Most of the people turn to Yoga only when they have some health problem for which, for one reason or another, medical treatment could not give satisfactory results. This is valid for many of the chronic diseases which often can be attenuated but not cured and also for the psychosomatic ones, where the psychic factor is especially evident and which are therefore difficult to treat with the common medical methods. What can Yoga therapy offer these patients?
The approach. Theoretical and practical, to disease, or better, to the person who is suffering from a disease, or better, to the person who is suffering from a disease, differs very much from the one of medical science. The latter tries to isolate the pathogenic factor - a micro organism, a toxic substance, a metabolic disorder - and eliminate it. Of course, this principle is valuable, but it fails if the etiology is unknown. In this case the therapy must be symptom-oriented and often proves unsatisfactory. Yoga on the other hand, even if it doesn't refuse the scientific explanation of a disease, looks at it from another point of view: from the personality of the patient. If he is ill there must be a deeper reason behind it - a disease doesn't arise by chance. There is an imbalance, a disturbance in whole body-mind-complex which creates a disease condition. The symptoms, the pathogenic factors, the name of the disease are not the main issue - the root cause lies elsewhere.
Yoga holds that it depends on the individual himself if he is sick or healthy. The same instance which causes the disease condition can also cure it. What is called natural healing power is nothing other than that. It's nothing mystical from outside, but an inner capacity. All that is required is not to interfere with it.
Yoga Therapy tries to re-establish the inner balance by various means, working from the gross to the subtle. On the physical level it uses:
Asanas: They energize the organism, create awareness of the body and its function and stabilise the mind.
Kriyas: These are simple hygienic procedures which support the body's own cleansing mechanisms and draw the attention of the mind towards the affected area.
Pranayamas: These are breathing techniques which have very subtle influences on the whole organism.
Diet: Many diseases are directly or indirectly linked with wrong food habits. A change in diet can stimulate the whole system.
Simple Nature-cure Techniques: The elements water, air, sun and simple procedures like massaging or steam inhalation are used as a support.
The second line of therapy is the work on the mind. Mental disturbances - anxieties, confusion, unsteadiness are the most important factors which can cause a disease condition. Therefore, various techniques have been developed to create positive mind states. Among others there are:
Relaxation: both physical and mental.
Conditioning : Sitting in a meditative posture one tries to calm down and centre oneself.
Bhavanas: Contemplation on certain basic ideas like the transitoriness of all things can stimulate a change of attitude towards life.
These are some of the technical means that may be used. The technical aspect is however of minor importance compared to the primary goal: to create a condition which can encourage the patient to give free way to his own inner forces. If he succeeds in doing so, the results can be surprising. If not, Yoga-Therapy is at its limits - it can work only together with nature, not against it.
Yoga has claimed that tension is disease and relaxation is health. To this end the whole eightfold path of Yoga is to purify the body mind complex.