The Fourfold Yoga - Part VI
"Excellence in action is Yoga " declares the Song Celestial ( Geetha ), an authentic treatise on Yoga & the quintessence of the Upanishads. Yoga, as the science of Holistic living, is a way of life. Yoga does not mean physical exercises even though such exercises have been prescribed for improving the skill of our body. Yoga comprises techniques that transform our intellect, mind and emotions & provides a comprehensive philosophy for Integral Life.
In order to live an integral life, we must develop skill in life. Aurobindo defined Yoga as the Art of Conscious Self Finding. The first & fundamental thing we should do if we are to expand the limits of our Consciousness, is to gain mastery of the mind. This is not easy.
The incidence of most of the physical diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries have been reduced by glorious advances in medical sciences. The eradication of most infectious diseases and the control of many metabolic disorders have been effectuated by better drugs and surgical techniques. Soon, even routine genetic minterventions may be possible. But new and ever more common causes of illhealth haunt us today. They are psychosomatic ailments & chronic stress. Allopathy is less than effective when dealing with these complaints.
The cause of these are found to be attitudes & lifestyle and not physiological anomalies. Allopathy by concentrating on a physical and mechanistic approach to healing, can do little to relieve conditions such as these. The frenetic pace of modern life exposes many people to continous high mental tension & unrelieved stress. And if we are largely sedentary in our habits & overindulge in health damaging substances & foods, as we are fond of doing, our well- being & fitness will be furthur compromised. Eventually stress may manifest itself in the form of physical disease or mental breakdown. Allopathy is symptomatic, and has countered with symptom- suppressing treatments, instead of tackling the root cause of the problem. Lack of disease has been regarded as health, rather
than as a dynamic growth process in which we feel truly well on physical, mental level and spiritual levels.
The Evolution of Medicine & the Three Eras of Medicine
Allopathic Medicine or " Physical Medicine" belongs to the first era. It is Cartesian and creates a dichotomy between mind & body. Treating a disease is like fixing a part of the machine.
The second era of medicine refers to 'Mind-Body medicine." It became popular in the 1960s with the advent of Meditation, imagery, hypnosis & bio-feedback. Mind and body are interconnected by messenger molecules and these molecules are invoked to accomplish the healing process.
The third era of Medicine refers to " Transpersonal Medicine ". It became popular in 1990s with the advent of group support and spirituality to heal.
Yoga therapy supplements the second and the third eras of medicine.
Yoga therapy complements medical technology with a holistic system of health care that addresses the triune problems - physical, mental & spiritual. The author of Yoga Sutras, Patanjal, defined it as the Science of the Mind. Mind is the root cause of bondage and in order to redeem us from the thraldom of the mind, we have to annilhilate the mind. Extirpation of thought waves is Yoga. And it is through teaching us to control our mind, our desires, and our reactions to stress, that yoga can fundamentally help us. It is based on the tripod of Life - Body, Mind & Self & the three levels of Being- Doing, Thinking & pure Being.
Mastery of the mind involves 2 aspects;
1) Concentration - The ability to concentrate our attention on any given subject or object
2) Meditation - The ability to quieten our mind at will.
Though the first has been mastered partially by most people, the second is very difficult. It is difficult indeed to lapse into a state of inner peace, let alone at will. As an intellectual, skillful means for quietening the mind, Yoga is unparalleled. A still mind is pure Spirit.
All aspects of the Fourfold Yoga work toward this in some way and if we practice this master Science, we reach closer to our goal. Yoga generates that inner mental peace perpetually, in all our actions, and thereby we achieve physical and mental health. This calmness in action is the secret to attaining the skill , according to Yoga Philosophy. This is known as the strength of Superconscient stillness !
