alone, suffer from “the lonely disease”, in a Universe, a Cosmos totally filled with the ‘Self’. It is interesting that the one of the oldest words for man is “insan”. Man is “insane”. A return to sanity, “going sane,” is the subject of real Yoga sadhana and Yoga abhyasa. Yoga chikitsa is one of the methods to help insane man back onto the path of sanity. A healthy man or woman may be known by the term-Yogi”. A very strongly worded yet very true statement indeed from the Lion of Pondicherry!
APPLICATION OF YOGA AS A THERAPY:
The Tridosha theory of health and disease that developed during the late Vedic period is common to virtually all traditional Indian systems of medicine. Health is understood to be the balanced harmony of the three humours in accordance with individual predisposition while disease results from an imbalanced disharmony. Tirumandiram of Tirumoolar, the 3000 versed Tamil treatise by the Dravidian saint has prescribed the practice of Yoga at different times of day to relieve disorders arising from Tridosha imbalances. According to him, practice of Yoga at dusk relieves Kapha, practice at noon relieves Vata and practice in morning relieves Pitta disorders (anjanam pondruda laiyaru mandiyile vanjaga vatha marumaddi yaanatthir senjiru kaalaiyir seithidir pittarum nanjara sonnom naraithirai naasame –Tirumandiram 727).
To live a healthy life it is important to do healthy things and follow a healthy lifestyle. The modern world is facing a pandemic of lifestyle disorders that require changes to be made consciously by individuals themselves. Yoga places great importance on a proper and healthy lifestyle whose main components are:
1. Achar –Yoga stresses the importance of healthy activities such as exercise and recommends Asana, Pranayama and Kriyas on a regular basis. Cardio-respiratory health is one of the main by-products of such healthy activities.
2. Vichar –Right thoughts and right attitude towards life is vital for well being. A balanced state of mind is obtained by following the moral restraints and ethical observances (Yama-Niyama). As Mahatma Gandhi said, “there is enough in this world for everyone’s need but not enough for any one person’s greed”.
3. Ahar – Yoga emphasises need for a healthy, nourishing diet that has an adequate intake of fresh water along with a well balanced intake of fresh food, green salads, sprouts, unrefined cereals and fresh fruits. It is important to be aware of the need for a Satwic diet, prepared and served with love and affection.
4. Vihar – Proper recreational activities to relax body and mind are essential for good health. This includes proper relaxation, maintaining quietude of action-speech-thoughts and group activities wherein one loses the sense of individuality. Karma Yoga is an excellent method for losing the sense of individuality and gaining a sense of universality.
5. Vyavahar – Healthy relationships that enable health and wellness to manifest through positive peer support groups and satsangha.
The application of Yoga as a therapy can be correlated with the Pancha Koshas (the five aspects of our existence) and various Yoga practices may be used as therapeutic interventions at different levels in this respect.
• At the Annamaya Kosha (anatomical level of existence) Jattis (simple units of movements), Mudras (gestures for energy generation and conservation), Kriyas (structured movements), Asanas (steady and comfortable postures) along with the dietary modifications are useful.
• At the Pranamaya Kosha (physiological level of existence) Shat Karmas (cleansing actions), various Pranayamas, development of breath awareness and working on breath-movement coordination with emphasis on balancing Pranic energy is to be done. Work on reenergizing and integrating the energies of the Pancha Prana and Upa Prana Vayus needs to be done at this level.
• At the Manomaya Kosha (psychological level of existence) there are numerous practices such as Trataka (concentrated gaze), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Japa and Japa-Ajapa practices that are useful. Various aspects of concentration such as the Mandala Dharana and other Yoga Drishti techniques are also available in the Gitananda tradition for this purpose. An awareness of all aspects of the Antah Karanas needs to be developed at this level.
• When trying to deal with the Vijnanamaya Kosha (intellectual level of existence) Swadhyaya (self analysis), Satsangha (lectures and spiritually uplifting exchange) along with the wonderful Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga relaxation and concentration practices of Yoga are useful. We must remember that according to Swamiji, we thankfully cannot disturb the Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya Koshas! However what can happen is that we get the other three bodies out of sync with the higher two and so suffer consequences of such ignorant actions.
