It is very important for us to remember that Yoga Therapy is more about healing than about curing. Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons are names given to certain set of symptoms that may or may not be understood in Yoga as a Therapy. In Yoga Therapy we are looking at the symptoms of the person’s disease and more importantly we are looking at the experience that the person is having with these symptoms.
It is difficult to say that Yoga Therapy can cure something like Alzheimer’s disease. It is difficult to say that Yoga Therapy can cure something like Parkinsons illness. But at the same time, in my experience I and my students have seen that my father helped lot of people with diseases like Parkinsons disease because, Parkinsons disease may not be actually Parkinsons disease, it may be the imbalance of what we all as the “Vata” system. If Vata is in imbalance our body starts to tremour. If the Müladhärä cakra is highly unstable, the body start to tremour, because the Müladhärä also rules the bones in the body, the solid parts in the body. If such is the case, definitely there are practices that can help to reduce the symptoms the person will be diagnosed as cure from Parkinsons illness. For us, as a Yoga Therapist we are not looking at it as Parkinsons disease.
Alzheimer’s is more complicated. When there is actually brain damage, it is not possible for Yoga practices to reverse it. It is not easy to say that it will reverse it. But Alzheimer’s or memory loss can be, because of Vata imbalance. It may be a technical term given to somebody who has got loss of memory and is mis-diagnosed as Alzheimer’s. In such cases, when we balance the Vata the memory improves. But if there is brain damage and the nervous system it is not actually easy to say that Yoga will actually cure this situation.
But Yoga can definitely reduce the effect of these illnesses and improve the quality of the life of the persons and also the family members. Yoga as a Therapy can play a complementary role as supplementary system not only for the patient and but also for the families those who are going through these Parkisons or Alzheimer’s disease because they are something that they are affecting not only for the patients but also for the family.
Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation
Yoga is Universal. This is one of the reasons why Yoga is embraced by people around the world, because Yoga does not actually emphasize on the religious belief. Yoga certainly emphasizes on a spiritual attitude where we are concerned with how we relate with each other and how we relate with oneself and most importantly how we relate with the Universe. But Yoga does not ever insist on a religious faith and say that only those who are religious must practice Yoga.
In Patanjali’s Yogasutra, patanjali gracefully says, “Iswarapranidanat vah” He gives us choice. For those who believe in the divine, those who have a chosen faith, that can be used as one of the means or tools of Yoga. For those who do not have a religious faith or religious orientation, it is still okay to practice Yoga. This means Yoga is non-dogmatic, not insisting on a religious belief or religious path. So, whoever wants to practice Yoga can embrace Yoga irrespective of their religious faith or religious orientation. In this way Yoga is very non-discriminatory.
What is important is that we practice Yoga with an open heart with faith in our hearts and an all-embracing attitude so that we don’t bring the tenates of our religion into Yoga practice. We don’t become fundamentalistic Yogis, but rather embrace the message of Patanjali that Yoga is universal and therefore we must become universal in our orientation as well. We must be non-discriminatory towards the genuine system that are guiding humanity in their path in their own methods as long as they are not harming the people.
In a nutshell, Yoga is for everyone as long as they are open to receive the benefits of Yoga. That is the most important thing.
Yoga during pregnancy is one of the most important topics discussed in the text “Yoga Rahasya” of Nathamuni. Nathamuni talks about different trimesters and what kind of practices are appropriate and which kind of practices should be avoided in which trimester, all these are very greatly discussed in this beautiful text. Yoga during pregnancy is very significant not only for the health of the mother and ease of delivery at the time of delivery but also for the health of the child in creation. Yoga strongly believes that when the an mother is healthy not only at a physical level but also at energetic, at an emotional and at spiritual level. The child will also be healthy over all. The potentials of the child will be very positive. This is one of the reasons why the Yoga Rahasya of Nathamuni advocates very strongly the practice of Yoga during Pregnancy. Women must definitely consider this during pregnancy not only for their own sake but also for the sake of their child.
Guidance on what should be done and guidance on what should be avoided should also be presented so that it can be safe during the entire nine months which a very important time during her life.
During this time not only there are bodily changes, but there are also hormonal changes, there are psychological changes and relationship with her and her husband or her partner will change, relationship with the family will change and most importantly a new relationship between her and her child is going to get started.
In all of these areas a healthy person is important because the more healthy the person is the more healthy relationship will also manifest. So this is another reason that Yoga has a strong role in the time during pregnancy. So I would suggest myself, from my own experience of having my partner practicing Yoga during my child’s delivery as well as guiding so many of my students who have benefited through Yoga during their pregnancies and had very wonderful child births and wonderful children that Yoga during pregnancy is a very good thing to consider.
Human beings are animals of patterns. We all have habits or patterns that Yoga philosophy refers as samskaras. These are patterns not only which are external but also which are internal. For example, our body not only has a pattern of behavior to body language and communication, but also our perceptions, our thought processes to view the world etc. All these are what is called conscious or subconscious samskaras or patterns. These come not only from cultural and educational learning but also from the impressions that we arry from our past i.e. the collective impressions that we carry from our past. This is called Vasana-s. Vasana-s are basically impressions that we have accumulated from the past in our life as well as from our ancestors through whom we have been born, we have been created and we carry their impressions as well through what is called blood.
All of these shape our reality and the way we interact with our reality, the way we perceive our reality, the way we respond to our reality. So reality is a very subjective concept for our existence. That is why sometimes we are in trouble because the way we perceive something may not be actually consistent with the reality of what is existing. For example, somebody may perceive this room as warm, somebody may perceive this room as cold, but the fact is that the room is at a particular temperature. The reality of the experience is the subjective one and the way we respond to it is subjective as well. Somebody may feel warm and take the sweater off and the person who is feeling cold may like to wear a sweater.
The same happens in our reality and its manifestations in different parts of our life. What we see as danger may not be seen as danger by somebody else, what we see as pleasure may not be seen as pleasure by somebody else. That is why Patanjali reminds us that reality is a subjective experience.
Sometimes based on this subjective experience we get trapped by these patterns and we start to suffer. We repeat our patterns because it is taking less energy because the patterns are already programmed in us and to follow that pattern is much more easier. Sometimes we repeat these patterns and falling once again in our suffering trap. That is why Patanjali says we have to replace the old patterns with new ones. We have to replace the patterns which are inappropriate with patterns which are appropriate.
There are many references that Patanjali gives which are telling us that we have to replace the old and more inappropriate patterns with new appropriate patterns. This is the path of Yoga where we are replacing disturbed patterns what is called “Udhdhana Samskara” with patterns of stability called “nirodha samskara”.
Achieving this through Yoga is not a simple and direct way. Yoga offers in a very holistic manner. For some people, we may have to use body exercises through Asanas, diet changes, through certain gestures like Nyasa-s etc where we are changing the pattern through physical medium because sometimes these patterns are imprinted on the physiological construct.
For some other people, we will have to use certain energetic practices such as Pranayama, Mudra-s & Bandha-s etc. For certain others, we have to practice through meditative practices or mantra practices so that the imprints that are in the mental psychological structure change as well.
So Yoga is essentially the way where we are changing unconscious and inappropriate patterns into conscious and appropriate patterns. That is precisely the role of Yoga in mankind. This is precisely why Yoga was presented many many years ago because if we get taken over by unconscious patterns we become victims of the patterns and we fall in sufferings again and again. To become free from these patterns we use the holistic tools of Yoga.