Although Yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline, it can successfully be applied as therapy, either as prevention (rakshana) or for healing (cikitsa). Therefore, when used as therapy, it is called yoga cikitsa and is a comprehensive system of traditional medicine developed in India, distinct from the better-known ayur-veda or siddha-medicine. It employs all the relevant Yoga techniques as its primary method of healing, along with some other methods such as dietary changes (ahara), lifestyle changes (vihara) and the use of herbs (aushadhi). As preventive medicine, yoga cikitsa is very powerful in maintaining good health, improving vitality and promoting longevity. As curative medicine, it can cure certain diseases, or more precisely diseased people, that no other method of healing can cure. Of course, it has its limitations since it is usually most effective in treating chronic, mental and degenerative diseases, but its potential in healing is actually limitless, especially as a complementary method used in conjunction with other types of healing, and always in accordance with the individual needs of each patient.
Many people who want to practice Yoga and have any health problems should first be taught some yoga cikitsa to improve their health, and more experienced practitioners of Yoga should also know how to apply Yoga as therapy when such a need arises, either to themselves or to their students. The basic principle that Yoga must be adapted to the individual, and not the other way round, must especially be respected in the context of Yoga therapy. That Yoga can be a powerful tool in treating all kinds of diseases has been scientifically studied and proved during the last one hundred years or so, including its beneficial influence on a number of vital functions of the human organism. Yoga therapy, therefore, has an important place in practicing and teaching Yoga, and should be constantly advanced as a service to humanity.
20 Fundamental Principles of Yoga Therapy (Yoga Cikitsa):
If you cannot help, at least don’t hurt.
The patient must be carefully examined and the causes of disease(s) precisely determined.
It is the patient that is treated, not the disease.
A disease or disorder is a manifestation of a deeper imbalance.
The imbalance usually has its roots in the psycho-emotional substratum of the human being, who is always conditioned by her immediate environment.
The deeper the roots of the imbalance (soka), the harder it is to treat and cure the patient.
The patient is always treated as a whole, and the uniqueness of the individual must invariably be respected.
The patient is basically taught how to cure herself and take care of herself after the treatment (cikitsa-krama).
First physical health (arogya) is restored, then psychological healing (svasta) takes place, and finally there is a spiritual transformation (kshema).
Health, vitality and longevity are the preconditions for a meaningful life, never an end in itself.
The essence of Yoga Therapy is to support the natural healing process by which a living organism restores its lost balance (samarasya).
The basic method of healing is the appropriate application (viniyoga) of Yoga techniques (yogabhayasa) to each ailing individual with the help of auxiliary methods such as dietary changes (ahara), habitual adjustments (vihara) and various medicines (aushadhi).
The greatest strength of Yoga Therapy is prevention (rakshana), whereas therapy (cikitsa) is based on encouraging the patient to take an active part in the curative process.
The three fundamental guidelines for Yoga Therapy and Yoga Practice are fundamentally the same: tapas (removing what is not needed), svadhyaya (expanding self-awareness) and isvara-pranidhana (surrendering to the Source).
The two principal means in Yoga therapy are samyoga, or connecting with the beneficial factors of healing, and viyoga, or dissociating from the detrimental factors in restoring health.
There are there practical methods in treating the patient: 1) providing what is missing (brmhana-kriya), 2) reducing what is excessive (langhana-kriya) and 3) balancing all the relevant factors in healing (samana-kriya).
The success of a Yoga Treatment primarily depends on three factors: the right diagnosis, the trust between the patient and the healer, and the capacity of the patient to closely follow the instructions of the healer.
The Yoga therapist must genuinely care about the patient, and the patient must have faith in herself to regain health, in the healer to guide her and in Yoga to heal her.
The element of faith in the process of healing is often the most decisive factor for it to be successful.
The Yoga therapist therefore must inspire and educate the patient so that she could actually heal herself and maintain good health as long as possible.
20 BASIC PRINCIPLES OF CONSCIOUS, INDIVIDUALIZED AND APPROPRIATE EATING CONDUCIVE TO GOOD HEALTH, VITALITY, LONGEVITY AND SUCCESS IN YOGA PRACTICES:
- We eat to live, not live to eat.
- Your food should be your medicine.
- Eat consciously or don’t eat at all, knowing that we eat other living beings as our food to survive, and we are food eaten by other living beings for their survival.
- Choose your food very carefully, prefering natural, wholesome, nourishing, vibrant and intelligent foods.
- Eating and drinking are a form of Yoga because something essential from the outside world is integrated directly into your organism.
- Avoid all extremes in eating, including long and frequent fasting.
- Discover for yourself the appropriate diet for you with the help of a trustworthy teacher, and keep changing it as you and your needs change.
- Eat only in moderate quantities, always leaving room for some air in the stomach after taking your food.
- Eat only the food that is right for you, respect the seasons and climate, mostly using locally grown food, and find a fine balance between cooking it and eating it raw.
- Prepare and eat your food in the way that contributes to good digestion and efficient immunity.
- Digest your food and all your experiences thoroughly.
- Chew your food and the fluids you take well and then swallow down slowly.
- Be careful to take enough of fluids, but mostly drink clean and fresh water.
- Eat only hungry, but don’t starve yourself.
- Mostly choose the food that makes you light and bright, and avoid the food that makes you nervous and lethargic.
- Simplify your diet, and yet eat diverse foods of different types and colours.
- Make sure that the elimination of the waste products is as complete as possible and take only light meals after dark.
- Don’t eat only to satisfy your palate, but to nurture your body, mind and spirit.
- Enjoy your food, but don’t get addicted to eating tasty, but unhealthy food to suppress some unpleasant emotions.
- Let your diet support your Yoga practice, and let your Yoga practice inform your diet.