What is Yoga Therapy?
What is Yoga Therapy? What is Yoga?
Yoga is a set of tools and practices that can help you restore balance in your system.
By system I mean your physical body, your mental body and your energy body.
The physical body is the part of your body that is physical. Hands, legs, muscles, brain, nerves stomach, etc. They have a form. You can clearly distinguish them from one another.
The mental body is the structure that you cannot see. You can only experience the impact of the mental body. The mental body exists in form of beliefs, thoughts, intelligence, memory, etc. The mental body is formless.
Energy Body is the body that provides energy to both the above structure. You can experience the energy body in form of breath as of now. All of us know that it is breath that brings in oxygen to the system which is the basis of life. Energy body is much beyond the oxygen which is called as prana or the life force.
Yoga focusses on a set of practices for a healthy individual without any clinically diagnosed form of illness.
When a person has been diagnosed with a disease then the approach of Yoga changes.
How is the Approach of Yoga Therapy different from Yoga?
It will be easy to understand the above question with a simple example.
For example if a person has blood pressure then it means that his blood vessels are more narrower, his kidneys may over work and the hormonal functions are disturbed. Stress hormone levels are high.
From a Yogic point of view, the sum total of all imbalances in his mind-body- energy is now showing up in his circulatory system. Hence when we focus to balance this system first then we can restore balance in all other systems. Thus we begin with what is evidently imbalanced.
From a medical point of view certain asanas, breathing exercises are not to be done by a person with hypertension. These can increase hypertension. So we modify asanas or add asanas that can bring about the necessary benefits to the person without aggravating the system.
Yoga Therapy Benefits:
The key benefit of Yoga Therapy is that we self empower the individual to learn and heal himself.
The individual is fully involved in the process of treatment.
Frankly this is the case in all diseases. Very few are aware that in spite of medicine being the same why is there a difference in results?
When the doctor who operates is same, why is there a difference in results?
Actually the truth is that its the individual who heals himself.
Doctors and medicines create an environment for healing to happen. Since the intervention is more and there is a solid substance in form of medicine that a person consumes, the patient feels that the doctor and medicine heals. Yes, both play a role, but the major role is played by the psyche of the person.
The main benefit of yoga therapy and for that matter yoga also is that both work at the level of the mind.
For example, when you meet a doctor for a headache, he may prescribe you a pill. You may take the pill, the pain comes down and you may continue to do what you have been doing in the past. Hence the symptom has been taken care of while the root cause remains. This may show up differently later.
Yoga Therapy for Back Pain
The above approach causes more harm in back pain. Back pain presents as a postural problem, You may assume a certain posture where the spine is not properly aligned because you have not properly strengthened the vertebral column.
Since the posture is not right, the information that goes from the spine to the brain is improper. Hence brain functions differently. Decisions may be flawed. Emotional stability may be compromised.
Since posture is not correct, lungs are compressed and hence oxygen is not properly inhaled. This affects energy and emotional stability of the entire being.
When this continues, challenges in life seem to keep increasing due wrong decision making and lack of alertness. Since oxygen supply is not good, immunity gets compromised. Then this gives rise to most immunocompromised diseases like arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, diabetes etc.
Now if we look at just back pain for which the above mentioned reasons could be primary, you take a pill to suppress the pain. Pain subsides. You continue to have the improper posture and the other effects of the same get exacerbated. This leads to intensification of the problem.
In yoga therapy we start with the strengthening of the vertebral column and revitalizing the nervous system around the spine. Parallelly we work with proper breathing which changes the flow of energy in the system. Overall there is a change in posture without even informing the patient as the exercises strengthen the vertebral columns. Energy flow is also worked on and hence decision making becomes better. Oxygen flow becomes better. This brings out a overall change which eventually leads to relief from back pain.
Yoga Therapy for Diabetes:
Diabetes is one more disease which we can explore from the perspective of Yoga Therapy.
From a clinical perspective diabetes is viewed as a condition where there is less insulin or body not responding to less secretion of hormone from Pancreas.
This makes us assume that Diabetes is a problem of the endocrine system, especially the pancreas. While in reality, this is a metabolic problem that shows through the pancreas; the pancreas and its hormone are the end result of malfunctioning of many other glands.
Sugar is transported into the cells by the hormone secreted by Pancreas. Now you will eat food only if you are hungry. similarly, cells will consume sugar only if they want to live or if they are hungry, or if the sugar already inside them has been exhausted.
Basically, cells do not want more sugar as they are not able to digest it. Increasing sugar digesting hormone will only overload. It will reduce sugar levels for sure, but if the habits do not change you may assume that all is well and start consuming more sugar without creating an environment to burn up the sugar inside the cells.
In yoga therapy, we start from the mind. It is the mind that has a tendency to seek stressful events which in turn fires up the nervous system abnormally. This gives wrong signals to the hypothalamus. The pituitary which gets information from the hypothalamus is also confused and hence pancreas does not secrete hormones for digesting sugar.
Only when we take care of this complete chain will we be able to bring about the necesary change.
Yoga Therapy works with the energy system, breathing modification to create balance in the nervous system which in turn works to balance endocrine function. Without involving the complete chain in the process treatment may not give desired results.
When handled properly the chances of disease reversal is high.
Yoga Therapy for Anxiety:
Similarly anxiety is a condition characterized by high level of stress hormones. These are primary secreted by the kidneys and adrenal glands. Kidneys do not secrete more stress hormones because to stress the system.
Kidneys get information from the heart and blood vessels which in turn responds to the tendency of the mind to get emotionally overwhelmed quickly. Inappropriate beliefs and coping mechanisms to handle what happens externally; office, home, relationships, finance etc create a sense of urgency in the nervous systems. This demands more from the heart and blood vessels and this in turn is compensated by the kidneys.
Hence here too it is a complete cycle. By just replacing certain chemicals in the system cannot make one calm. In fact when clients come for Yoga therapy for Depression, I tend to keep reminding them often – ‘ If you think that you can become happy with a pill, then no one will work’.
Pills for anxiety and depression are short term relief. Pills work in the nervous system and brain But the actual problem is in the mind. Pill cannot reach there.
Yoga Therapy for PCOS:
Anxiety and stress are key reasons for PCOS. PCOS, PCOD, Thyroid challenged, Uterine Fibroids., etc, are all hormonal challenges. When Hormonal imbalance strikes, glands are involved. In the case of PCOS ovaries are involved.
Ovaries get information from the pituitary. Pituitary, as mentioned before, get information from Hypothalamus which regulated both the endocrine and nervous system.
Hypothalamus is also in touch with the lower areas of the brain. Hence when a woman is more anxious, stressed the whole of the system gets confused and this finally shows up as PCOS.
By trying to replace natural hormones with artificial ones we actually may not give any benefit as the root cause is not addressed.
‘I am not unhappy – I do not have any reason to get stressed – All is well in my life.’
These are the reasons which some clients give when they meet me with PCOS or even diabetes.
My answer is that stress is unconscious. There is internal stress which you are not aware of. The body speaks the truth.
Integrated approach of Yoga Therapy:
Yoga therapy becomes an integrated approach and this is both a benefit and a bane.
A bane because this involves as aspects of one’s life. Right life style, right posture, disciplined practice. This makes it difficult to comply with.
Having said that I know from my own experience that when followed systematically Yoga Therapy has the potential to change one’s life fully.
Scope of Yoga Therapy:
Yoga Therapy is a holistic process. Whatever be one’s stage in life one can start with Yoga therapy. Three months of practice will change the way one lives for sure.
Whether it be a physiological change or a psychological change one seeks, Yoga Therapy has a comprehensive answer.