India is known worldwide for its rich and varied culture and heritage. There are various things that have originated in India but have been widely accepted and assimilated by other cultures of the world. Right from Ayurveda, to religions like Buddhisim and Jainism, India has a lot of offerings to the world community. One such of its offerings, which have benefitted people worldwide, is Yoga (originally pronounced as ‘Yog’).
The wonders that Yoga does for your body, mind, and soul have been witnessed by millions around the globe. Today Yoga is increasingly becoming not only a part, but a way of life for many people. Many have benefitted by the miracles of Yoga, and more continue to benefit out of it. Yet, there is a lot of ignorance among people about its practice, and especially its use as a therapy.
I, Akshaya Kawle, welcome all the readers to my article on ‘Yoga Therapy’. The intention behind the research and work for this article is that more people are exposed to the goodness of the Yoga therapy to cure various ailments, leading to a healthy lifestyle.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "Yuj" meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual - body with mind and mind with soul - to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme. Yoga therapy (Yog Chikitsa) is the adaptation of these yoga practices for people with health problems. Yoga therapy utilizes practices from India, which date back thousands of years and are part of traditional Indian healthcare system. Critical research trials show that yoga therapy practices are among the most effective known methods for managing the psychosomatic diseases and disorders, stress-related conditions, which are so common today. This is because Yoga bridges the gap between body and mind, ranging across the whole spectrum from physical to mental, from gross to subtle.
Yoga therapy is the combination of the age old yoga practices and contemporary medicine. Hence, it is a holistic treatment.
Constituents of Yoga Therapy:
The therapy includes the following principles which help in overall development of the body and mind. These are:
These are the right postures that one should practice. This helps in overall health of the body muscles, and organs.
This may be associated with the Asanas, however the mudras consist of certain positions of the hands and fingers, which help in influencing and channelizing the energies of your body. For example, while meditating, one has to keep his/her hands in a particular way to enhance its effectiveness.
However in certain cases, the entire body could be a part of a Mudra.
These are actions which help in applying strain and pressure on the muscles. The word in itself means to strain, tighten, or lock. They are used to cleanse and energize our body.
4. Shat Karmas/ Kriyas:
These are the cleansing practices used in the therapy. These are a total of six, and thus known as the Shat Karmas (6 actions). These help in enhancing our body’s cleansing mechanisms.
5. Meditation and Concentration:
These constitute an important aspect of the yoga therapy. Meditation and concentration together make us more aware of our body, helping in the treatment and cure of the flaws and defects our body faces. It helps in stabilizing our mind, and channelizing our energy.
It means relaxation. Yoga believes that tension is disease, and relaxation is the cure for it. Thus shavasana is necessary for a healthy mind and body. This is one of the important steps in yoga therapy. Though it sounds easy, this is one component which could prove to be the most difficult to establish when the person is exposed to yoga therapy.
7. Balanced diet:
This makes for yet another important part of the yoga therapy. A proper well balanced diet helps in negating the possibilities of diseases arising out of improper food habits. A balanced set of nutrients helps for a healthy body, and also prevents from various ailments.
By the above steps, Yoga therapy tries to cure the root cause of the problem to avoid relapses. It believes that all ailments are a result of an imbalance in the functioning of body and soul, and takes a course of spiritual healing.
Uses of Yoga Therapy:
1. Yoga serves to unify our body, mind and soul. Due to our stressful lifestyles, we are in a state wherein these three aspects do not work in unison, resulting in a host of problems. Mental stress results in physical problems, and vice-versa, particularly relating to the nervous, glandular and digestive system. Yoga therapy works towards lifting the individual to a platform where these three factors work together and eliminate most of the physical and mental stress.
2. When an individual performs certain pranayama and contraction and relaxation exercise of the body parts under proper guidance, the risks of heart diseases drop drastically. It is seen that these exercises help unclog the arteries and thus reduce arteriosclerosis.
3. Yoga therapy believes that an individual possesses an untapped source of energy within his body which needs to be built up, and most importantly controlled, so that our body and mind are revitalized. With the help of the therapy, an individual can channelize this energy to every part and function of his body and thus physical and mental processes work in perfect harmony.
4. Many psychosomatic ailments are a result of mental stress, which can be effectively tackled with a systematic approach in yoga therapy.
5. It helps in removing acidic and toxic matter from the body. The various asanas ensure proper circulation of blood to each and every part of our body including our joints, muscles, organs which helps in removing harmful toxins.
6. Shavasana is practiced so that the whole body, mind and soul are relaxed and no external stress bothers the individual. When carried out properly, it helps in treating conditions like muscular hypertension, fatigue, hypochondria, insomnia, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate etc.
7. Shavasana is also helpful in many mental conditions like anxiety and phobias. It is also helpful in reducing stammering among individuals.
8. By practicing yoga in the right manner one can control the flow of life energy and direct it to any area of the body which is particularly affected. This helps in healing the affected area at a much faster rate.
