Yogic practices and beliefs were not developed with the intention of treating illness, although they were clearly intended to maximize healthfulness. Indeed, there is not a single mention of therapeutic or curative intentions or practices in the ancient Patanjali Yoga Darshan text. Yoga experts are therefore often reticent about adding a remedial perspective to the science of Yoga fearing that the basic aims of Yoga will thus be obscured. That said, for the sake of those suffering from physical and psychological illnesses, the fact that many illnesses can be cured by Yoga ought not and ethically cannot be disregarded. And keeping in mind the basic aims of Yoga, portraying Yoga as the therapeutic instrument it actually is, and learning that Yoga and yogic practices can promote healthful outcomes that are long lasting and without negative side-impacts, can also serve as an effective way to attract newcomers to yogic practices.
Contemporary lifestyle choices and behaviors, as we know, have evoked a steadily increasing number and wide variety of both physical and mental illnesses in human populations. And most individuals currently suffering with one or another illness have become accustomed to obtaining treatment for their maladies without considering the potential risks or long term consequences of the treatment selected, or having any awareness of where or why the illness might have originated. And as we know, in addition to their curative qualities, some modern medical measures have a wide range of potential ill effects associated with their use and are at best short-term measures that do not get to the root of the disease in body or mind. In fact, some “cures” do not provide any relief at all. Both such circumstances suggest they are an ideal time for individual disease sufferers to learn about the healing potential of Yoga. Especially in cases where there appears to be no effective conventional medical measures available, incorporating Yoga practices as a part of one’s lifestyle can make the difference between a healthy lifestyle and a debilitating one.
The prevalence of psychosomatic illnesses is also increasing day by day and here again Yoga has proven to be an effective means for promoting healing and if Yogic Therapy is presented in an appropriate manner and with the right perspective, chances are that a significant number of people will turn to Yogic practices to provide relief.
The Yoga educationalist can play a vital role for this purpose and need not fear that expanding the focus of Yoga to that of a therapeutic medium will divert from the foundational aims of Yoga and Yogic practices, indeed they are each and all consistent. If an individual is able to achieve a healthy and happy life through Yoga it is his/her right to get that chance. And for most whose Yoga practice begins with their being drawn to the therapeutic dimension of Yoga, those individuals will inevitably also gain the more commonly recognized benefits of Yoga practice inasmuch as the positive benefits of Yoga are inevitable and unavoidable. To cite just one example, imagine a person who is getting Yoga “treatments” for diabetes, including modifications in their diet and lifestyle, and how soon other afflictions will also begin to improve, a consequence of the normalizing effects of practicing Yoga, including shifts in temperament, all of which will likely induce the person to continue practicing Yoga even after their blood sugar levels have been controlled. Positive outcomes bind individuals to incorporate Yoga into their lives and there are many examples of people who went on to become long time Yoga practitioners and teachers after they were treated and cured of an ailment through Yoga Therapy.
Yoga therapists are well advised to keep in mind that each patient must be guided in such a way as to increase the likelihood that they will continue to practice Yoga even after successful treatment, thus perpetuating the ultimate goal of Yoga - ‘Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah’
Please note, the beneficial aspects of yogic practices relative to the treatment of disease are not based on “scientific research” at this time, but rather empirical observations and subjective reports of outcomes over the decades. To the extent scientific and medical researchers wish to investigate and study the claims that there are numerous benefits of yogic practices in the remediation of disease such research is eagerly anticipated and welcomed.
Finally, this work is designed mostly as an introduction to Yoga Therapy. There is no substitute for experience and practice. Chapters are organized in such a manner that they may be independently consulted vis-à-vis individual diseases and ailments. As such there is a certain overlap in prescribed and proscribed practices associated with each identified disease.
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