• To understand and work with the Anandamaya Kosha (our universal level of existence) it is important to loose sense of the limited individuality. Learning to implement principles of Karma Yoga (Yoga as skilled action performed without expectation) and following the principle of action in relaxation help us to achieve a sense of joy in all activities. A realization that we live in a blissful universe and that all life is joy is to be brought about in this intervention through use of Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and other aspects like Bhajana,
Yogic counselling and Satsangha
Yoga is basically a preventive life-science and hence Yogic counselling is a vital component of Yoga Chikitsa when dealing with all lifestyle disorders. The counselling process is not a ‘one off’ matter but is a continuous process that starts from the very first visit and continues with every session at different levels. Helping the patients understand their condition, finding the root cause of the problem and creating a healthy opportunity for them to change themselves, is the Dharma of the therapist. My beloved Ammaji (Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani) has defined Dharma as doing the right thing for the right person at the right place and at the right time in the right manner. It may take many months before we start to witness benefits of these Yogic lifestyle changes and Yoga Chikitsa practices. We must continue to motivate the patient (and ourselves too!) to keep up their (our) efforts without allowing any slackening to occur.
PRINCIPLES OF YOGA CHIKITSA:
When we set out to practice Yoga Chikitsa it is vital that we are conversant with important principles of this unique system of healthy living. One of the outcomes of Yoga practice is attainment of health. This implies as healthy a state that may be attained in spite of our Sabija Karma that manifests in this lifetime as our genetic predispositions and the environment we are born into. Yoga also helps maintain and sustain this dynamic state of health after it has been attained though self effort. We must not however forget that it is often actually more challenging to maintain this state than to attain it in the first place. Ask any World No.1 Sports Champion and they will testify to this inherent truth that applies to sports as well as to life itself.
1. BECOME AWARE OF YOUR BODY, EMOTIONS AND MIND: Without awareness there cannot be health or healing. Awareness of body implies conscious body work that needs to be synchronized with breath to qualify as a psychosomatic technique of health and healing. Psychosomatic disorders that are the bane of the modern world cannot be tackled without awareness.
2. IMPROVE YOUR DIETARY HABITS: Most disorders are directly or indirectly linked to improper dietary patterns that need to be addressed in order to find a permanent solution to the health challenge. One of the most important lifestyle changes that needs be implemented in management of any lifestyle disorder is diet.
3. RELAX YOUR WHOLE BODY: Relaxation is most often all that most patients need in order to improve their physical condition. Stress is the major culprit and may be the causative, aggravating, or precipitating factor in so many psychosomatic disorders. Doctors are often found telling their patients to relax, but never tell them how to do it! The relaxation part of every Yoga session is most important for it is during it that benefits of practices done in the session seep into each and every cell producing rest, rejuvenation, reinvigoration and reintegration.
4. SLOW DOWN YOUR BREATH MAKING IT QUIET AND DEEP: Rapid, uncontrolled, irregular breathing is a sign of ill health whereas slow, deep and regular controlled breathing is a sign of health. Breath is the link between body and mind and is the agent of physical, physiological and mental unification. When the breath is slowed down the metabolic processes also are slowed and anabolic activities begin the process of healing and rebuilding. If breath is calm, mind is calm and life is long!
5. CALM DOWN YOUR MIND AND FOCUS IT INWARDLY: The mind is as disturbed as a drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion say our scriptures. To bring that wayward agitated mind under control, and take it on a journey into our inner being is fundamental in finding a way out of the ‘disease maze’ in which we are entangled like a fly in the spider’s web. Breath work is the base on which this mind training can occur and hence much importance needs to be given to Pranayama and Pratyahara in Yoga Chikitsa. It is only after this that concentration practices leading to meditation can have any use. Just sitting and thinking about something is not meditation!
