Yoga is a useful tool in diagnosing many problems in clinical medicine. Yoga has its own logistics in this. Medicine too trains us to look for certain signs in the patient, both on the surface and internally. The investigations are correlated with clinical diagnosis…
Nowadays, biomedical engineering has produced a vast array of diagnostic tools that are used for accurate and fast investigations. Unfortunately, we tend to rely more and more on them, often unnecessarily and expensively. Our innate skills and intelligence in diagnosis are being lost in the process. It is important that a right balance is maintained for, as an eminent doctor put it, “with all our varied instruments, useful as they are, nothing can replace the watchful eye, the alert ear, the tactful finger and the logical mind”.
It is said that in the middle of the body is the seat of the fire. The Nadi (meaning nerve, blood vessel or a path), situated in the middle, is the Sushumna. Around this are 72,000 nadis and 14 of these are important. Around these flow 10 vital breaths of air. It is said that all these nerves have to be purified for perfect health, and asanas and pranayama have been prescribed for this purpose.
The ancients did not have any tools to discover what they preached except that of intuition. Yet we find that more and more of their concepts are tenable.
Yoga identifies diseases at the embryonic stage, several years before they are manifested. An easy example is the orthopaedic disorder of low back pain. Medicine has no method to predict who will or will not suffer this problem. Yoga analyses a person in terms of the ability to perform certain postures and predicts the probability of the person suffering from low back pain in the future. The parameters that yoga fixes for a fertile breeding ground for ailments in the body are different from those recognized by medicine.
Another example is that of a person sitting in a chair, with the spine doubled up and with the rib cage compressed. Medicine does understand that such persons will suffer back pain, as does yoga; but yoga also states that because the heart and major blood vessels are compressed in such a posture, healthy and pureblood cannot flow into the muscles of the heart itself. Just as sitting in a chair for prolonged periods will reduce blood supply to the pressure points, the inner organs also suffer the same fate if the posture is incorrect, says yoga. Sure enough, all these can be proved by diagnostic tests.
Yoga is an asset for preventive care:
Today, more than ever, the need for yoga is being widely realised. The cost of medical care is rising all over the world. Sophisticated diagnostic tools, now thought to be so necessary to assess even simple illnesses, are expensive to manufacture. Prescriptive drugs come in complicated combinations that add to the costs of production.
The days of the family doctor, the general practitioner who looked after all the members of a family, are fast giving place to times of specialisation, a consultant for every part of the body. Newer and more hi-tech hospitals and nursing homes are being set up.
Preventive care is the only way by which this urgent problem can be effectively tackled. There are many public health measures that have been introduced to prevent disease. Some of them have proved successful, like the eradication of plague and smallpox.
Health education for the masses has clearly demonstrated that clean surroundings, boiled water, childhood immunisations, family planning all have their place in preventing infectious diseases. Early and regular screening for diseases like tuberculosis and cancer has been useful in diagnosis and treatment. Much propaganda has been done against the evils of alcohol, nicotine, drugs and permissive sexual habits.
Yoga to prevent illness:
Yoga lays great emphasis on asanas and pranayama to prevent illness and, more important, to preserve health. A regular routine of physical exercises, right from a young age, has been shown to be of preventive value in many medical disorders like coronary, respiratory and orthopaedic problems.
Any kind of exercise is good, but yoga is the ideal form as it is totally non-invasive, gentle and soothing. Also, it is the most cost-effective. There is no equipment needed, and even the props recommended for some patients are not expensive. The practice of yoga instils confidence in a person, especially if recovering from an illness.
Yoga is particularly valuable as one grows older. Most ailments are degenerative in nature; asanas keep the geriatric person active and, therefore, healthy. Apart from the asanas and pranayama, the other precepts for good living laid down by Patanjali reinforce a healthy body and mind.
Therapeutic yoga is the clinical application of the science of hatha yoga for various medical disorders. The pioneer of therapeutic yoga is Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune, who has 56 years of experience in this field.
His adaptation of yogic asanas to treat individual medical problems led to the creation of props. Aged persons, injured persons with spinal problems, amputees, all could make use of the props and gain the benefit of yoga.
Thus, the use of yoga was made available to all patients, regardless of their medical problems and their bodily condition. This is where conventional yoga schools have found it difficult when it comes to dealing with serious clinical problems like heart failure and stroke. Such patients are medically not permitted to do yoga the regular way because they are too incapacitated and their clinical condition might be aggravated.
Western medicine is a highly advanced and sophisticated science, very useful for a variety of acute and chronic diseases. But at times the role of allopathy in treating chronic diseases is limited by the fact that side effects of drugs are ill tolerated and the root of the problem is not tackled. The drugs, being artificial chemicals, are bound to harm the system in the long run. A drug does not change the personality of a person. It merely removes illness. Yoga, apart from eradicating an illness, changes the person’s perspectives of health and disease.
The aim of therapy is to cure disease and relieve pain. Yoga corrects the internal malfunction. Yoga corrects the disorder and prevents the body from malfunctioning again. It is impractical to consume a drug or apply magnets every day. Yoga practised daily is more logical. In a disease like a migraine, other systems alleviate the pain but yoga regularises the blood flow to the brain which lacked perfusion during the attack and restores the stability of the nervous system. Hence, the relief is more tangible and the method of cure more sensible.
Many more examples can be given. What I would wish to emphasize is that, in order that health be maintained, yoga is the rational answer. It is not only a curative science, but is also a preventive science.
The scope of therapeutic yoga is quite wide and an array of disorders, including ischaemic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arthritis, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis, asthma, diabetes, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, SLE, spondylosis, migraine, cluster headache, can be treated. Infections, malignant tumors, congenital and genetic disorders cannot be treated by yoga. They require other appropriate therapy.
The allopathic management of disorders like migraine, arthritis, ischaemic heart disease, etc., is useful but, in the long run, switching to a natural system like yoga is more sensible The yogic management of all these disorders has no side effects. The relief is also quick. The lesser the body is drugged or interfered with by invasive methods, the healthier it remains.