Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's a miracle! Well maybe not...

I suppose by now it should cease to amaze me every time a student comes to me and says they've been healed by yoga. Yet I still marvel over every success story; back injuries that were once debilitating become manageable, frozen shoulders thawed and sciatic relieved. I've also seen cancer patients' mobility improved by yoga and anxiety eased. One might say it's miraculous but I don't think there's anything supernatural going on here.

Perhaps yoga works because of it's emphasis on body awareness and holistic approach to healing. The focus isn't just on the injured body part but on the whole body and the mind too. Students learn where they carry their tension and about imbalances in their posture. They also learn where they are weak, where they are strong and how to balance the two. They learn how to relax and how to breathe properly. They are taught not to compete and to let go of expectations and results oriented goals.

Or maybe yoga works because it feels good and therefore students are more likely to stick with it. It's simple and easy to do. It's also a lifetime journey rather than a month long prescription.

I'm not trying to suggest that yoga is superior to other modalities or engage in an east versus west debate over medicine. In fact, I think that yoga works very well in conjunction with other treatment options. I also believe that people are so uniquely individual that what works for one person might not work for another and that needs to be taken into consideration. Some people respond well to pills and surgery other people are hesitant to try them without first exhausting other options. I think a person's mindset about their treatment plays a bigger role than we know.

A couple years ago, I attended a therapeutic yoga training and the instructor mentioned that there is a movement afoot to get yoga teachers and physical therapists in the same room to hopefully begin speaking the same language. I hope this happens soon. I am always pleased when I inherit students from physical therapy because their therapist was savvy to yoga's benefits. There are many yoga poses that are very similar to physical therapy exercises.

Ten years ago, before I started teaching yoga, my husband was in a bad car accident and spent several months in physical therapy. It definitely helped him. When I saw him doing his prescribed exercises, I said, "That's yoga!" and convinced him to take classes with me. He found that the poses were very similar and liked whole body approach of yoga. While he eventually stopped physical therapy he continued with yoga (even if he doesn't often come to my classes.)

I'm not promising any miracle cures with yoga, you'll have to speak to God about that. However, yoga might be worth trying if other options have failed or aren't working as well as hoped. Even if yoga doesn't cure you, just learning to accept and work within the boundaries of your body goes a long way toward healing both physically and mentally.

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