6. IMPROVE THE FLOW OF HEALING ‘PRANIC LIFE ENERGY’: Improve the flow of Healing ‘Pranic Life Energy’ to all parts of your body, especially to those diseased parts, thus relaxing, regenerating and reinvigorating yourself. Prana is life and without it there cannot be healing. The various Prana Vayus that are energies driving different physiological functions of the body need to be understood and applied as per needs of the patient. In patients of digestive disorders, focus must be on the Samana Vayu whereas in pelvic conditions it needs to be on Apana Vayu.
7. FORTIFY YOURSELF AGAINST OMNIPRESENT STRESSORS: Decrease your stress level by fortifying yourself against the various omnipresent stressors in your life: when face to face with the innumerable thorns in a forest, you may either choose to spend all your time picking them up one by one while others continue falling or choose to wear a pair of shoes and walk through the forest. The difference is in attitude. Choosing the right attitude can change everything and bring about a resolution of the problem by healing the core. Stress is more about how you react to the stressor than about the stressor itself!
8. INCREASE YOUR SELF RELIANCE AND SELF CONFIDENCE: Life is full of challenges that are there only to make us stronger and better. The challenges should be understood as opportunities for change and faced with confidence. We must understand we have the inner power to overcome each and every challenge that is thrown at us by life. The Divine is not a sadist to give us challenges that are beyond our capacity!
9. FACILITATE NATURAL EMANATION OF WASTES: Facilitate the natural emanation of waste from your body by the practice of Yoga Shuddhi Kriyas such as Dhauti, Basti and Neti. Accumulation and stagnation of waste materials either in inner or outer environment always causes problems. Yogic cleaning practices held to wash out the impurities (Mala Shodhana) helping the process of regeneration and facilitating healing.
10. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH: Remember that ultimately it is “YOU” who are responsible for your own health and well being and must take the initiative to develop positive health to tide you over challenging times of ill health. Yoga fixes responsibility for our health squarely upon our own shoulders. If we do healthy things we are healthy and if we do unhealthy things we become sick. No use complaining that we are not well when we have been the cause of our problem. As Swamiji Gitananda Giri would say, “You don’t have problems-you are the problem!”
11. HEALTH AND HAPPINESS ARE YOUR BIRTHRIGHT: Health and happiness are your birthright, claim them and develop them to your maximum potential. This message of Swamiji is a firm reminder that the goal of human existence is not health and happiness but is Moksha (liberation). Most people today are so busy trying to find health and happiness that they forget why they are here in the first place. Yoga helps us regain our birthrights and attain the goal of human life.
SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF USING YOGA AS A THERAPY:
Numerous studies have been done in the past few decades on psycho-physiological and biochemical changes occurring following practice of Yoga. A few clinical trials have also been done that have shown promise despite Yoga not being ideally suited for the scientific gold standard of ‘double-blind’ clinical trials.
It is virtually impossible for subjects to be taught Yoga without their knowing it is Yoga! The difficulty of finding right methods and apparatus to study higher aspects of Yoga is still to be overcome as there doesn’t seem to be much money in it and as we know, money makes the world go round!
Some of the researched benefits that are quite well proven are given below to facilitate an understanding of how Yoga works at least at the physical level though we are yet to research and understand subtler effects of Yoga.
• PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF YOGA:
It has been found that Yoga produces stable autonomic nervous system equilibrium, with a tendency toward parasympathetic nervous system dominance rather than the usual stress-induced sympathetic nervous system dominance. This is of great potential in psychosomatic stress related illness abounding in populations worldwide. Cardiovascular and cardio-respiratory efficiency increases. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease implying a better state of relaxation leading to reduced load on the heart. Respiratory rate decreases with improved respiratory efficiency. The amplitude and smoothness of respiration increases, along with all parameters of pulmonary function such as tidal volume, vital capacity and breath-holding time. EEG - alpha waves increase. Theta, delta, and beta waves also increase during various stages of meditation. Gastrointestinal function and endocrine function normalizes with improvement in excretory functions. Musculoskeletal flexibility and joint range of motion increase. Posture improves with improvement in strength, resiliency and endurance. Body weight normalizes and sleep improves with increased energy levels and the immunity increases with improved ability of pain tolerance.
• PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF YOGA:
It has been found that somatic and kinesthetic awareness increase with better self-acceptance and self-actualization. There is better social adjustment with decrease in anxiety, depression and hostility. Psychomotor functions such as grip strength, balance, dexterity and fine motor skills, eye hand coordination and reaction time, steadiness and depth perception, and the integrated functioning of body parts improve. Mood improves and subjective well-being increases while cognitive functions such as attention, concentration, memory, and learning efficiency improve
• BIOCHEMICAL EFFECTS OF YOGA:
The biochemical profile improves, indicating an anti-stress and antioxidant effect which is important in the prevention of degenerative diseases. There are decreased levels of blood glucose, total white blood cell count, total cholesterol, Triglycerides, LDL and VLDL. At the same time it has been reported that there are increased levels of: HDL cholesterol, ATPase, hematocrit, hemoglobin, thyroxin, lymphocytes, vitamin C and total serum protein following Yoga.
THERAPEUTIC MODALITIES OF YOGA CHIKITSA:
There are numerous therapeutic modalities used in the application of Yoga as a therapy. Pujya Swamiji Gitananda Giri has enumerated 52 aspects of Yoga Chikitsa in an encyclopedic manner. His exposition of Yoga Chikitsa is unparalleled yet this is a small attempt of mine to put some of these ancient ideas into a modern context for us all to work together towards and harmonious and healthy world. Some of the commonly used modalities are as following:
• PHYSICAL THERAPIES: Asanas (static postures), Kriyas (systematic and rationale movements), Mudras (seals of neuromuscular energy) and Bandhas (locks for neuromuscular energy) gently stretch and strengthen the musculoskeletal system in a healthy manner. They improve mobility and flexibility of the different joints and groups of muscles. There is also concomitant improvement in the systemic function such as respiration, circulation, digestion and elimination. A general sense of health and well being is also promoted by these aspects of Yoga that help release feel good hormones like endorphins and encephalin.
• EMOTIONAL THERAPIES: Swadhyaya (introspectional self analysis), Pranayama (techniques of vital energy control), Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), Dharana (intense concentration), Dhyana (meditational oneness) and Bhajana (devotional music) stabilize emotional turmoil and relieve stress and mental fatigue. They bring about an excellent sense of emotional balance that is vital for good health. Group work such as this is important to achieve proper emotional balance that is essential to good health.
• DEVELOPMENT OF PROPER PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTITUDES: Yoga encourages us to step back and take an objective view of our habitual patterns of behaviour and thoughts. This enables us to cope better with situations that normally put our bodies and minds under strain. Patanjali emphasized the need to develop following qualities in order to become mentally balanced humane beings: Vairagya (detached, dispassionate attitude), Chitta Prasadanam (acceptance of the Divine Will), Maitri (friendliness towards those who are at peace with themselves), Karuna (compassion for the suffering), Mudita (cheerfulness towards the virtuous) and Upekshanam (indifference and avoidance of the evil) etc. Adoption of the right attitude is one of the most important aspects of Yoga as a therapy and if this is not done it is again more or less Yogopathy and not Yoga Chikitsa.
• MENTAL THERAPIES: There are a great many Jnana and Raja Yoga techniques of relaxation and visualization that are useful. Other practices such as Trataka (concentrated gaze), Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana as well as Dhyana may also be utilized. Relaxation is a central element in Yoga as it is the body’s own way of recharging its cells and helps to ease physical, emotional and mental tensions.
• SPIRITUAL THERAPIES: Swadhyaya, Satsangha (spiritual gathering seeking knowledge of the reality), Bhajana sessions and Yogic counseling are important aspects of Yogic therapy that are often neglected in favor of physical therapies alone. It is important to help patients understand their inner spiritual nature and realize that “Oneness” is health whereas “Duality” is disease. We cannot remain lonely, depressed and diseased if we realize that we are part of this bountiful and wholesome, wonderful, happy and healthy Universe.
