My upcoming weekend workshop at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio will focus on the healing potentials of Yoga. Whenever I teach this topic, I like to play a section of a 1996 documentary I helped produce in which my late teacher T.K.V. Desikachar talks about students who showed up at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram seeking help. His simple words express very beautifully the essence of how yoga can help:
“The most important problem is suffering…but for some reason, the usual system of medical and health care is not able to understand the person who is suffering. They know a lot about the problem..but the relationship between this illness and the person is not so much emphasized. It’s not just illness, it’s what I call ‘the relationship to the illness’. So, when the person goes to all these (medical) people, and still they are not better, they become desperate.
“We talk to these people. We say: ‘You have some resources which are not just medicine. There’s something you have: you can still breathe…you can still talk…you can sit and move. That means you still have the energy that can heal you. Let us direct and use this energy…who knows? It may do something good.’”
In my practice, this principle has evolved into a quick checklist for new students: “Are they breathing? Are they able to focus their attention? Can they move their body voluntarily?” If the answers are even a little bit of yes, then they can practice yoga and reap immediate benefits. It is my contention that the most profound healing derived from yoga practice comes from the simplest things we teach, not the most complex. The first, simplest thing that we ask people to do is also the most powerful: bringing the body and mind together through the medium of the breath.
I’ve provided a more extensive quote of Desikachar’s ideas about healing and the student-teacher relationship for Yoga on High’s blog, and the complete piece was a chapter in the book “Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine: Where Ancient Science Meets Modern Medicine” by Larry Payne Ph.D., Terra Gold M.A.LAc. and Eden Goldman D.C.
If you’re available and can get to Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio October 21-23, please come join me as we explore some of the therapeutic applications of yoga.