THE POWER OF YOGA THERAPY
My 11-year-old granddaughter called me a few weeks ago excitedly and said, “Guess what I chose as my elective this year in the school?”
“I didn’t know that you get to take electives in the sixth grade,” I said.
“Yes, we can, for our ‘physed’ period. And I chose ….Yoga! I thought you would like it,” she said. Apparently yoga, a new option being offered this year, can fulfill her physical education requirements. When I checked around, I found a few schools in the country have started offering this option. I could visualize the little yogis, stretching, twisting, bending and balancing during the last period on certain days.
Needless to say, it is great to see yoga being introduced into the school system, so we can start training them when they are young. Why have they started teaching yoga in the school? According to one teacher, “The students these days face a lot of pressure to achieve their goals … it’s a very competitive world out there. Practicing yoga and mindful meditation will help them a lot, they can get rid of this unwanted stress, develop more discipline and gain the ability to focus on what they have to do for academic success.” I couldn’t have agreed more.
This is the ‘era of yoga’ and ‘yoga therapy.’ The amazing potential of regular yoga to maintain health, improve healing in the body and reduce stress is well documented. No wonder yoga is being added to the physical therapy routines in many hospitals. Recently, we conducted an entire week end work shop and seminar on “Yoga Therapy” by Dr. Dilip Sarkar, a retired associate professor of Vascular Surgery turned yogi and currently president of the International Yoga Therapists’ Association, at the Hindu Temple of Florida, Tampa, in which more than 50 people participated. We sat on our yoga mats and watched the guru doing amazing feats with his body – padmasana while doing a head stand, mayurasana, halasana, and much more – all with great ease. One doesn’t have to go to this level, of course, to achieve good health but we tried to do some of those bends and stretches and postures ourselves, each within his or her own ability. Every asana or body posture tones up the muscles, ligaments, bones and joints in the body, so one can achieve the necessary strength, flexibility and balance that will delay arthritis, prevent falls, improve muscular strength and retard the aging process.
Yoga, as you all know, includes the physical part or asanas, breathing exercises or pranayama and meditation, all leading to developing spirituality within yourself. Add to that a heart healthy diet, and a little aerobic exercise like brisk walking and you have the perfect recipe for good health.
The medical benefits of yoga are numerous and are backed by scientific studies. According to Sarkar, “Yoga Therapy is a powerful transformative approach to achieving vibrant health and healing of body, mind and spirit that, if practiced daily, can bring about improvements in the practitioner’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being and happiness.” As he often repeated during the conference, many of us are bhogis (eat a lot and lead sedentary lifestyle) who become rogis but with yoga therapy we can all become nirogis!
Yoga is quite helpful in managing many common diseases such as high blood pressure (BP), diabetes, heart diseases and even cancer. It’s a great stress buster too. Without any drugs, you can achieve that elusive placidity of mind by simply practicing yoga and meditation and, bringing spirituality into your life. Mind control is the first step in the management of any disease. There is also proof that meditation enhances neuronal connections in the brain, memory and learning abilities in young and old alike and it is for this reason yoga is being introduced into the school system, senior citizen centers, etc.
Yoga can help criminal minds too. A few years ago, yoga was introduced to prisons and this project has yielded significant improvement in the depression, hostility and repeat offense rate among the prisoners. Meditation is a great tonic to improve your mental stability and teaches you how to respect and love one another. Maybe that’s the final answer to the hate crimes and terror attacks that are becoming all too prevalent in our modern society.
Is yoga easy to practice? Ask Valerie Shelton of Spring Hill, a longtime student of yoga and she would say, “Yoga can be done by anyone, young or old. You do not have to start with a headstand! Basic yoga starts with breathing, simple movements, and stretches. It clears the mind, benefits circulation, strengthens bones and improves muscle tone and flexibility.”
What more do you want to be healthy? So start practicing yoga and meditation and, you will achieve the health and happiness you deserve, without any expenses. All you need is a yoga mat and a few minutes of your time.