Yoga has been used as a ‘medical’ discipline for centuries  – although its original adherents would not have thought of it as such. As a fusion of the physical and the spiritual, yoga was always known to have healing properties, but these were often considered tangential to the discipline’s main aim of enhancing spiritual and personal efficacy. However, in more recent years, the spiritual and physical aspects of yoga have been cruelly separated by a great many sources. Some use yoga as a purely physical exercise, neglecting the spiritual aspects in the name of getting a toned body . Others use it as a purely spiritual discipline, neglecting correct posture etc in favor of higher consciousness. However, despite this, the world of modern medicine is increasingly turning its eyes upon yoga and its potential for healing. And when we look at yoga as a modern healing tool, we begin to see that yoga truly does need to be considered as a holistic – i.e. physical and spiritual – medium in order to achieve its full effects.
Yoga For Mental Health
One of the main points of intersection for modern medicine and yoga is that of mental health. Studies have found that substance abusers going through withdrawal benefit very much from yoga sessions – not only because it helps to ease the discomfort in their suffering bodies, but because it helps them to reconnect with those bodies on a deeper level. This new sense of connection often engenders respect, and enables people who have been abusing their bodies for years to take detoxing seriously , and to commit to kicking their damaging habits. Simultaneously, it helps them to relax, and combats feelings of depression, inadequacy, and anxiety which often afflict recovering addicts. Needless to say, these effects are also fantastic for people suffering from other neuroses. Modern doctors are increasingly recommending that their patients undertake a course of yoga for mental health reasons . However, the reason yoga works so well for mental health is that it acts on the mind THROUGH the body, rather than (as many other forms of mental health therapy do) working on the mind from an external source.
Yoga For Pain Relief
Several studies have proven yoga effective in reducing the experience of pain. On a very simple level, the practice of yoga can help to sort out postural issues, and generally strengthens the body. This can reduce or even outright eradicate the symptoms of many muscular and skeletal problems . So far, so obvious. However, yoga can also help with more ephemeral pain – despite having no apparent ‘physical’ action upon the source of the pain. Patients suffering from the pain of chronic pancreatitis were found to consider their pain improved after a course of yoga . What is interesting about this is that the yoga had had no tangible effect upon the condition itself – what had changed, it seems, was the patient’s experience of their pain. Pain is a complicated medical conundrum, but we know that a lot of it originates within the mind. It is this pain that the yoga seemed to be working on. Scientists are not entirely sure how yoga achieves this, but it’s thought that yoga’s power to reduce stress and boost mood also improves the patient’s own perception of the pain they’re experiencing. Yoga’s effects on the mind, therefore, percolate down through the body, altering our experience of physical problems.
Modern medicine has not been slow to capitalise upon yoga’s painkilling and mental health potential. And the research it’s doing into yoga’s modern medical possibilities reveals the fundamental mind-body interconnectedness of the discipline. This is something which we all once knew, and all took for granted. However, in recent years, many have lost sight of this fact. They’ve ‘separated’ a practice which needs to be considered a holistic ‘whole’ in order to function correctly into component ‘parts’ – the physical and the mental/spiritual. On their own, these aspects are of little use. As modern medical research is showing us, each ‘part’ relies on the other to do its job. This is something we could all do with remembering as we engage in our own yogic disciplines.