After all, What is Yoga?

Choose Yoga, Choose Life!

Yoga is perhaps one of the most abused words in the world right now. Many believe that it is just another routine or set of exercises to keep fit and even practice it as such. Some believe that it a religion or has to do primarily with Hinduism. Only a few believe in what Yoga truly is – a way of life. Although efforts are being put into promoting Yoga as something everyone can do, not enough is being done to promote it perhaps as something everyone must do. Many people talk of Yoga as a practice to bring about inner peace. In fact, Yoga is much beyond just that. This article is an attempt to introduce the common person or even a Yoga enthusiast to holistic nature of Yoga, in a concise yet comprehensive manner.

There are many aspects of Yoga – philosophical, physiological, psychological and social. Philosophically Yoga means uniting self-consciousness to super-consciousness. Many people try to simplify the philosophy as uniting mind and the body. Although it may be simple to understand, it appears to be an understated philosophy of Yoga. Physiologically, Yoga is a complex science in itself with deep understanding of the human anatomy and systems with practices which bear positive impact on most, if not all of these systems. Psychologically again Yoga has been proven as an effective psychosomatic medicine & instrument. It is believed to be one of the best curative as well as preventive medicine for depression, stress and has been even promoted by many Oncologists as an instrument to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Lastly, from the social aspect, Yoga in today’s world is far more accepted practice. However its acceptance has been limited to that of a regular exercise and as an instrument for natural weight loss. It has been promoted in this way by many celebrities as well as popular Yoga studios across the world, including its country of origin – India! However, only a few know that Yoga is a science with a great influence on the social life of the Yogi through rules of “Yama” (Universally accepted code of conduct) and “Niyama” (Regulations). In fact we will look into both of these in a little more detail in the following texts.

Yoga practices were first consolidated and promoted as a path of realization and spiritual progress by Lord Patanjali in the ancient texts of “Yoga Sutras”. Patanjali categorized the different practices of yoga into eight limbs or essentially highly intertwined modules which work as pillars. Without one, the practice is incomplete. He perfectly mentioned these eight components as limbs but not as steps or parts. That is, these eight components works together, not step by step. Just imagine an earth mover which is working in all directions. If one part of the mover lifts something, it is well supported by other parts. For example, like the rear portion of the machine gives good support to ground preventing toppling, side wise wheels gives stability to whole machine, its engine pumps out real energy required for doing that activity. Similarly, the eight components of yoga comprehensively work together supporting the path of progress.

These eight components are-

1. YAMA – As mentioned earlier, Yama is the set of universally accepted code of conduct. These essentially include what almost all religions and faiths in this world preach and promote:

  • Ahimsa or non-violence: Refrain from causing mental or physical harm to another being. All living beings are to be protected by thought, word and deed.
  • Satya  or honesty: Refrain from speaking the untrue and to be truthful in thought, word and deed.
  • Asteya or the refrain to steal: To refrain from involvement in anti-social activities such as theft, corruption, adulteration and discourage others who do it.
  • Brahmacharya or celibacy:  To control the mind and the senses to behave appropriately and lead a balanced life so as to have control on sexual behaviors.
  • Aparigraha or non-hoarding: To refrain from accumulating more than what is required and to strive for wellbeing of all.

2. NIYAMA – These are set of universally accepted regulations which include:

  • Shaucha or Hygiene: To be pure in thought, word and deed by striving for hygiene of both mind, body and the physical environment.
  • Santosha or Joy / Happiness: One who is happy is content with the situations, achievement in the present.
  • Tapa or Penance: To be patient while facing difficulties by striving for inner peace. The power of tapa helps you to increase your will to work harder.
  • Swadhyaya or Study of Self: To acquire knowledge of self through literature, scriptures, mentors and the will to analyze our own behaviors while monitoring our own thoughts, words and deeds.
  •  Isvara Pranidhan or Submission to the Divine: To give up ego and serve the society without any expectations through submitting to the divine.

