Yoga, the ancient bodymind and spirit practice, has been known mainly for the benefits of this system’s exercises. But for thousands of years, since the Ancients themselves explored and developed Yoga, it has been used as a deeply healing process. A systematic process which not only helps us to stay strong and vital, keeps stress at bay but which can also prevent disease and promote rapid healing.
And all this, where modern medicine can often cause more side effects rather than actually healing illness and disease.
I’m in the preparation stages of doing some work in India, a project involving nutrition and Ayurveda, and surprisingly for the birth country of Yoga, I’m constantly asked about the merits of Yoga over medicine.
Yoga is powerful because it “works” on the whole person, on the mind, the body and the spirit. There is something in Yoga for the body’s energy, for all the body’s systems – circulation, digestion, hormones, metabolism, the brain as well as all the vital organs, and very importantly, the psyche. And along with its “sister” Ayurveda, the nutritional healing system of the knowledge and wisdom of food and balance in life, the Ancients indeed gave us a great gift of health and life energy.
We understand today that most disease is caused by three things: nutrition or malnutrition, elimination (or lack of) and toxicity, and of course, stress.
And Yoga has teaching, education or guidance to alleviate and counter all of these negatives of modern life. Teach a person self-control, give them positive guidance, and let them feel the amazing benefits of wellbeing and you give a person health and vitality for life – to enjoy life as we’re supposed to, to our full potential.
Personally, as a teacher, I have worked privately with people living with Athsma, Attention Deficit disorders (children included), stress-related mental health conditions, emotional difficulties, in recovery from Cancer and heart disease, hormone imbalances, Chronic Fatigue . . . the list is almost endless. And many of these people had given up on modern medicine and the modern system of diagnosing disease and disorder in the bodymind and emotional system of a human being.
Just as an example, I’m often asked which postures are best for weight loss (see my blog). I always answer: “That’s not how I teach. I only teach the whole of Yoga.” We never do anything in isolation in Yoga – and everything we do is about discovering more, more about our bodies, more about our minds and spirits, more about ourselves. You, as a whole person, are a process to be continually rediscovered!
Being in a regular Yoga Practice usually has the benefit of naturally maintaining a healthy body-weight.
For the obvious reasons of physical benefits of the postures of Yogasana: not only the toning and strengthening of muscles, or the “fat draining” properties of the twist postures, but also the metabolism regulating of inversions (shoulderstands especially) and the internal organ toning and nourishing of the Surya Namaskara sequences (Sun Salutations). A regular practice of Hatha Yoga brings the balance we need, between the dynamic and passive nature of our energy; and in the more passive states that we attain during practice, then the mind and emotions are given the chance for clearing and detoxifying on a regular basis. And this is so, so important in maintaining balance to your whole system as a human being. I always think we get rid of more “rubbish” from our systems during the practice of passive poses, deep breathwork in Pranayama, stillness in Meditation and the deep rest of Savasana, or deep relaxation.
Yoga is so relevant today with its system of physical exercises, Yogasana, its breathing practices, Pranayama, as well as meditation and philosophy for living life. It’s a way of grabbing some power back for your own life and health. It gives us control where otherwise we would have to give it over to drug companies and private or public health services – not that there aren’t some wonderfully dedicated family doctors and gifted surgeons, of course.
So, physical and mental therapy is one of Yoga’s most important achievements, and of course that power comes from the fact that it is working on a holistic (whole person) principle of harmony and unification. We harmonise the body and the mind with the breath, the emotions, and the spirit. And of course our unification with the whole, the whole of humanity, the cosmos, our universe and universal life force is so important for our wellbeing as a human being.
Just an example of how harmonising benefits us is, the balance created in a human being’s nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems directly influences all the other systems and vital organs of the body.
You might think you are just “stretching” but there is so much going on as a result – you’re unblocking, your raising energy levels, your digestion gets better and that positively affects your mental health, you start enjoying life more and so your relationships improve, you’re a lot calmer and in control, so you don’t get as stressed! And of course, relaxation and meditation replace all the vitality that has been “drained” out of you due to the increasing pace of life and less and less free time off!
But for me as a teacher, one of the main benefits that modern medicine could never provide in a bottle of tablets or an injection is that yoga provides a way of helping people connect with their true self. And the feel-good feelings that result simply from this connection are impossible to compete with!
Just to quote Swami Satyananda “. . . yoga is far from simply being physical exercises, rather, it is an aid to establishing a new way of life which embraces both inner and outer realities. However, this way of life is an experience which cannot be understood intellectually and will only become living knowledge through practice and experience.” In other words, in Yoga, we practice. We do it. Nobody does it to us, like modern medicine. And that is the greatest healing power of Yoga.