All yoga postures require complete awareness of the body and breathing. According to traditional beliefs, yoga should lead to spiritual growth through the practice of individual and social discipline. The level of one's spirituality is said to increase as one practices yoga with complete awareness of not only physical postures but also activities in all areas of life.
This awareness encourages self-analysis, self-realisation, and a desire to help others. Yoga starts out by improving a person's body and personality through asanas and pranayama since these are the benefits most people seek. Most people have trouble with concentration and meditation because their mind wanders, and they are easily distracted by their thoughts. Meditation, which benefits the mind, can only become easy when one has achieved physical discipline.
Therapy for many ailments
Research shows that yoga helps control and manage a wide range of ailments such as anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, stress, migraine, and insomnia.
Since no therapy is ever complete in itself, yoga works well in combination with medical treatment. It, however, does not replace traditional medical therapy.
As an alternative therapy
Research shows that yoga helps to promote a sense of well-being and peace since it creates a balance between the nervous and endocrine systems. Its ability to work in combination with other therapies is a major plus.
Works with other therapies
Yoga can be used in conjunction with other therapies and the treatment of ailments such as hypertension, asthma, and diabetes. A patient can practise yoga while continuing with a course of medication after consulting with his physician, adjusting the medicine dosage as needed..
As a supportive therapy
Patients who have undergone surgery or are bedridden cannot perform any physical activity. However, while lying in bed, they can practice meditation and deep breathing, or they can even just become aware of their breathing, all of which will help them to cope with pain and will help them to relax.
This process helps to repair the cells and tissues in the body, hastening the patient's recovery.
Yoga strives to perfectly co-ordinate the different body functions. It also improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength, and stamina; boosts self-esteem; improves concentration and creativity; lowers fat in the body; improves circulation; and stimulates the immune system.
Before one starts practising yoga as a therapy, a full medical examination must be performed. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on the severity of the ailment and how long the person has been suffering from that ailment.
Yoga is far more effective in curing diseases and conditions when they are at their onset than when they are at an advanced stage.
Today's lifestyle, with its comforts and luxury, has given rise to many health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, acidity, neck and lower back problems, and obesity.
In such cases, it's better to carefully plan the asanas and prioritise the problems in the order of their severity and urgency than to be in a hurry to recover.
Often, people are not born with health problems. Rather, we bring them upon ourselves through our ignorance and laziness. One must understand that as a therapy, yoga can help resolve health issues only if it is practised in the manner taught and prescribed by the yoga therapist or trainer.
Prema Nagesh (The writer is a yoga instructor and therapist based in Muscat)