A Rather Yoga-Disturbing Article

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The caption reads: “Yoga, like prayer, is not medicine.” It makes me laugh when the “haters” come out to talk about an industry they have no professional experience in.

This article is case in point: Rather disturbing article

Of course, I have a rebuttal to the unsubstantiated claims that yoga doesn’t work, and the biased opinion of the author.

People have been practicing yoga to stay healthy for thousands of years. Yoga is a form of exercise, which we know has been proven over and over medically to work. As a form of exercise, yoga achieves many of the same physical benefits that going to the gym, running, stretching, spinning, walking, achieves. Massage and bodywork fall in this category too. Yoga calms the nervous system, gets the lymph moving, detoxifies the body, reduces inflammation, and overall promotes healing. Most medical doctors today would advocate an exercise regime to complement their patients’ management of disease and various conditions.

Yoga as “Medicine”

Now if we want to dive into yoga – speaking from my first-hand experience (both personal and with others) yoga has absolutely changed the lives of people for the better. For some people it is their “medicine”, the same way that food can be your medicine. Some people I know wouldn’t be on this planet today if it weren’t for their yoga practice.

To make a blanket statement that says that yoga does not have any therapeutic benefits is not understanding HOW yoga works. There are many reasons why this general statement is inaccurate, and many questions I have about how the studies mentioned here in broad-terms were conducted.

First let’s go into the spiritual benefits, which are not unique to yoga. Yoga is just one form where the individual can make energetic shifts that end up having a positive effect on the physical body. Yoga (and there are many forms of yoga) has been known to create spiritual awakenings within the individual. Much like massage and bodywork, yoga can also create a perception shift that could make all the difference in how someone lives his or her life.

Yoga is an energetic practice, as well as a physical practice, and in some forms of yoga, it is actually first and foremost an energy practice. Therefore benefits may or may not necessarily be quantifiable to the naked eye.

 

How Were They Measuring?

This brings me to question how exactly did the studies he refers to measure results? What constitutes yoga “working” versus “not working”? A blood pressure test? Whether a certain condition was eradicated or still existing? What conditions were they monitoring? For what length of time? What poses and regimen did they implement for the patients? In many cases, it is a progressive practice, and because it is also an energetic practice, it can have effects in areas of your life you weren’t even expecting. Physical benefit is just one of the possible benefits. To say that yoga did not work from the point of view of the author of this article is a shallow statement. It could have profoundly made a difference to someone’s life in a way beyond physical measures. This kind of statement is not looking at the full picture. Who are we to judge, assume or predict what success means to an individual? Yoga is meant to be an integrated tool to encourage the healing process – not something that should be used alone as the sole method of treating a medical condition.

So again I wonder how were they measuring the results of a yoga practice?

Then, you take the individual makeup of the person being studied, and their intention towards healing. How were they going about the practice? Were they just going from Pose A to Pose B in a methodical, mechanical way, or were they opening up their channels, receptive to healing, adopting a healthier mind along with the body, and taking these tools home with them to be integrated into daily life?

Not Every Form of Yoga is for Everyone 

Next, my questions go to what “kind” of yoga did they practice, who were the teachers and did their teaching style resonate with the students? Hopefully the answer is yes, but all of these factors must be considered and absolutely come into play when one embarks upon a path of yoga for the purpose of healing. There is not one form of yoga for everyone, there is not one teacher for everyone, just as our bodies are all made up differently, our minds are all different, with our own unique likes and preferences. For yoga to “work” and create lasting shifts – you have to be engaged energetically. Maybe the participants in this study were, and maybe they weren’t.

_BT10048I emphasize – not every yoga works for everyone in the same way. Similarly not every form of exercise works for everyone in the same way – some people can do yoga all they want and achieve no noticeable results. That does not mean yoga doesn’t work. It may not be the right modality for that person, and that person may not even realize until much later the benefits that were achieved at the time. Additionally I would say that in general we may not understand all the true benefits that are happening beneath the surface. Many benefits go unseen. Some people who are die-hard yoga fans stick with it because they feel differently, and they know it’s working for them. Just like a runner feels amazing after going for a ten-mile run. In either case, the individual knows deep down inside something is working for them unlike anything else they’ve tried, and they wouldn’t dream of giving it up.

There are other tools one can use to achieve the same benefits yoga provides. It is not touted as a miracle cure for everyone as this article seems to imply as the fallacy behind yoga, but I will say that it has certainly been the catalyst for creating the energetic shifts within some individuals that certainly have created miraculous effects. I personally know people whose lives have been saved by yoga. Saved, as in, they wouldn’t be on this planet right now, if it weren’t for the practice. Could they have achieved these results through other methods – sure, it’s entirely possible, but yoga is what they chose, and yoga is what worked for them.

Injuries During Yoga

Now, if we’re talking about getting injured – I see that as a separate issue from the efficacy of yoga as a whole as a healing modality. I totally agree some people end up pushing the limits and hurt themselves. This ties back to what “form” of yoga are people practicing and what is their intention (are they just trying to get a quick fix) or are they sincerely adopting a new lifestyle filled with greater awareness, that generates more kindness towards their fellow man, and creates optimal mind-body alignment, the key to lasting health.

And I’ll finish with this – you can show me 1000 studies that say yoga doesn’t work. Studies conducted with many variables and other elements that I don’t know about (like the questions I mentioned above – for example, just because it didn’t work in one asthma trial that could have a handful of missing links, does not mean it is not an effective healing modality for other people, in other circumstances).

I only need my own experiences and first-hand knowledge as a practitioner and after seeing many lives changed because of yoga – whether its physical, mental or energetic shifts – to know that Slate’s overall message is inaccurate. You could show me a thousand more studies and they would all be null and void in my book because I have seen first-hand with my own eyes the results.


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