Man today is sick because he thinks he is sick. We stand hypnotized by the belief that disease and illness is our fate and destiny, rather than health and bliss, which are truly our birthright and heritage...
All schools of yoga view disease as the physical manifestation of an imbalance between material and spiritual life. They differ on the specific natur e of the imbalance and therefore the approach to curing it.
According to the Hatha yoga perspective disease is caused by an imbalance of ida (mind) & pingala (body) nadis. Yoga considers health in terms of prana (life force). The moment prana is not present, death ensues. Just the absence of disease does not mean that there is good heal th. Positive health means balanced prana; negative health happens whenever there is an imbalance in prana. The objective of the yoga journey is to master prana. Prana flows through the nadis, when these are blocked this leads to ill health. When the blocka ge is resolved/cleared, prana flows freely and positive health is restored.
There can be an imbalance of prana without the manifestation of disease. In modern life this often has to do with stress and lifestyle. A disciplined lifestyle brings efficiency in terms of prana taken in versus prana needed to support the body in its functioning. Stress means that there is overuse of various energies or body systems. Food is a major component here and a good example - easy to digest food gives far more good qualit y prana without using up that much, whilst heavy food requires more prana for its digestion. Genes also play their part in how balanced somebody is by nature, it can be said that this is where karma plays a role.
Balance of body - mind is achieved through t he yogic practices (principally asanas, pranayama, cleansing). Asanas restore the lost balance of various body systems due to mental problems. Static asanas are more helpful as maintaining a pose for longer is training the brain to deal with anxiety and st ress whilst relaxing at the same time. This leads to tolerance of the nervous system, better neuromuscular coordination, and secretion of endorphins. Asanas also bring healthier breathing pattern which in turn controls mind.
Pranayama helps expand the lungs, changes unhealthy breathing habits and helps with controlling the mind as well. Controlling breathing uses the cerebral cortex which trains it to help control of cognitive and mental functions. Cleansing techniques involve controlling involuntary re sponses and cleaning the accumulated toxins and waste products to help in balancing mental functions. Accumulated toxins in the body affect mental functions negatively, removing toxins and waste products brings mental harmony.
Ashtanga Yoga sees disease as uncontrolled Vrittis (fluctuations) of mind which cause distortions in true perception of reality. Vrittis are conditionings that arise because the mind identifies itself with desires and thoughts. The true nature of the mind is something b eyond these physical conditionings – a state that is blissful and peaceful. Patanjali’s sutras state that everything we experience originates in the mind, including the physical manifestation of disease. Why does one immune system fight off an infection wh ilst another succumbs to it? Again the answer is stress, which reduces immune function.
In Ashtanga positive health means being in control of every activity in the mind, even at the deepest level, and all of the mind’s functionings – thoughts, attitudes, memories, emotions all need to be balanced. By silencing the vrittis all that is left is pure mind (consciousness). Achieving this is extremely difficult!
In ashtanga yoga, yoga is approached as a discipline to control the varying patterns of mind. It he lps remove the old conditionings, likes & dislikes; increases willpower, controls the desires, cultivating the right aspirations, faith and devotion and balances the body, mind and soul. Working towards self - evolution / realization, the yogi replaces unhel pful old thinking patterns with the attitudes of ‘Maitri - Sukha, Karuna - Dukhaha, Mudita – Punya & Upeksha – Papa’ towards life events and develops opposite positive emotions to deal with negative emotions. These attitudes are: when there is stress, pain or suffering develop compassion / forgiveness for yourself and others, acceptance with all faults, limitations, guilt, sufferings. Cravings, desires – become friend with the thoughts; good karma – feel happy and joyful; bad karma – try to ignore and forge t.
Although we can’t look into somebody’s mind, there are a few indicators to see how in control of it somebody is. One indicator is what sort of dreams you have. Another is by measuring brain waves. The four types of waves are: Delta, 0 - 4 cycles per seco nd, deep sleep. Gamma, 4 - 8 cycles p/s, meditative, spiritual state. Alpha, 8 - 12 cycles p/s, asleep and Beta, 12 - 16 cycles, awake. Somebody who is very in control of their mind (due to the practice of meditation) will be able to put themselves into a Gamma state of mind
In Bhakti Yoga disease is seen as the false identification of self with the body and its desires, which gives rise to unpleasant emotions. 90% of our actions aim to satisfy desires and material needs because we identify with body an d senses alone. Bhakti says body and soul are different. Body is only the container whilst the soul is the owner. We need to learn to move our identification away from the body and senses. Almost all problems we have can be traced back to this identificati on.
Because of false identification we don’t have true understanding of our body. Masters can decide when they want to leave their body, they understand their body is not who they really are. E.g. Swami Satyananda had no illness or disease but simply real ised that his work in this body is over. He told people that he planned to depart and that they should not stop him anymore, as he will come back. His soul departed as he sat in padmasana.
Good health means having balanced emotions. When you are angry or irritated, physiological changes occur such as raised respiration and heart rates, sweating and other effects of the activation of the ‘fight or flight response’. There was good evolutionary reason for that response to develop, but generally we do not fac e such mortal danger anymore. Instead the response is triggered by an emotional reaction to a non - dangerous event. The more often you get angry, the more stressed you generally are, leading to premature ageing. When the emotional mind is balanced, you achi eve a positive state of health.
Bhakti yoga or yoga of unconditional love cultivates faith, devotion and surrender and helps to get rid of ego, fear, desires, anger, hatred, jealousy. It removes stress, builds stronger relationships and bonds including the connection with mother nature. Research on faith shows that it aids healing and eases mental stress, anxiety and depression.
From the Karma Yoga perspective, disease arises when actions are motivated by material and selfish desires. Your actions are a t the root of your mental state and behaviour. Thus your action makes your mind. Good health and balance is achieved through selfless service: not expecting any results from one’s actions, working without ego. If you want to control your mind, emotions and lifestyle... it all starts with karma.
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