Thursday, March 1, 2012

Can Yoga Heal?

Half Lord of the Fishes, a Yoga Pose.

        People say yoga is good for you - is it? Iyengar, a world famous yoga teacher wrote in his book Light on Life that yoga can cure illness, my friend Elizabeth swears by it; she says that she knows it can heal, "it worked for me, it gave me control back over my body" she says. I appreciate her passion but I'm a skeptic. Historically, yoga has made extensive (sometimes unrealistic) claims of reversing aging, slowing heart rates to the point of stopping, living longer (if not forever) and more.
I know from first hand experience that it feels great to do yoga. For years I've attended regular yoga classes, developed my own practice at home (now doing yoga every morning) and becoming a yoga teacher/enrolling in yoga teacher training really immersed me in yoga and deepened my knowledge of it. It's been a running joke with friends that you walk out of a yoga class feeling the "yoga high." It's a feeling of peacefulness and inner contentment. Needless to say, I love yoga but do I believe it can heal? I'm not entirely sure, there hasn't been a lot of legitimate research to show that it "heals" but there is a LOT of legitimate research on it helping and facilitating changes in those who practice it. These changes I'm talking about may not be as significant as yogins have historically claimed but they are significant.
I realize that I am opening a can of worms, starting a conversation that is very deep and involves many different perspectives so allow me to take a step back and let you know that this is something I've been researching for about seven months now. This research is in fact the subject of my masters thesis, it involves talking to professionals in mental health, working with other yoga teachers, talking to people who report having experienced the healing qualities of yoga, collaborating with other researchers using yoga in their research work and reading. A lot of reading. I have become a walking encyclopedia of knowledge related to the history, philosophy, theories and clinical applications of yoga. I invite you do the same, I will frequently link to and post citations of things that I'm reading.
Please join me over the next months as I fulfill the original intention of creating this blog, exploring yoga as a modality of therapeutic care.
I'm excited!


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    1. I made my last comment with an error in it, and it could have been misread. I agree with you, and I see how you can feel skeptical, I am still skeptical myself about many aspects of yoga and probably will be until I have read enough to satisfy that doubt.

      Without yoga though I do not think that I would be enjoying the vastly improved physical and mental wellness that I do now but... While I can with certainty say, yes, yoga did help me gain back control of my body, it was not the single factor in this process. Additionally I do not think that "it" healed me but rather gave me the tools to heal myself. I think that this is closer to your statement that it can help and facilitate change.

      Yoga does make you feel great and I'm sure that there are issues with this being confused for demonstrating greater benefits. However, I feel that this is very important and I know that it helped me to overcome negativity and perhaps the feeling of being physically disassociated with myself. I don't think that there is any other "activity" that can match yoga in this, especially for those with physical and/or mental limitations.

      This is most certainly a can of worms and I will stop now.

      Thank you for the acknowledgement! I too am super excited!!