Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reflections of Health from a Yoga Therapy Perspective

What is health and how do we evaluate it?

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. 
- Buddha

Health, from the yogic perspective, can be defined as unity, integration, oneness, and discovery on one’s own true nature. We experience health as an individual journey in which a person finds meaning and purpose in life within a universal framework. Health is the recognition that the life journey is a microcosm of the larger journey of universal evolution.

We evaluate health by looking at both pain and imbalance, as well as, ease and balance. We examine what can lead us ourselves our client towards wholeness and unity. The initial intake in yoga therapy is a perfect opportunity to begin the discussion with the client about lifestyle, feelings of unity and separation through use our assessment tools. These tools include but are not limited to: education, breathwork, mudra, asana, yoga nidra, guided imagery and meditation.  It is important to remember that we don’t just look at the physical body as yoga therapists we as interested at all the 5 bodies of the panchakosha system.

What is the role of the individual in their own health?

Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health. 
- the Dalai Lama

I believe we are responsible for our own health. In contrast, we our also responsible for our own dis-ease. The body expressed unity or lack of unity through the state of our health. We, not our doctors, are responsible for keeping  ourselves in unity. This doesn't mean that disease should be considered a punishment for leaving outside of the 8 limbs of yoga or for not doing our sadhana. Dis-ease or "bad health" can be used as information that we have become out of balance.  This also doesn't mean that we should reject doctors.  I believe that we should considered them as partners and consultants in our journey towards wholeness.

We can work on our health or our lack of health with the aid of the 8 limbs of yoga.  “.. when the mind-body is moving in the opposite direction of the basic intention of the creation in which it exists, that imbalance will be the result.” The good news is that since unity is the fundamental intention of life if we incorporate in our lives periods of restoration and relaxation then good health should naturally form the main part of our existence,

What is the role of those who facilitate health?

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. -
Mother Teresa

A believe the role of those who facilitate health is one of guide, partner, teacher, consultant, confidant and compassionate friend. As yoga therapist we aren’t curing on healing anyone, instead we are sharing are tools of yoga to help people heal themselves. We can facilitate healing through understanding of appropriate asanas, pranayama, pratyahara and meditation techniques. We can also offer education and experiential exercises for understanding the Gunas, Kleshas and Koshas. We can also use the complementary philosophies of western medicine through the yogic lens including but not limited to explanation and awareness of  the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, and the muscular skeleton system.

What is the nature of the healing process?

The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind. - Paracelsus

We come back to unity, oneness and integration through the healing process. We attempt to find balance in the Koshas and the Gunas. We can work towards achieving homeostasis between Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous Systems.  We try to remember that Health is a process not a product and healing is not always synonymous with physical health or curing. Instead, health is a balance of individual and community

Our deconditioning is a key to healing. We do this by changing our beliefs and perspective on life and relationships. Individual health reflects and contributes to universal health.

The Panchakosha System as an effective tool for understanding our health. Within the Bliss Body/Anandamayakosha health manifest as connection with spirit and source. When we feel contentment, peace and bliss this body is whole and healed. Within the Wisdom Body/Vijnanamayakosha we shift  our beliefs to the yogic perspective that the world is unity and we have a purpose. When we connect to our intuitive nature we will experience health in this body. Within the Psycho-emotional body/Manomayakosha we see unity instead of conflict. When we become aware if our core beliefs and how they effect our physical health we can work towards healing in this body. Within the Energetic Body/Pranamayakosha we become aware of the breath and our breathing patterns.  Working with appropriate breathing practices and taking time to be in nature, especially contact with water, nourishes ourselves energetically. Within the Physical Body/Annamayakosha we become aware of the flesh and blood body, the body that eats food. By listening to bodies signals and messages, knowing our Ayurvedic constitution, and following the appropriate diet and lifestyle for that constitution we heal this body.

What is the nature of the human being we are healing?

Yoga is a method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit. Yoga cannot know a barrier of East and West any more than does the healing and equitable light of the sun. 
- Paramahansa Yogananda

It's important that we understand that we are not healing anyone but ourselves instead (with others) we are acting as guide and/or a mirror. We can look at an individual and help them understand imbalance through the models of the Koshas, Gunas and the Kleshas with the recognition that health and illness are messages with meaning and mirrors of our lives. Health and illness exist on physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, intuitive and spiritual levels.

As humans, we are already whole and healed but we lose our way or separate from our true nature.  Our true nature is health and homeostasis. Because it is our true nature we are always magnetized in that direction and that is the good news.

What is the influence of culture and society on health and illness?

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions. 
- Paulo Coelho

The individual is a network of conditioned responses and relationships.  These occur at the level of family, society, culture and DNA. Health and illness reflect the quality of our relationship. Illness and disease are the response of the physical and psychological organism to their total environment which includes but is not limited to family, work, social and cultural environments.

There is a clear link between diseases and modern lifestyle. Disease needs to be seen and responded to within the context of the culture, society, family and personality from which it evolves. American cultural has its particular soup of: Individualism, Competition, Free Enterprise, Consumerism, Technology, Mr. Fix it, Computerism, Science as Objectivity, Modern Medicine aka Body as Object, Drugs as Synthetic Unity, Fast and Processed Foods, Health Fod Addiction, Media as Model, Technology  as the Fountain of Youth, Addition as Experience, Nationalism, Perfectionism, Therapy-ism, Nuclear Family, and Gender Neutral Individual.

- Individualism: tends towards separation, egotism, and isolation. Isolation is considered a factor in stress related illnesses.
- Competition: separation and stress
- Consumerism: individualism, possession are paramount and become more important than other people,  also leads to isolation where people spend most of their time with television and internet and have little human contact
- Technology: Rational mind can fix any problem, world is a object for human use with man in control, thinking is more important than insight or intuition
- Computerism: digital life where relationship is mostly digital
- Science as Objectivity: observer is separate from that which is observed
- Modern Medicine aka the Body as Object: disassociation from the body, place ourselves in the hands of experts who diagnose the organism as separate from the human being that inhabits it
- Drugs as Synthetic Unity: drugs ease or mask pain which is a symptom of separation and a message of self-change
- Use of Fast Food for quick and cheap fix
- Health Food Addition
- Media replaces social interaction
- Obsession with being Youthful and having the perfect physical body by any means necessary
- Addiction to Experience; separates us from a balanced life because we can not process the experiences
- Nationalism: believing our culture is the best, don’t respect other people and other values
- Perfectionism: perfect grades,  always striving towards achievement
- Therapy-ism: freedom from our pain,
- Diminished importance of the Nuclear Family
- Gender Neutral Society: traditional roles of men and women are eliminated and people are expected to do everything
- Important to note despite all of our technologies stress-related illness has reached epidemic proportions in our society

Where do health and illness fit in the overall context and meaning of our lives?

The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Health is a reflection of unity and illness is a reflection of separation. “From the yogic perspective, illness begins at the most subtle level and manifests at gradually more physical levels.”  In contrast, the physical body is a vehicle for the evolutionary journey toward unity. We are equipped with physiological responses for fight or flight or relaxation based on the situation we find ourselves in.

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