• PREVENTIVE AND REHABILITATIVE THERAPIES: Yoga has numerous preventive benefits especially when it is started early in childhood. It helps in prevention of accidents by increasing awareness as well as agility. Improved immunity helps in preventing infectious and contagious diseases. The added benefit of starting early is that the person knows the technique so that they can do it if needed at a later stage in life. Psychosomatic, stress related and lifestyle disorders may be effectively prevented by adoption of a Yogic way of life. Yoga also offers rehabilitative therapies for most musculoskeletal conditions as well as in recovery for debilitating illnesses. The practice of Yoga also goes a long way towards prevention of disability and improving quality of life in numerous chronic conditions.
• PAIN RELIEF THERAPIES: Yoga is a useful addition to the pain relief therapies as it improves pain tolerance and provides an improved quality of life. It can be safely said that Yoga helps us endure conditions that it may not be able to cure. This is vital in end life situations where it is important that the patient has a sense of improved quality of life during their end days. Yoga can also benefit caretakers of such terminal patients who are under great stress themselves.
The right-use-ness of these modalities according to condition and needs of patients will enable us to strike at the root cause of the disease and by correcting its origin. If this is done properly, the manifestation of the disease corrects itself and health and harmony can manifest once again.
YOGIC METHODS OF DIAGNOSIS:
When we start to use the art and science of Yoga as a therapy (Yoga Chikitsa) it is important that we realise the basic fact that Yoga has its own system of diagnosis and health evaluation. Please don’t forget that the mere use of Yoga techniques to suppress symptoms is Yogopathy!
The twelve diagnostic methods (dwadasha rogalakshna anukrama) have been very well described by Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri, founder of Ananda Ashram at Pondicherry, India and one of the foremost authorities on Yoga in the 20th century as a method of self-analysis (swadhyaya) that enables not only the therapist to understand the patient better but also enables at the same time the patient to understand themselves better too. This may then stimulate the patients themselves to make a sincere and dedicated attempt to regain their lost health, happiness and wholeness through unitive methods. This is a “win-win” situation and benefits all!
The twelve major methods of diagnosis used in yoga that have been described by Pujya Swamiji include:
1. Triguna: This is most important as a person of a tamasic (dull and lazy) nature needs to be treated differently than rajasic (overactive) and sattwic (calm and composed) types. Western medicine treats everyone “democratically the same” and turns simple toxicity into permanent sickness. The trigunic nature must first be evaluated to bring about self-healing in a patient. The more sensitive and evolved the person, the more sensitive must be the treatment.
2. Tridosha: Without evaluating patients according to their dosha, modern medicine dries up the kapha, increases chemical poisoning and produces pressure conditions that are all chronic disorders, while the original dosha imbalances may be easily rectified and balanced.
3. Trivasana: The psychological background to one’s personal nature represents personal propensities that bind us to the wheel of birth and rebirth. Lokha vasana (attachment to one’s position in life), jnana vasana (attachment to one’s level of education and knowledge) and deha vasana (hang-ups and attachments to the body). These may be considered to be the most ingrained of all human conditions.
4. Prana: One must determine which of the prana vayu is active or recessive, and which upa prana vayu is shut down, inactive, or recessive. Improper functioning of the various prana vayu leads to various conditions depending on the vayu involved. For example, if it is the samana vayu, then digestion is affected whereas the excretory function is affected in apana vayu malfunction. Loss of prana is death whereas disease is the manifestation of pranic malfunction.
5. Abhyasa: A disciplined patient can be trusted to carry out directions, while those who are undisciplined will be difficult patients, disobeying injunctions about life, transgressing body laws, and therefore, will remain disturbed, negative and ill. A disciplined person is seldom ill and is usually suffering only from ignorance or avidya. When truth is revealed they will immediately follow the truth. Most real Gurus will refuse to accept students unless they are disciplined but Yoga therapists don’t always really have that choice!
