YOGA THERAPY IN ASTHMA, DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE

( By The Yoga Institute )

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Introduction

"Endless invention, endless experiment,
brings knowledge of motion not of stillness,
knowledge of words and ignorance of words..
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

 

(T.S. Eliot)

MODERN CIVILISATION has taken many a giant stride in technological development. Not satisfied with the conquest of this puny planet called earth, man is making inroads into other planets of the solar system. But this race has not given him any solace. As the spectre of an accidental armageddon looms large, we see a crisis humanity never witnessed before. When technology outstrips moral development, the prospect is not that of a millenium; but of extinction. It is rightly said.

When the brain is crammed with knowledge of the outside world and the heart with arrogance of knowledge, we have become ciphers in understanding ourselves. We have no time to assess our own feelings, emotions and our real needs. We strain ourselves to such an extent that we realise too late that we had been abusing ourselves all these years.

Hurry and rush are the order of the day. We are being keyed up with nervous tension and a prolongation of our hectic days exhaust us completely. Worry, overwork, fatigue affect us either singly or in combination. Moreover, by deliberately indulging in habits which are totally unsavoury for health we are in a collision course with nature. We rest at wrong time, stuff ourselves with wrong food and spoil our health by drinking, smoking and taking drugs.

Even if a person is not straining physically, he may be exerting his system through the emotional states he is passing through because a person's attitude towards life in general and his emotions are very much linked with his general health. Hence most of the time, the origin of the disease may not be from the physical strain itself but from the wrong attitude towards life, faulty way of coping with the situations or non acceptance of the situations.

More and more modern medical and behavioural studies are revealing that a physical breakdown under stress does not necessarily occur only because of causes imposed from outside a person such as genes, infections and environmental agents combined with exhaustion or physical trauma - termed as horizontal causes. It can also be due to the life experiences, thoughts, emotions, behaviour and personality structure or vertical causes.

Recent studies reveal that ''''bio-types'' or particular personality types breakdown in specific and predictable ways in times of stress. These breakdowns are manifested when one's life is threatened or is in chronically uncomfortable conditions. Evidence is gradually energing about psychological factors and personality traits contributing to specific diseases. Among the growing list is cancer, asthma, migraine, ulcers, hay fever, accident - proneness, infectious diseases, chronic low back pain, temporary blindness, urinary tract infections, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Interesting studies also reveal how experiences, thoughts, emotions and behaviour in childhood can alter the body so that it can be easily affected by different illnesses. Helplessness and hopelessness have been shown to impair the body's immune system, whereas a positive approach that one can cope - does not have this effect. Depression and grief are also known to depress the immune system.

One of the theories to foster this belief is that powerful negative emotions causing undue stress can switch on many diseases which can act on the hypothalmus of the brain and then can affect the body's sympathetic system. The pituitary gland and the immune system. Psychological stress has also been found to raise the level of cholesterol leading to heart attack. Anxiety increases the production of stomach acid leading to ulcer. Psychological stress is known to trigger asthma attacks via the vagus nerve.

Hence the modern physician is becoming more and more aware that a person under treatment should be treated as a whole considering his mental, emotional and other psychological problems and not in compartments just taking care of the physical aspect alone. Thus the concept of psychosomatic medicine has gained popularity in this decade much more than at any other time.

The word psychosomatic is derived from two Greek - words - psyche (soul) and soma (body) - and indicates the influence of mind on body and physical health. This term was used for the first time by a German psychiatrist named Johann Christian Heinroth.

With the recent interest in psychosomatic medicine, the relevance of yoga as a therapy is gaining momentum. But approaching yoga just for the cure of a disease is wrong since it limits the greatness of this vast subject.

Yoga is not a therapy in the accepted sense of the term. Yoga as a process of education of the total personality, helps is steadying the mind and since an unsteady mind is the source of disease, it happens that the practice of yoga helps the management of certain diseases.

The Yogi who has searched for the ultimate meaning of existence did not develop some techniques just for curing the mental, physical or psychosomatic illness. Nor did he have a miracle medicine which could cure any illness under the sun.

He evolved a system of living which enabled him to have a stable mind and channelise his full energy for the realisation of the truth. As a result of this high standard of thinking, he used his mind and body for the highest purpose of life - self realisation. Hence for him right living and thinking were most natural.

For him there was no question of imbalance between the physical, mental emotional or spiritual aspects because his search was one-pointed which encompassed all these aspects. Hence, freedom from disease came as a by-product of an enriched way of living.

Yoga takes a meta-scientific attitude towards the problems of disease and its constitutional removal. It holds a foundational approach in contrast to the modern materialistic approach of medicine.

Dr. Jayadeva rightly says, "Yoga committed to the fundamentals takes a broader view of the whole problem of disease and puts forth the universal concepts like karma, samskaras, asmita, citta suddhi, prana etc. to understand the complex problem.

"The Yogi who is not satisfied just by understanding the gross body by itself in the management of the disease is more concerned with the subtler factors in the pathogenesis of the disease. The subtle factors according to yoga, stem from the psyche. It is the biological aspect in the psyche that determines the weakness of the body.

"In the management of disease yoga remains non-specific in its approach. At the psychic level, it helps in generating greater sattva, bringing prajna (consciousness) as opposed to prajna-aparadha (error of intellect). With right approach and a balanced state habits. This helps in reducing the tamasika and rajasika excesses in one's personality make up. This is the concept upheld by The Yoga Institute, that yoga is not a theraphy in the accepted sense of the term but a way of life."

"While modern medicine aims at immediate relief yoga aims at the removal of the basic cause. Ancient yogins who had a deeper insight into the working of the psyche, recognised that an unsteady or disintegrated personality is a source of disease as a result of which one may develop characteristic weaknesses of "bioenergy" system and thereby in the nervous system. The former may cause incapacity in absorption of nutrition or elimination of waste or maintenance and repair of tissue or growth.

" The aim of yoga education imparted by The Yoga Institute is to help and individual in integrating the personality and steadying of the mind. Further it helps in establishing healthy routines, right habits, a change in attitudes. Basically it is an educational process affecting the physical, mental and spiritual aspect of one's personality."

On the physical plane, the yoga asanas selected by the Institute are the ones that affect the nervous system by manipulation of the spine or the ones that cause mild abdominal compression enhanced through respiratory co-ordination. The latter in turn improve the nutrition and elimination. Yoga hygiene removes the toxic substances and helps in maintaining already gained homeostatic balance. Breathing techniques help in bioenergy control and establishes emotional control. On the psychic side giving up of narrow selfish outlook and a belief in a higher reality, change in motivations, values and attitudes are resultant changes.

The Institute with its past 70 years of experience has found that yoga education can bring about tremendous changes in the personality of a human being.

Since it believes that a yogic way of living is the only viable alternative for the psychosomatic disorders which are plaguing the twentieth century, it puts forward its efforts to take this science to the suffering humanity.

Three camps - coronary, asthma and diabetes were conducted to find whether yoga can help in curing or at least in containing these diseases. Though they were experimental in nature, the results proved that greater values in life and a higher quality in living helps a person to contain diseases to a great extent. The following pages stand as a testimony to this.

SPECIAL CAMPS CONDUCTED AT THE YOGA INSTITUTE IN 1987 AS PART OF THE 70 YEAR CELEBRATIONS

Coronary care campAirway camp for asthmatics Camp for diabetics ENT problems Gastrointestinal problems
Month MayJuneJulyAugustSeptember
Participants15 26 165 18
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