Stillness itself is inertia
Action itself is discord
When stillness and action equalise
Then is the Highest Cosmic Union ( Yoga )
Lo! steadfast a lamp burns sheltered from the wind
Such is the likeness of the Yogi's mind
Freed from sense storms and burning bright to Heaven
When mind broods placid, soothed with holy wont
When Self contemplates Self and in itself
Hath comfort ! ( The Song Celestial )
Health & Yoga Therapy
The World Health Organisation defines health as a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being & not merely an absence of
disease and infirmity. WHO also suggests a fourth dimension - spiritual well-being. It is clear from this definition that health should
be conceived as a continous function indicating the state of well-being and not a lack of ill health.
The approach of Yoga Therapy is based on the holistic concept of human being; the five " sheaths " of existence of which the physical sheath ( Annamaya Kosha ) is only the first. The second is the Vital Sheath ( Pranamaya Kosha ), that is made up of the Vital Energy called Prana which flows through invisible channels called Nadis. The third is the Mental Sheath ( Manomaya Kosha ) The fourth is the Intellectual Sheath ( Vijnanamaya Kosha ) and the final sheath is the Bliss Sheath ( Ananda Maya Kosha ). The Bliss Sheath is found to consist of the positive energy associated with the Divine Self. It is from this sheath that the inner peace
characteristic of true Bliss emanates.
More information about Transcendental Philosophy & Yoga can be had from http://www.astrologiavedica.com/html/yogamain.htm
Disease is defined as any imbalance in any of the three lower sheaths of existence. Ego Consciousness, which is centered around the Self, predominates in the physical, vital & mind sheaths. Harmony in these sheaths can be easily disturbed as the ego is up in arms against the world most of the time. The fourth & the fifth sheaths are permeated by a larger, Cosmic Consciousness and cannot be disturbed as they are closer to the Self. When we are truly healthy, the positive energy in the higher sheath percolates freely through the lower ones and brings total harmony & balance to all our faculties. But the imbalances in the lower sheaths block the free movement of Bliss despite the harmony of the higher sheaths being constant.
A great treatise on Yoga, the Yoga Vasishta, declares that there are two types of physical illness, & each requires a different approach. The first are the illnesses with a strong physical element, such as contagious diseases & accidental injuries. These are most effectively dealt with by conventional medicine, though Yoga can play a substantial supportive role. Yoga is prophylactic & also helps prevent the occurrence of such ailments by improving our general health & making us less accident-prone.
The other types of illness arises through disturbances in the mind sheath and includes all the psychosomatic & degenerative ailments. In these disorders, psychological factors play a much greater role, & conventional treatment alone cannot effectuate healing. According to Yogic Psychology, such ailments are thought to be caused by mental diseases called Adhis. ( Adhi creates Vyadhi , disease ). These arise when excessively strong feelings of like or dislike ( Raga & Dvesha ) becomes amplified & established acting to distort personality & to obstruct the flow of positive energy to the lower sheaths. This causes imbalances that result in physical ailments and also makes us feel restless &discontented.
The positive energy from the bliss sheath is responsible for our natural state which is Peace . While the flow of this energy is interrupted by Adhis ( mental blocks), our sense of well-being is diminished, & in our attempt to regain it, we may be furthur aggravating the problem by behaving inappropriately.
We may eat the wrong type of foods, lapse into negative states of mind, drive ourselves too hard, overwork ourselves, live in unhealthy surroundings and add more tension and stress. These methods, however will give only momentary relief & may be actually damaging to our health.
Y T provides that all-important element that conventional therapies lack while dealing with psychosomatic illnesses, as it acts directly on the mental imbalances that underlie them. While Meditation & emotion- culturing makes us conscious of the fact that thoughts and emotions are tyrants, Happiness-analysis teaches how to look within ourselves to find beatific peace and contentment. This effectively complements allopathic techniques which improve the situation physically but are unable to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
The root Cause of all Disease - Bhoga or Sensory enjoyments
Bhoga ( enjoyments of the senses ) is Roga ( Disease). It can only be cured by Yoga ( Divine Alchemy ).