3. ASANA– This is probably the most widely known component of Yoga. Physical health of human being is very much dependent on his ergonomics and Asana is defined as firm, fixed, steady with full comfort and endurance of any posture. This is how each asana should be understood, practiced and experienced. Perfection in asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached. The effect of asana is to put an end to the dualities or differentiation between the body and mind, mind and the soul. So just being comfortable with physical pose is not asana, there is long path in attaining perfection in asana.

4. PRANAYAMA– Another popular component of Yoga which emphasizes on modulating and regulating the breath, which in Yoga is considered as the bridge between the mind and body. Respiration is a voluntary as well as involuntary process and pranayama seeks to take advantage of this uniqueness of the system.

5. PRATYAHARA – The withdrawal from outer world. It occurs when we realize that external objects cannot make us happy but rather get in to mire. The second aspect of this is internalization, when we realize that all we yearned for is within us. In this way, prathyahara acts as the gatekeeper between inner and outer yoga. This is the fitness to concentration in our mind.

6. DHARANA – Focus, concentration. It is essentially confining the mind to a point in space. Many people confuse it as meditation. In fact, it is a pre-requisite for meditation.

7. DHYANA – contemplation, meditation. Uninterrupted flow of the mind awareness or consciousness towards the object is called dhyana. When dhyana happens, your mind like stream of uninterrupted oil flow. Yes, dhyana just happens, and it is not a practice. Both Pratyahara and Dharana are essential to dhyana. It is perhaps one of the most attractive features of Yoga which helps in self-exploration, channelizing the thoughts and bringing clarity in thoughts, relaxation, inner peace, positivity in attitude leading to high productivity.

8. SAMADHI– generally known as trance state of mind, it is the experience of inner silence. The state of Trance (Detachment from one’s physical surroundings, as in contemplation). This is essentially the state which is attained through the process of meditation (dhyana), if the object only shines forth without being modified by the mind at all.

Well, the discipline of Yoga offers much more broader knowledge that what is mentioned here. However difficult it is to define Yoga in a nutshell, I have tried my best to compress it to best of my knowledge without much alterations. I hope you have liked this post and will share with your friends & family and connections.

How Yoga can benefit sales professionals?

Choose Yoga, Choose life

Choose Yoga, Choose Life

Sales profession

Before we go on to the main discussion, let us take a few minutes to understand the nature of the job in the sales profession. As the name suggests, the primary task of a sales professional is to sell a product or service offered by the company he / she works for. Therefore, it is the sales professional who turns a prospective customer to a customer for the company. It is imperative then that the only measure of their performance is the number of conversions and the total amount of sales he / she was able to do in a given time. Thus, the profession by nature is extremely competitive, highly target oriented and often requires lot of conversations with the prospective customer either over the phone or involves a lot of travel to customer’s location. All of these tasks are extremely stressful – mentally, as well as physically. Having arrived at this conclusion about the profession by studying the nature of the profession, now it should not be too difficult for us to understand why Yoga is so well suited for the sales professionals.

I will take the liberty to generalize based on my experience so far to list down a few common issues faced by the sales professionals. Please note that the list is in no particular order:

  1. Obesity
  2. Body pain – especially back, neck and (or) knee.
  3. Anxiety, restlessness
  4. Insomnia
  5. Frequent headaches
  6. Social isolation, depression
  7. Higher than average smoking and drinking habits
  8. Acidity and gastric related symptoms
  9. Bowel related problems- irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, constipation
  10. Hypertension(high Blood Pressure)
  11. Low immunity – Frequent allergies and infections
  12. Physical and mental fatigue- lethargy
  13. If the job is persisting for long time- Diabetes, Thyroid related disorders, joint pain or arthritis

What Yoga can do

All of the above mentioned health concerns fall under the category of lifestyle related disorders which are addressed effectively through Yoga. Since sales professionals usually come as a package of health issues, it is very difficult for a Yoga practitioner to design and deliver an effective therapy program. It is my belief that a general Yoga program misses the plot as far as addressing the health concerns of sales professionals is concerned, unless of course practiced regularly over a long time period. What is required is designing a therapy program of 2-3 months with set of practices that directly work on addressing specific issues. A comprehensive yoga program which includes all yoga techniques to target different levels of a human being (body, energy, mind etc), can efficiently treat these conditions. Again a tailor made program is highly recommended, which is possible only by going through the Yoga & Ayurveda constitution and identifying the exact problems of the individual. This requires an extensive knowledge of all Yoga practices and how each practice would help in addressing an issue. So, it is recommended that sales professionals, or for that matter any individual with above mentioned health concerns should mandatorily look for a very experienced and knowledgeable Yoga practitioner – preferably a Doctor or a therapist. Nevertheless, in general we should understand a few direct benefits of Yoga in general which should help you decide for yourself whether Yoga can help you overcome your state of health or not. To list a few they are:

