The Healing Power Of YogaApr 07, 2022
We live in a world that moves forward at an increasingly faster speed. Our ways of life and our activities have evolved to meet the demands that the new lifestyle places on us. There are many methods that we use to deal with stress and pressure – unhealthy eating, snacking and consuming junk food, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, the use of drugs and addictive substances, unhealthy social activities, and more. The list is very extensive. Very often we continue with our unhealthy activities because of the short-term peace and relaxation they provide, even though we know they are not good for us. We know that in the long term we will pay a price, physical, mental and spiritual for these short-term fixes we indulge in. We may want to give them up, but the question arises of what happens then? There cannot be a gaping void in our lives where the unhealthy activities used to be. What are the healthy options?
Healthy Healing through Yoga
Replacing the unhealthy influence on our lives with a healthy one is something we know we should do. However, when the word healthy is mentioned, the thoughts that come to mind are strenuous activities, abstinence from what we enjoy and the denial of pleasures. These presume sacrifices are often enough to make us stay on the unhealthy path that we already walk. But what if there is another option – one that gives us good health, inner peace, relaxation and provides us with the strength to perform better in all aspects of our lives? Best of all, it involves no sacrifices or giving up the enjoyment of life. That is what the healing power of yoga offers.
How Yoga Heals
The western world is today embracing yoga as a source of overall wellbeing. This has created an increased awareness of the benefits of yoga here in India, in the land of its origin. This is not a case of blindly copying the West. The awareness is, in part, due to the research that has been done in the West on the benefits of healing powers of yoga and the scientific way that the benefits of yoga are being present. Many of the pressures of life are imports of the western lifestyle that is now a part of Indian life. So using the scientific and medical research that has been done there to explain and popularize the health and healing benefits of yoga here is logical.
The Many Benefits Of Yoga
The world accepts that yoga is a very powerful tool and therapy in the treatment of many serious medical conditions such as cancer, lung-related ailments, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, joint pain, insomnia and many more. However, there is still very little awareness of how yoga works and how it heals. The basic concept is that stress and disease are closely related. Current medical research shows that stress and disease are closely intertwined – perhaps as much as over 80% of sickness has a stress element.
Even a partial list of the diseases that are related to stress is frightening – cardiac disease, hypertension, depression and other mental disorders, insomnia, many autoimmune diseases, diabetes, fertility issues, digestive and bowel ailments and so many more. When we are stressed both body and mind are tensed – heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, muscles become tense and tight, and so on. In the short term, this natural reaction helps the body to cope with the demands placed on it. But in the long term, this increased physical and mental pressure places excessive stress on the body systems and the mind. Cortisol is the natural hormone the body produces to help the body stay active and healthy. But under prolonged stress, excess cortisol is produced which causes the metabolism to malfunction. It is like a car engine that is driven at high speed continuously. Unless it is allowed to rest and cool down, it will start to run rough. A mechanical device can be simply switched off to allow it to cool down. The body, however, does not respond in the same way. If artificial methods are used to relieve the stress, the body goes to the other extreme and the immune system does not function properly. The mind also swings from a hyperactive state to one of no stimulus, leading to depression and other psychological problems.
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Yoga enables the body and mind to recover from the stresses they are subjected to in a healthy yet very effective and efficient manner. Yoga triggers and enhances the body’s own “cooling off” process in a controlled manner without subjecting the system to the abrupt changes that artificial relaxation and stress relief measures cause. This is known as the parasympathetic nervous system or relaxation response. This response enables the mind and body to return to the normal relaxed but still active and alert state. The stress-free functioning of the metabolism and the mind enable the renewal and repair of the damage to the systems that the stress has caused. This relaxation response that enables such renewal and repair is also the foundation of the body and mind's ability to counter disease and illness.
Yoga is not a medicine that cures disease. The more serious the illness, the stronger the medicine and so the stronger the unwanted, and often dangerous side effects of that medication. Yoga is a way for the body to increase its own healing abilities so that when illness does occur, the body does not, in most cases, require the same amount of medication, treatment and therapy as it would otherwise need.
Yoga increases the body’s own healing power but it is not a standalone cure for illness. It works best as a way to keep the mind and body relaxed and healthy so that if and when disease occurs, the body has its own defences ready.