Using Yoga as Therapy: Be Wary of the Quick Fix
Every day, you take somewhere between 14,000 and 20,000 breaths, and you walk between 4,000 and 12,000 steps. If these basic body functions are impaired, as they are for many of us, it detracts from your health, your vitality, and increases the wear and tear on your body.
Imagine instead what would happen once you can make these constant, habitual movements something that nourishes your body and perpetuates its healthy structure, strength, and proper functioning. Imagine how you would feel if the simple act of moving your body through space, instead of a being a chore and a strain, becomes a beautiful, graceful, exuberant dance. These are the simple changes yoga therapy can help foster, and they have wide-ranging repercussions through both your body and mind.
Unfortunately, we are a culture addicted to the quick fix. Let’s say that you went to your physician for help with a back pain problem and he gave you a sheet of paper with a series of yoga postures you had to do for 20 minutes every morning. What would you do? Most people would make an appointment with another physician the very next day. Heck, all you need is to get a prescription for painkillers, so you can get that back problem taken care of and get on with your life.
Well, being like most people isn’t always the way to go. Anyone who has struggled with troubling, often chronic conditions like back pain, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, or other serious disorders often find out the hard way that modern medicine often falls short in offering lasting help. And worse, what relief modern medicine does offer comes at a high price: drug side effects that may be almost as debilitating and troubling as the condition itself.
Modern medicine is built around the quick fix. Take this drug, do this surgery, and you will be well. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best way to heal the body. In contrast to modern medicine, all systems of natural medicine, including Ayurveda, hold that disease arises from long-term imbalances in the body. To heal disease, you must restore balance to the body. This is rarely a quick fix. Indeed, if you try to approach the treatment of disease with a quick fix sledge hammer, you often end up creating more problems. This is why the list of side effects in drug descriptions is often longer than the list of effects.
We live in a culture, where we are raised to take better care of our car than we do our bodies. Regular oil changes, winterization, detailing, regular maintenance checkups—these are things most of us do without even thinking about it. When it comes to our body, however, regular ‘maintenance care’ tends to fall on the list of things we should do, but never get around to. And even if we wanted to take better care of our body, we’ve never learned exactly how to do it.
Yoga is such a powerful healing technique, because your body needs movement. Movement stimulates the function of the organs, the lymph system, the digestive system, and of course, it’s necessary for muscles and bones to stay strong and healthy. Yoga also restores balance to the subtle energy system and, in Ayurvedic terminology, helps balance the doshas, the fundamental energies of mind and body.
But yoga therapy is not a quick fix. If anyone tells you differently, run away. There is no one yoga asana, no one breathing technique, no one mudra, which will “fix” your problem. The postures, breathing techniques, and mudras all work together, over time, to restore wholeness and balance to the system. Yoga therapy is a journey of transformation. As you launch on this journey, view the process of dealing with your health issues as a way of restoring greater balance to your body and mind.
Our breath, our movements, the way we walk influence our whole body—the health of the organs, the functioning of the bodily systems. The long stretches and strengthening exercises of yoga frees the body of habitual tension and opens us to let in new life, new energy. In the process, old patterns of disease often loosen their hold and even fall away. This is a journey of transformation, not a quick fix. Yes, it takes time, but ultimately, it’s a journey that is much more rewarding.