  1. Very effective in reducing stress levels.
  2. Improves metabolism, and therefore helps in reducing body fat or obesity in general.
  3. Effectively heals body pain.
  4. Reduces anxiety
  5. Brings about a positive energy within us and thereby fights depression.
  6. Regularizes natural body processes, which helps in improving overall immunity and health in general.

I have consciously not mentioned any particular set of practices here as I highly recommend that the practices be done under the guidance of an able Yoga practitioner, especially if you are new to Yoga. Yoga practices are easy to follow as they follow the natural abilities of the human body. However, the complexity lies in the fact that most of have forgotten about the natural abilities of their bodies. So it takes a lot of discipline, regular practice and most importantly time to rediscover these abilities. More than anything, the knowledge of these abilities is a pre-requisite to appreciate these facts. With the help of this article, I hope you will be able to make an informed decision.

Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation)

Shine through the day like the rising sun, with the ancient yogic tradition that provides you with the vitality to do just that. Suryanamaskar though an ancient science has proved to be as relevant today as it has ever been.

Some people believe Suryanamaskar to be a way to train and focus your mind, while other vouch for it as being the best fitness routine that does wonders to the overall physical wellbeing. Well over the years it has proven to be all of that and more.

Suryanamaskar is a set of twelve postures (or ten if we don’t count the resting postures) practiced repeatedly in a cyclic manner. The advantage of the practice is that it can be performed at a pace that is comfortable to oneself, while pacing up overtime but reaping the benefits of the practice right from the beginning. The benefits of practicing Suryanamaskar are multifold:

–          It gives you a good stretch and is extremely good for the overall physical fitness. It improves flexibility and posture and is very beneficial for your joints and ligaments.

–          It stimulates the vital bodily systems such as the cardiovascular system, digestive system and the nervous system which are the core of physical health and well-being.

–          It regularizes the functioning of the endocrine glands such as the thyroid glands and the pituitary glands.

–          It also helps regularize menstrual cycles.

–          Regular practice helps alleviate stress and increases concentration and focus.

–          If combined with a well-balanced diet, the practice of Suryanamaskar has proven to be very effective in weight reduction due to its benefits mentioned above in regularizing the body functions and its role in maintaining a healthy metabolic rate.

–          The exercises are even effective in reducing abdominal flab which is hard to achieve even through some the most rigorous workout routines. It is a well-known fact that fat accumulation around the mid body region is an indicative of increased risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions.

–          It improves the blood circulation to all parts of the body including the brain. Thus increasing mental alertness and sharpness.

–           It has been observed that it also has been beneficial in hair and skin health. Off course it is easy to see why from the benefits listed above!

So in short a healthy body, sharp and focused mind, no flab,  fab hair and glowing skin! Now who wouldn’t want that. It is not hard to see why Suryanamaskar has gained the popularity that it has today and is being accepted world-wide for its benefits.

Embrace the ancient mantra to happy living and healthy aging. Get ready to shine like the rising sun! There are lots of tutorials available for free on the web which you can refer to for learning purpose. We highly recommend that you join a yoga class where you can learn the techniques perfectly. Soon we will try to upload a video tutorial on this for your reference.

RELAXATION AND MEDITATION

Relaxation is a state of rest. As implied by the meaning it is only possible, when we have stopped all activities. In order to relax we must stop moving around, stop working, thinking, talking, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting – in short all activities must be withheld. When all these activities are brought to temporary cessation, we enter a state of rest. So the notion of relaxation by watching TV, movie, or by listening to music is a paradox! These are recreational activities and not relaxation.