All food that is tasty is detrimental to the body, declares Prakriti Therapy The food which cometh from Nature, fruits and vegetables,
are alkaline by nature. Maximum health is in an alkaline body. We can only be healthy if we keep a 80%- 20% ratio. ( 80% alkalinity & 20% acidity). This means we have to eat more natural foods & less processed foods ( which are more or less acidic ). Truly speaking, processed foods,even though they taste well, are robbers as they rob us of our natural, vibrant health.
Happiness Analysis for Lifestyle Change
Happiness Analysis is a technique for analysing the cause of happiness, what constitutes Bliss, the inner beatific peace that
characterises the fifth level of Being. It basically embodies the realization that happiness comes from within and is not
dependent on material possessions or physical enjoyment.
When we achieve desires, we are happy temporarily because of the satisfaction involved and happiness is often associated with
jubilation and excitement. But such feelings of euphoria are often followed by negative feelings such as tiredness & disillusionment.
The Beatific Peace, which is the aim of Yoga, involves no great effort and engenders no fatigue. The authoritatie texts of Yoga
postulate that the Ultimate State of Bliss is a state of eternal silence, wherein we are not troubled by tormenting thoughts &
fears and where we are freed from all sorrows.
Though Yoga practices lay the foundation needed for us to achieve this, we must also make determined efforts to sustain a state of
perfect happiness by analysing our feelings of pleasure. The basic hypothesis of Yoga is that actions bring pleasure when they briefly evoke the inner silence that defines true happiness. When our desire is fulfilled or when a goal is won, at the very instance of
success our thoughts vanish & our mind dips momentarily into the Bliss sheath. Actually what we do is to open up temporary channels to the higher sheath, hence evoking positive sensations. This is merely a temporary feeling and cannot be perpetuated.
Can we generate that moment from within and free ourselves from dependency on external aids? Yes, we can, if we try enough. Practice makes one perfect and at first we may not be able to maintain inner peace for long, but gradually we will become less vulnerable to negative influences. The likes & dislikes ( Raga & Dvesha ) that can lead to mental diseases ( Adhis ) will become less important and our growing awareness of Cosmic Consciousness will give meaning & coherence to every aspect of our life.
The Basis Of Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy is fundamentally different from allopathic practice in its approach to health care. Instead of trying to reduce the cause
of disease to a single factor and to correct it using a specific cure, Yoga aims to treat illness by improving health on all the five levels of Being - physical, vital, mental, intellectual & spiritual - simultaneously & restoring inner harmony.
Ill-health occurs when the total balance of perfect health is disturbed. And although the original disrupting influence may only affect one level at first, viz the physical level, the disturbance soon spreads to the other four levels. All the five sheaths of existence interact, thus something that primarily affects the mind can soon spread to the body & the subtler sheaths. A bad day at work may make us irritable & it also increases stress reaction, makes our muscles tense and often depletes our energy level leading to chronic fatigue.
While emotion culturing generates equanimity, Relaxation & Meditation can calm our mind. Positive action produces harmony, just as as negative influences spread disruption. The different types of yoga practice augment each other & are more effective when done together. All wisdom is given in the one word " Relax".
Physical relaxation can be effectuated when we do the prescribed Asanas & stretch our muscles as muscular tension is released.
Mental relaxation is effected when we relax our mind during Meditation and release suppressed emotions.
This is the essence of Yoga Therapy, both prophylactic & therapeutic. Daily practice of a complete Yoga session can restore our natural balance and harmony, bringing positive good health to the three levels of Being - physical, mental and spiritual.
The Therapeutic Potential of Yoga
Yoga, holistic science and integral life, has become popular because it promotes positive health and is also useful in the prevention and treatment of diseases. Its therapeutic potential has largely been investigated for stress-related pyshco-somatic ailments. But with
the recent interest in " Psycho-neuro- immunology" ( the effect of psyche on the immune system ), there is also a possibility that Yoga therapy can modify the course of infectious diseases.
One of the stress conditions which can definitely be controlled through yoga therapy is bronchial asthma. Beneficial effects of specific yoga practices, such as pranayamas, or kriyas can alleviate asthma. Patients with type II daibetes mellitus were also shown to improve significantly following yoga practice. Systematic studies on the effects of Yoga therapy for essential hypertension has shown that Y T compares favourably with bio-feedback. A study conducted in the UK on patients with rheumatoid arthritis demonstrated that Y T reduced symptoms and need for medicine.
