The therapeutic employment of Yoga entails the application of Yogic practicesfor the purpose of curing illnesses, herein defined as disordersor dis-eases arising in any part or system of the human body. It is our contention in this work, and our experience in the field, that specific Yogic practices are instrumental in treating inefficiencies in the functioning of bodyparts and systems and overcoming the illnesses manifested by them. How to apply the practices and what they may achieve are this book’s essence and core.
There are, of course, many different concepts and methods which guide the treatment of diseases including Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Magnetic Therapies, and so on. The methods and practices by which Yogic processes function for the treatment of diseases are called Yoga Therapy or Yogopathy. A fundamental distinction between Yogopathy and allother methods of treatment is that that all the other “pathys” were developed precisely for their remedial purposes, whereas such aspirations was never until quite recently considered as an aim of the science of Yoga.
The ultimate goal of Yoga is the union of the mind, body, and spirit of human beings with the Almighty, the Infinite, or the Divine. Mostyogic procedures were designed for these spiritual and energy harnessing and releasing purposes. Over the centuries, however, while observing the consequences of the practice of Yoga, it was frequently noted that in addition to Yoga leading to spiritual “Liberation,” many people’s ailments appeared to be cured consistent with the practice of Yoga. There are, of course, many obstacles in the journey towards Liberation and there must, therefore, be ways inherent in Yogic practices that will help overcome such obstacles on the path.Disease is one of the first such obstacles as noted by Maharishi Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra No.30 five hundred years before the birth of Christ. However, Yogic practices were not used explicitly for overcoming ailments until recently. Even now overcoming ailments is not the ultimate goal or primary purpose of Yoga. Nor is teaching and learning yoga intended as therapy per se, but Yoga is a guide to the normalization and harmonization that allows our minds, bodies, and spirits to be true vehicles to our soul’s liberation.
A number of references in the modern Yogic literature can be found where the remedial effects of Yogic processes are cited and ‘Yogic practices’ for curing a particular disease has been the subject of a number of books in modern times. But treating a disease was not been given any significance in the ancient Yogic literature although in the fifth ‘Advice’ of Hatha Pradipika some breathing practices for treating the troubles caused due to wrong practice of breathing are mentioned. And in some Hatha Yoga texts, the effects of Postures and Cleansing Processes are explained vaguely as ‘Cures to all diseases,’ but such exaggerated effects were never proposed to be a therapy, and the remedial effects of Yogic practices were only pointed at. Credit for bringing forth through scientific experiments the fact that Yogic practices are significant in curing many diseases goes to the founder of Kaivalyadhama, Lonavala –our beloved Swami Kuvalayananda - who carried out a number of experiments and studied Yoga from the remedial point of view. He noted his conclusions in the book he authored with Dr. S.L. Vinekar, Yogic Therapy: Its Basic Principles and Methods, published in 1963, which is in ways the Bhagavad Geeta (or Bible, as we say) for students studying Yoga from the therapeutic perspective and is highly recommended for study. The core aim of that work was to explain the principles on which the various procedures of yoga therapy are based and to present the scientific rationale of Yogic therapy. The core aim of the current work is not to explain the principles underlying Yogic Therapy, but rather to discuss the practicalities (and limitations) of the application of Yogic Therapy for disease treatment in the modern world.
What is particularly striking to many is how Yoga can be used for remedial purposes, even though there are no diagnostic proceduresreferenced or developed in the science of Yoga. And as no illnesses these days can be treated without proper diagnosis, such diagnoses have to be made with the help of other therapies/sciencesbefore a disease or illness can be accurately treated through Yoga. For example, blood sugar has to be tested before embarking on Yogic treatment for diabetes and X-rays must be taken before treating spinal spondylitis.
For some illnesses, like spondylitis or certain psychosomatic illnesses, Yoga is often the only and the best treatment alternative available. Treatments for such illnesses with other therapies are short-term, or work superficially by curing only symptoms. The medication in these other treatments is not free of drawbacks and bring with them negative side effects, whichmay themselves require treatment. Yoga on the other hand not only treats the illness but also gives an overall affirmative experience towards normal health.
In some diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, and Asthma, Yoga acts in parallel to medical treatment. Although medicines play a prime initial role in treating these diseases, they are often not sufficient and patients can experience a far faster recovery if Yogic practices are started alongside the medicines so that as the disease comes under controland the need for medicine is further reduced by the practice of Yoga. In certain cases, Yoga alone (without any medical treatment) will not be enough in the initial stages, but as the dose of medicine is reduced or ended Yoga plays a vital role in maintaining the reduced need for medicinal treatment. In other illnesses, Yoga acts as a supportive agent to other medical treatments and certain Yogic processes boost the effect of medication. Diseases generated from germs are a good example in this case. The practice of certain Yogic processes will certainly increase resistance and overall health as well as supplement medical treatment and hasten the day that the medicine can be gradually reduced or eliminated.
Yoga is ofvirtually no use in cases of bone fractures, internal or external physical injuries (more serious than strains and sprains), or illnesses where surgery appears to be the only viable option. In these cases, treatmentby other medical therapies is necessary, although Yoga practices clearly augment the overall healing process. Treating the patient while keeping in mind the limitations of Yoga is always the wisest approach. Compelling oneself to submit to Yoga therapy alone may even on occasion prove harmful.
Yoga can be helpful in the initial stages of some cases, but not in the further stages. For instance, a slipped disc is curable by Yoga in the initial stage, but if the disc has moved significantly, traction or surgery is the only way of curing it fully, althoughagain Yoga can help as a complementary therapy.
The unique feature of Yoga in respect to curing illnesses is Yoga’s preventative impact, which no other “pathy” can claim. As everyone has heard said, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” and Yoga is the best way to achieve this preventative protection. So rather than just approaching the practice of Yoga for remedial therapeutic purposes, we advise almost everyone to practice Yoga to keep themselves in maximum health and balance.
Yoga Vidya Dham, Kaivalya Nagari,
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