Let us try to analyze what “relaxation” actually means in laymen terms. When we stop all voluntary activities, then, we put our body & mind to rest. We are left to perform only activities such as breathing, heartbeat, metabolism, blood circulation, etc., which we refer to as involuntary activities and this state is termed as “sleep”. When we add awareness to this equation, it results in “relaxation”. Therefore

RELAXATION = SLEEP + AWARENESS

That is, in other words to say that relaxation is a state of resting all voluntary activities and being aware of involuntary activities. Relaxation is therefore a two-fold process: Physical and Mental. Comparatively, the physical aspect is easier to achieve. It is the mental aspect that remains a mystery to many. Many questions like “How do you actually create awareness about the involuntary activities?” or “How do we bring about mental relaxation?” are some of the common questions that bother most of us when we try to relax.

The simple answer to all these questions is “Yoga”. Yoga believes firmly in the notion that the balance between body and the mind is the state of health. The process of breathing is believed to be the bridge between body and mind. Practicing Pranayama (Yogic breathing technique) is the best way to help us in performing mind related practices. Please note that the Pranayama is simply a preparatory practice and not the entire relaxation technique. There are other practices such as Shavasana (Corpse Posture) which are easy to practice but difficult to achieve perfection in. This art has been practiced by the yogis since ancient times. It is believed that they learnt the art of relaxation by observing the animals in deep relaxation during sleep, and especially during hibernation.

Meditation:

As far as meditation is concerned, a fallacy that it is equal to concentration has been developed in the minds of the public. It is important to note that concentration is a tool and a pre-requisite for meditation practice. In order to meditate, we begin by concentrating or focusing on channelizing our thoughts. Slowly, we try to drop all thoughts one by one except that one thought on which we are supposed to meditate. You see, meditation is a process and it happens after we have practiced for long time. Therefore, instead of saying we are meditating, it’d be ideal to say that we are practicing meditation. There are a lot of techniques for practicing meditation. The basic principles of meditation are similar to Yoga. Meditation is universal. It transcends all divides like religion, country and culture. It is a gift given to mankind to access the infinite sprit not limited by any identity. It is the only tool that can aid a person to return to innocence.

Benefits of meditation and relaxation:

  1. State of Equilibrium: When our nervous system is overwhelmed by stress, our body is flooded with chemicals which prepare us for “fight or flight” situation. It is ironic how the stress during an emergency situation acts as a lifesaving phenomenon by helping us to react quickly. At the same time, our body wears down if it is constantly activated by excessive stress, especially for a continuous & long term. Relaxation & meditation processes help by putting brakes on the heightened state of readiness (anxiety) and brings the mind back into a state of equilibrium.
  2. Physical benefits: Even a few minutes of deep meditation practice induces fall in blood pressure and pulse rate and therefore helps reduce the strain on the heart. This phenomenon also helps in revitalizing the overtaxed nerve centers apart from inducing a drop in the muscle tension sometimes even below the basal muscular tension level. Just as you save energy on your laptop by putting it on “hibernate” mode, relaxation & meditation practice conserves the energy which is constantly produced by our body cells for future use and therefore helps us in feeling more energetic through the day.
  3. Mental benefits: Meditation & relaxation practice helps in stabilizing us emotionally. This is beneficial in many ways, some of which are noted here:
  • Reduces anxiety & anger
  • Develops sense of well-being
  • Develops intuition
  • Brings about clarity & peace of mind
  • Induces ability to focus
  • Reduces tension & fear
  • Spiritual development by helping us transform from self to higher consciousness.

Note on research:

Some of the key researches on meditation were carried out by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University. In his book, “The Relaxation Response”, which was published in 1968, he mentions of a series of experiments into various popular meditation techniques. Dr. Benson established that these techniques had a very real effect on reducing stress and controlling the fight-or-flight response. Some of the direct effects were noted as:

  • Slowed heartbeat and breathing
  • Reduced oxygen consumption
  • Increased skin resistance.