6. Jiva Karma: A healthy lifestyle is one where there is proper adherence to yama-niyama, the system of morality and ethics, as expounded by Maharishi Patanjali. Disobedience or lack of discretion in following these moral and ethical precepts are the cause of much sickness, pain, suffering and violence. A moral and ethical life is necessary for attaining and maintaining good health.
7. Chetana: The quality of thought of the individual matters! Are the patient’s thoughts idealistic, positive, and outgoing? Or are they lacking in ideals, reserved and negative? Thought is the cause of all body action and this is the rationale behind adhi-vyadhi, the Yogic concept of psycho-somatics. The Christ Yogi said, “As above, so below”- As we think so also we become. Nowdays we are faced with dangerous vyadhi-adhi, somato – psychic conditions where diseased condition of the body in turn produces mental disturbances. Talk of the tail wagging the dog!
8. Vacha: Much can be diagnosed from the way a person speaks, how they pronounce and enunciate language and how they deliver the “power of sound in speech”. Refined speech should be met with refined results. Crude and rough speech elicits crude and rough response. An understanding of the different regions related to production of sound such as the nabhi (navel), hridaya (heart), kanta (throat), rasana (tongue), nasa (nose) etc are essential to be able to utilise this method properly. Saint Thiyagaraja, the great south Indian music composer has delineated these regions and their importance in producing the seven sacred notes of Indian music in his krithi (song) shobillu saptaswara (the seven beautiful heavenly notes of music).
9. Ahara: As food plays an important part in health or sickness, dietary habits must be examined in great detail. It is universally understood that a meat-eating diet is destructive, while a vegetarian diet is more conducive to good health, emotional equilibrium and unitive evolution. Junk foods especially must be curtailed. Tiruvalluvar, the great Dravidian poet-saint has emphasized the link between overeating and disease by saying, “the one who eats on an empty stomach gets health while with the greedy glutton abides ill-health” (izhivu arindhu unbaankan inbampol nirkum kazhiper iraiyaankan noi- Tirukkural 946). He offers sane advice on right eating when he says, “He who eats after the previous meal has been digested, needs not any medicine.” (marunthuena vaendaavaam yaakkaikku arundiyathu atrathu poatri unnin-Tirukkural 942). He also invokes the Yogic concept of Mitahara by advising that “eating medium quantity of agreeable foods produces health and wellbeing” (maarupaaduillaatha undi marutthuunnin oorupaadu illai uyirkku -Tirukkural 943).
10. Viparita Buddhi. There is no possibility of good health for a person who deliberately misuses tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. Other habits like over eating or under eating, over exercise and under exercise as well as sexual abuses must also be considered. Viparita Buddhi is considered one of the final steps on the road to self induced disaster as made clear by the common statement “vinashkale viparita buddhi” (when the end is near the intelligence is lost).
11. Jiva Vritti: Considerations such as periodicity of the nasal cycle, number of breaths per minute (whether deep or shallow, whether sectional or complete), periodicity and rate of the heart, blood pressure, regularity of passing urine and emptying of bowels etc are classified in this category.
12. Sankalpa: Aspirations of the individual which may only involve a desire to be well must also be examined. What are the beliefs of the patient? Are they negative or positive? High or low? Are they idealistic enough to accept help, suggestions, and spiritual advice, or are they the type who rejects positive help. It is most often the case that the one who accepts is a ready listener, and usually follows up with direct actions leading to betterment of health and attainment of well being.
CURRENT SITUATION OF YOGA THERAPY:
Modern Yoga therapy seems to have lost touch with the real essence of Yoga. The art and science of Yoga aims to help us regain our psycho-physiological balance, by removing the root cause of the disharmony (dukkasamyogaviyogam yogasamjnitham – Bhagavad Gita VI: 23). Yet, as Yoga therapists, unless we aim to correct the manifest psycho-somatic disassociation as well as the underlying ignorant, jaundiced perception of reality in the individual, we are really not practicing Yoga Chikitsa.
