Yoga Therapy has been proven to be an alternative treatment for stress related diseases like heart malfunctions and cancer
They are already used for decades by Dr. Michael Lerner’s famous Commonwealth Cancer Help Program, by Dr. Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute and by Nischala Devi.
The simple and specific ways of visualization, relaxation, breathing, meditation, the easy and effective yoga postures, the instructions for better eating habits and for sleeping deeply can be practiced by anyone who wants to take responsibility of his/her health and transform the stresses of daily life into joys. The benefits of these practices are immediately experienced while the changes in the long term are dramatic. Everybody feels more comfortable and at ease as soon as he/she practices these techniques, while a lot of people are healed over time.
Yoga Therapy is like a journey inside a labyrinth, in the center of which we reach our true self
The journey starts with changing negative attitudes towards others
When we pursue challenging goals in career or in education we tend to be absorbed by these and be detached from other people. When we are in pain, there is even a bigger tendency to close our hearts and recede within ourselves.
In both cases we are lead to an apparent isolation. Feeling isolated in the daily life is one of the latest risk factors for heart disease, cancer and other chronic life-threatening diseases.
The way out of this isolation is to transform our judgmental and competitive energy to a caring one.
By learning to interact with others from our heart we become the people we really love to be, kind and loving, relaxed and healthy. By sharing a smile, a soft word or a touch, we feel good and also benefit ourselves. By serving others and be open to be served, we not only feel connected with others but connected with the universe, God or however one wants to name the higher power above us.
The inward journey continues by realizing the power of thoughts and images and by practicing positive thinking and positive visualization
Since we all know, by experience, that a negative or fearful thought make us feel worry and afraid and that our body reacts as if the event actually happens, why not to try to think positive and practice positive visualization?
By practicing positive visualization we experience positive physiological and psychological results, like lower blood pressure and heart rate, boost of immune system, clarity of mind and a general feeling of well being. It actually enhances the heeling process.
By carefully choosing positive thoughts, words, affirmations, even gestures and facial expressions, we create positive images. This is something we can all do and is the easiest way to practice passive imagery in our daily life.
In order to practice active imagery we concentrate on an area needing healing, we project a familiar image that does the actual healing and we incorporate as many senses as possible in order to feel the healing taking place.
As we move in Yoga Therapy we learn to relax deeply
Unfortunately the value of deep relaxation is underestimated in our competitive and results oriented society. But even when we want to relax, we do not know the way to relax, but mostly to shift our mind to a mindless activity.
The complete relaxation is one of the safest and most effective ways to manage stress, relieve physical or emotional pain, regain and maintain health, and retain peace of mind. The calmness of the body leads to the calmness of the mind and of the nervous system.
More specifically, we start by relaxing the body through stretching. Then we relax the breath by long inhalations and mostly longer exhalations. And last we relax the mind and the senses by focusing on the breath.
By practicing deep relaxation we not only relax but we reach our inner source of deep knowledge and a state of peace and bliss.
The fourth step is to breathe properly in order to gain as much energy as possible but also to calm our agitated mind
By focusing on our breath, allowing the belly to relax during inhalations and by contracting it during exhalations, we take in about seven times the amount of oxygen as in normal breathing.
This is the energy we deprive ourselves of when we breathe shallowly or during reverse breathing when we tighten our belly in inhalations.
By making deeper and longer exhalations we alleviate ourselves from stress and we relax as the heart and blood pressure slows down.
So, just by focusing in the way we breathe, even if we do not practice any other valuable breathing technique like the alternate nostril breathing, we take a huge step for regaining and maintaining our health.
The last step that can take us closer to our true self is meditation
Meditation relieves us from stress, detaches us from worries, gives us serenity, increases immune function, makes us see the good in every act and transforms our life.
Practicing meditation involves sitting still or walking and focusing on our breath, on an object or on repeating a word.
In the beginning we can hardly stop our thoughts and we just observe them.
Soon, we learn to let our thoughts pass by like a breeze that can not affect us, since we stay focused.
The more we practice meditation, the fewer thoughts interfere. Soon meditating becomes one of the most powerful tools for knowing our true self, something that often leads to change our life’s course.
There is no Yoga Therapy without modified gentle and healing yoga postures
What makes yoga postures so unique is the emphasis on the breath and on the spine, besides the additional benefit to the internal organs and all the bodily systems.
Rhythmical breathing coordinated with stretching, with bending backward and forward, with twisting and inverting the body releases built-up tension, allows energy to flow, corrects body posture, relieves pain and ultimately heals diseases.
Ideally an hour practice is recommended for serious heart issues and autoimmune deficiencies, composed of ten minutes relaxation, five minutes breathing techniques, twenty minutes of tension releasing and healing poses, fifteen to twenty minutes deep relaxation with imagery incorporated, five minutes of breathing techniques and five minutes of meditation.
With Yoga Therapy we learn how to feed our body and mind
The most basic yogic guideline is the “ahimsa” which means no harming.
It applies in what we eat, meaning avoid killing for eating but also in how we eat, meaning eating consciously in order not to harm ourselves by overeating or eating harmful food.
But what we eat is more than avoiding harming us or others. A fresh, simple and as close to its natural form food (sattvic) is a food that gives vitality and health to the body and peace to the mind. Stimulating food (rajasic) like meat, alcohol, coffee, tea or the overuse of spices in a cold climate initially cause agitation to the mind and body but then make us lethargic. Worst of all worse is the old, cold, overcooked, reheated or cooked again food that takes energy from the body instead of giving.
But besides the yogic approach regarding food, a high fiber, low fat diet is highly correlated with the prevention and even the reversal of heart disease and cancer.
Also, to eat consciously involves pacing ourselves, eating in peace without talking or watching TV, engaging all our senses, and blessing the food that should have been cooked with love. Last but not least, practicing occasionally fasting helps a lot the physical and spiritual cleansing since the body removes accumulated toxins.
The simplest and shortest way to fast for avoiding diseases is to wait until the stomach is empty before we fill it again.
Besides all these, we learn to sleep deeply
During our sleep our physical and subtle bodies go into cleansing mode as all the words, sights and sounds are sorted out, absorbed, eliminated or stored.
Whether the day’s gatherings are restorative or full of toxins reflect not only the time needed to be sorted out and absorbed but they also influence the duration and the quality of sleep.
In order to further enhance a healing sleep in physical, mental and spiritual way, we should create a calming environment, with no electrical appliances around us, with darkness and natural fabrics embracing us.
Besides a warm bath that always helps for a peaceful sleep, there are also some physical poses like neck movements and shoulder rotations that release tension plus simple breathing techniques that relax the mind.
So, by focusing in an openhearted way of interacting with others, thinking positively, resting deeply, breathing properly, meditating, strengthening our body by practicing simple yoga postures, eating consciously and sleeping like babies, we not only regain and maintain health but we also reach the core of our being.
Touching our souls, we gain greater understanding of ourselves and the world, a sense of overall well being and a better life in all aspects. This is the greatest value of Yoga Therapy. It is a journey into the most amazing labyrinth, into our being.