Scientific studies also show that if pathological Angst ( anxiety ) patients practice Yogic techniques such as Pranayamas ( which
means the control of the Vital Force, Prana ), they show significant improvement.
Yoga therapy has also been used in the rehabilitation of the mentally handicapped. Ten months of yoga practice significantly improved the IQ, eye-hand coordination and social adaptation of 45 children with varying degress of mental retardation.
Psycho-neuro-immunology has given rise to interest in the idea that Y T can be used for the management of infectious diseases such
as pulmonary tuberculosis.Studies indicate two months of Y T along with short term chemotherapy caused tremendous change for the better. This beneficial effect of Yoga on the immune system has delighted the alternate medical community. Holistic health practitioners how talk about the the effect of Y T in cancer and even in AIDS patients. It has been shown that the practice of Yoga reduces the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy in patients with cancer of the uterine cervix. It is also interesting to study
scientifically investigated reports on cancer regression following meditation. It is encouraging to note that there has been a scientific
study which showed that AIDS patients benefited ( clinically, psychologically, immunologically ) from Y T.
Ayurveda, Tai Chi, Y T, Kai-Igaku, Pranic Healing, Reflexology, Reiki, Acupuncture are all included amongst the 70 systems of Alternative Medicine which are prevalent today. All these come under Holistic Medicine which highlights the greatness of the Whole more than the parts. ( " The Whole is greater than the sum of its parts " )
A good site where you can get quality information about Holistic Medicine is www.holistic-alt.com
Yogic Diet & Prevention of Cancer
Modern reasearch shows that diets such as smoked fish/ meat or other foods known to contain carcinogenic chemicals should be
avoided at all costs. Because of the Western fast food type diet, colon cancer in men, promoted by high meat ( beef ) and fat
consumption is on the increase in the West. There is no doubt that a high fibre, low-fat diet reduces the risk of colon cancer.
Many compounds which are potent carcinogens are contained in cigarette smoking as well as smoked or barbecued meat or fish
products. They include benzenes ( in the tar component of cigarette smoke), heterocyclic amines & polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( in smoked / barbecued meat or fish ). That explains why lung cancer is on the rise in the Western male population during the last century. Colon cancer has reached endemic proportions in the West ( because of higher consumption of barbequed meat and beef fat ) & stomach cancer occurs at an alarming rate in Japan because of the Japanese habit of consuming fish.
Claims which need furthur research
While spices such as ( black or green) or spices such as fresh ginger, garlic & turmeric have been reported to reduce the risk of colon
cancer, onion is claimed to lower the risk of stomach cancer. Soyabean products reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Skin
cancer is reduced, it is claimed, by topical application of some constituents of ginger oil and ginger extract. It is true that more
research is needed on natural compounds. One breakthrough is the discovery of taxol, a plant product which is of tremendous
benefit in certain cancers. There are many such waiting for their discovery, particularly from indigenous plants in India, with proper
scientific research tools & testing.
Hygiea's Commandment that "Thou shalt eat unprocessed, living natural food " merits consideration here. Naturopathy
asks us to consume 100 grams fruits & 300 grams vegetables ( organically grown ) daily. Yoga with its emphasis on a naturopathic
diet of fruits & vegetables can show us the path to perfect health & Wisdom. Naturopathy is a branch of Ayurveda, the Science of Life, which is allied to Yoga.
More info about Ayurveda can be had from http://www.chakrapaniayurveda.com
The Healing Centre in us
Yogic philosophy averrs that true healing comes from within, the Self, the divine component in man.
His great transparent mirror, Self !
Within each of us is the source of Life and health, the Divine Centre. We have to learn to turn to that source and return to it again and again. When we breathe it in, the freshness engages us. Yoga frees us from the thraldom of both mind and matter & we become