Jan 11, 2009

Yoga: its immense benefits

There is a tendency to ask what benefits a particular asana or pranayama would give in terms of treating an ailment. Not unnatural, considering our way of looking at our body and our health. We have been conditioned into thinking that different body organs do some particular functions - that some structural or physiological defect in them leads to diseases - that if we treat that particular defect [which we recognise by symptoms or pathological and other tests], we will bring the entire body back to health - and that we need not bother about the body till a new defect arises.

There is hardly any stress given to 'preventive maintenance' of the body, or to heal the body when an ailment takes place. We treat, rather than heal; that is perhaps the reason we are often ill.

Yoga, as it developed over centuries, taught its practitioners to 'service' the body engine, and service it in totality. Totality not only included different organs of the body and different ways of keeping them in good health, it included the spirit and mind also. Only millennia later did we 'scientifically' conclude that mind and spirit indeed played a very important role in overall health.

So, if we are serious about complete health [and if we already are not suffering from very serious organic ailments], talk about health, not whether asana A is good for heart, B for liver and so on. Do adjust yoga procedures according to your lifestyle, time available, age and sex, body type and such other factors, but in trying to do so, do not miss the spirit of yoga.

Another thing to keep in mind. We often use our knowledge of modern medicine to interpret why a particular procedure will be useful to us or not. While theoretically it is OK, applying it without understanding that yogic procedures are not just stand alone physical exercises can lead to wrong inferences, however well-meaning the effort may be. I am saying so also because detailed scientific studies on yoga procedures are still in their nascent stage, and till a significant research goes into yoga, let's not draw half-baked wrong conclusions. Didn't we pooh-poohed accupressure, accupuncture and various alternative systems of medicine till the other day?

The word healing takes us to a plane different from that of treating. It involves one's faith on the doctor, oneself and the medicine. [Why do placebos work wonders in some cases?] It involves arousing the body's vital forces and redundancy. [Don't we have by-pass mechanisms in our body which keep healing the body without our knowing it? Don't we have paired organs so that even if one fails, we have the other to fall back on? Don't we see extra-ordinary capabilities of sense organs of handicapped people?] It involves being in harmony with internal and external environment. I have personally seen faith healing working wonders in a remote Himalayan village. In six years of my stay there, I must have seen a few hundred people with various pains visiting the village grandma, an illiterate woman in her sixties, and returning in five minutes with smile on their lips. What the grandma would do was to rub the paining part with a bit of ash, chant a mantra or something [which she would not part with!] and slap it thrice. The modern notion that paracetamol would treat fever whichever way you give it, treats fever but does not heal the body. In healing, the purity of instrument and your faith in it is even more important than the treatment.

The blabbering could go on, but I must conclude. After all, it is a blog post. Do yoga for your complete health. Learn it from a selfless teacher [even if it is a genuine website] in whom you can rest your faith. This will help you get the magic healing touches of yoga, instead of the plain benefits of physical exercises. If your objective is 'body building' or getting 'six abes'', you will find many excellent exercising regimens, teachers and machines. I assure you, yoga is a very poor exercise regimen and a very unscientific treatment against diseases. Similarly, if you have got attracted to yoga as you could not get rid of one of your diseases by taking medicines, yoga might help but not to the extent it would if you adopted it as a way of life and as a healer.