9. Yoga therapy is so effective and accurate that most physical and mental problems have a particular predefined remedy in the form of various asanas. Most of the health problems are catered to, ranging from asthma to high/low blood pressure, from common cold to diabetes and even paralysis. Women can also treat various menstrual disorders through proper practice.
10. Yoga therapy helps in improving the metabolism of our body. It also strengthens our immune system.
11. By practicing the various techniques of yoga therapy, one can gain control over panic attacks. The therapy can be helpful in overcoming phobias and anxiety, by helping the person to gain a sense of control.
12. Yoga therapy can also lead to various beauty benefits. It can give you a fit and agile body. It helps fight obesity and in reducing abdominal fat. It also makes you look younger with better skin and hair. Over all fitness leads to a beautiful body.
13. Certain asanas like the vakrasana in yoga therapy are helpful in improving the blood circulation to our brain. There are various benefits of this, one being that it helps cure myopia and enhances our vision.
14. Yoga therapy is used in cases where the patient is suffering from acute pain. This pain could be caused by trauma, or could be chronic pain. The therapy helps reducing the pain and treating the root cause for the pain. There have been cases where people with acute back and spine problems have been completely cured using the yoga therapy.
15. Stress levels today are so high that an individual needs a treatment which can help him cope up with the world and provide a sense of right and wrong. Yoga therapy is perfect for everyone since it does not require a particular setting or any sort of apparatus. It can be practiced right from home.
16. The way yoga therapy helps in building up physical health, it also helps in rejuvenating mental health. Meditation techniques followed in yoga therapy greatly improve concentration levels in individuals. It helps individuals in developing a positive outlook towards life and also experience inner peace.
17. Yoga therapy is also an effective tool to help people release negative emotions like guilt, worry and fear. We often hold negative emotions that remain hidden deep in our minds. For example a need for revenge that stays in our minds and surfaces whenever we face an adverse situation. Yoga therapy helps release these emotions and helps us to forgive and truly forget.
18. Yoga therapy is also effective to get rid of one’s addiction. The process of meditation and self control can help people suffering from substance abuse such as drugs or alcohol to get rid of the habit. In fact today, many rehabilitation centers have included yoga therapy in their regime for the treatment of the patients.
19. Yoga therapy is known to be effective in the treatment of cancer and slowing down the detrimental effects of AIDS.
20. For children and elderly people, yoga therapy can prove effective in eliminating various ailments, without the use of harmful medications.
Yoga Therapy can therefore be called as a system of health care. It is preventive in nature, is curative at times and restorative at others. It has the capability to alleviate pain and suffering naturally through the various components discussed earlier. The only predisposition for its effectiveness is punctuality and regularity.
The biggest strength of Yoga Therapy is that in includes both our mind and body in the healing process. It aims at us being aware of ourselves proving to be an integrative source of all the positive energies around us. It helps us relax and ease out all tensions, mentally and physically. It improves our will power leading to self realization. This in itself makes for a healthy way of living.
Yoga Therapy has no bars. It can be practiced by people of all ages, gender, etc. Yoga is always mistakenly related to religion. It is in fact not. People who do not believe and acknowledge any religion have also been benefitted by this therapy. It has helped all who practice it to vent out toxins from the body, mind and soul.
In today’s day and time, when people find it difficult to cope up with the fast pace of lifestyle, yoga should be an integrative part of everyone’s life. It does not only help cure ones physical and mental ailments, but also forms a protective shield to avoid further such instances. It helps one in realizing and coming to terms with the inner self, understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses. This helps in overcoming the weaknesses by effectively utilizing the strengths. In the corporate world, it can prove to be a strong tool for individual SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis. This again leads to a successful lifestyle.
The therapy in itself is such a vast field, that there are specific set regimes for most ailments and diseases. Therefore it is considered as one of the most effective treatments. Methods and practices that are followed in the therapy have been assimilated over centuries and hence the individuals should follow them exactly. One should not try to alter procedures as per convenience, as this may lead to ruining the right balance which is utmost important. However, there have been additions to the therapy by various therapists all over the world. Today the goodness of Yoga is enhanced by coupling it with the goodness of ayurveda, naturotherapy, and aromatherapy. This shows the ability of the yoga therapy to enhance its healing powers when combined with other therapies.
Just the way yoga has been assimilated in all the cultures over the world, it has been seen that various cultures have also assimilated in the yoga therapy. The science is so vast that there have been specially designed regimes for individuals, depending on the various needs of the person. Yet the most powerful and effective way of healing, and well being lies in the original form of the art, practiced regularly and seriously.
Remember it is not a part of living, but a way of living for healthier mind body and soul!
Authors Brief Bio: Akshaya Kawle is a Bachelor of Arts with Political Science Majors, is currently pursuing her MBA (HR), and is a professional swimmer, and dancer. A keen learner, she is also pursuing a course on Counseling and Graphology. When not working on her various hobbies like driving, interacting with people, and spending time with family and her pets, she volunteers for an NGO for stray animals.