Managing and suppressing the manifest symptoms with Yoga techniques is just as good or bad as modern Allopathic medicine that focuses primarily on symptomatic management without ever getting close to the “real” cause of most disorders. How many doctors look at the emotional and psychological issues that are the primary cause of the problem in so many of their patients? Remember, the concept of psychosomatics is not older than a hundred years in modern medicine and any doctor talking about ‘mind affecting body’ disease a couple of hundred years ago risked getting labeled a quack and may have even been crucified at the altar of science!
When today we find our Yoga therapists making the same mistake in merely treating manifesting symptoms without remedying the ‘real’ cause, I prefer to call it Yogopathy! It may be useful for many but please do understand that it loses the special wholesome nature of Yoga and is no longer Yoga Chikitsa anymore.
An example of this Yogopathy trend is when we use Shavasana to manage patients of hypertension quoting research that has shown that Shavasana reduces blood pressure. We seem happy just to bring the blood pressure down for the time being! Real Yoga Chikitsa would try to look for the primary cause of the patient’s hypertension and try to tackle that along with Shavasana for symptomatic management. Without an attempt to remedy the root cause, it remains merely Yogopathy.
Another common example is of using the left nostril Chandra Nadi Pranayama to lower the blood sugar or using the right nostril Surya Nadi Pranayama to relieve brochospasm without looking for the real cause of the patient’s diabetes or asthma. When we do this, how are we any different than the modern doctors who prescribe anti-diabetic and sympatho-mimetic agents for these patients? Where is the real Yoga in this type of therapy? Where is the effort to find and deal with the primary cause? Without a positive change in attitude or lifestyle, can it be Yoga Chikitsa?
In the application of Yoga Chikitsa it is vital that we take into consideration all the following aspects that are part of an integrated approach to the problem. These include a healthy life nourishing diet, a healthy and natural environment, a wholistic lifestyle, adequate bodywork through Asanas, Mudras and Kriyas, invigorating breath work through the use of Pranayama and the production of a healthy thought process through the higher practices of Jnana and Raja Yoga.
Extensive research on Yoga being done all over the world has shown promise with regard to various disorders and diseases indicating scientifically the feasibility of them being amiable to the application of Yoga as a therapy. However we must remember to try and deal with the root cause for if not, we are going to only be practicing YOGOPATHY and not Yoga Chikitsa!
As Yoga Chikitsa starts to be introduced into mainstream health care, we must not fall into the dangerous trap of claiming that Yoga is a miracle that can cure everything under the sun for that “puts off” the modern medical community more than anything. They then develop a stiff resistance to Yoga instead of becoming more open to this life giving and health restoring science. As the use of Yoga Chikitsa in medical centers is still in its infancy we must be cautious about the after-effects we may produce by our conscious and unconscious thoughts, words and actions. Better to err on the side of caution than be true to the adage, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.
I am not downplaying the potentiality of Yoga for it DOES have a role in virtually each and every condition. We must however realize that though Yoga can improve the condition of nearly every patient, it doesn’t necessarily translate into words such as cure. Modern medicine doesn’t have a cure for most conditions and so when Yoga therapists use such words, it creates a negative image that does more harm than good.
I would like to reiterate at this point the need of the modern age which is to have an integrated approach towards all forms of therapy. We must try to integrate concepts of Yoga in coordination and collaboration with other systems of medicine such as Allopathy, Ayurveda, Siddha and Naturopathy. Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic practices may be also used with the Yoga Chikitsa as required. Don’t forget that advice on diet and adoption of a healthy lifestyle is very important irrespective of the mode of therapy employed for the patient.
Yoga can for sure, help regain the ease we had lost earlier through dis-ease (as implied by sthira sukham asanam- Yoga Darshan II: 46). It can also enable us to attain a dynamic state of mental equanimity (samatvam yoga uchyate- Bhagavad Gita II: 48) where the opposites cease to affect us any more (tato dwandwa anabhigatha- Yoga Darshan II: 48). This enables us to move from a state of illness and disease to one of health and wellbeing that ultimately allows us to move from a lower animal nature to a higher human nature and finally reach the highest Divine Nature that is our birthright.
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