Health

Well, let me ask you one basic question – What according to you is being healthy? I am certain that most people would answer as “free from diseases”. However what one fails to understand is that by being free from diseases only satisfies the physical well-being of an individual. Health, according to the World Health Organization [W.H.O] – the ultimate directing and coordinating authority within the United Nations system is much more than mere physical well-being. According W.H.O, health is defined as “a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Therefore the definition of health is multi-dimensional taking physical, mental as well as social well-being into consideration. Although, there are many critiques who argue that this definition defines “happiness” more than health and that both are different life experiences, I tend to agree more with the W.H.O’s definition as it gives a complete picture of “being healthy”. Also, in my opinion happiness and health are not mutually exclusive and both of them do overlap when you compare the two in the context of life. To me, the word happiness comes as an intermediate and a short term concept. I place my argument in that to be “happy in life”; one must possess good health, good personal as well as social life. It is important to note here that I have not mentioned wealth as a factor for being happy in life – as it can work either ways. It is indeed really difficult to draw a line as to how much of that wealth is good or bad!

Over time, healthcare solutions have come of age and deservingly so, the “allopathic” methods are more dominant in the current healthcare industry. Thanks to the enormous scientific research in this segment, there have been some amazing advancements in both medicinal and surgical fields. Through advanced treatment, some of the serious health issues and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, some forms immunological diseases and even some forms of cancer – which were once dreaded and thought of as incurable can now be treated with a commendable success rate.

But let’s face it! Even with these advancements in the modern healthcare sciences the world is far from being disease-free.  In fact, the prevalence and incidence of diseases is at an all-time high. The prevalence of diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. According to World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), an estimated 285 million people were reported to be suffering from diabetes in the year 2010. That’s a staggering 6.4% (approx.) of the adult population. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 438 million or 7.8% (approx.) of the adult population! The situation is worse in the countries with majority of people falling under the low-medium income range, which account for about 70% of the current cases of diabetes. In India, the situation is especially bad with the report of 50.8 million people suffering from Diabetes – the highest in the world, and a report even worse is that one in every five among the urban population screened for the study was diagnosed with diabetes and three in every five were diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension or both.  That’s definitely not a good sign for a country that is finally on its path to reclaiming the lost glory.

It is then perhaps time to reflect and retrospect as to why we have reached such dangerous crossroads even as science continues to amaze itself through innovations and advancements and hilariously huge amounts of money being invested on research and development of medicines and treatments. The answer however seems straight forward. The modern lifestyle which is notoriously mechanical and way more demanding is undoubtedly the major culprit. Not only does it disturb the equilibrium and balance that one seeks from life, to a major extent it also prevents the people from being able to monitor their health. Instant remedies, altered and chemically treated food & water, higher alcohol consumptions, growing fast food options, alarming rates of pollution, deforestation have all sadly become accepted norms of life these days. This leads the diseases such as diabetes and hypertension to continue to be uncontrolled and in most cases undiagnosed in the first place! There has hardly been any major effort put forward so far with respect to treating such lifestyle related disorders.

So then, has the time gone past to control the situation? Absolutely not! Can we really realize the dream of leading a life that qualifies to satisfy the definition of ‘Health’ according to the W.H.O? Certainly YES! Perhaps the big question then is HOW? Well, to begin with it is high time that we start respecting the nature inside and outside of the body and both equally! Instead of going against the nature, if we try to tune ourselves with nature it can definitely help us to lead happy and much healthier life. Although the solution sounds fairly simple, it is as difficult to follow. However the time has come where we must follow it willingly or unwillingly, or else the face the dire consequences of global health disaster. Lifestyle correction such as following a well-balanced diet and nutrition plan, a full body workout including mental relaxation and de-stress mechanisms have been proven to be game changer for many people suffering from lifestyle related disorders and most other conditions in general. Once these methods are adapted and most importantly followed passionately in order to go back to our natural state, automatically the world will seem to be a better place; we will truly feel the sense of being part of a greater cause than what we just see around us. I am the least of atheists, but to me spirituality is much more than going out to places of worships and following one particular faith. In my view, you are spiritual if you are able to appreciate your natural state and defeat the cognitive dissonance of contradicting your own beliefs and if you feel you are part of a world much greater than the concrete world you see around you!  Therefore to me spiritual well-being is as important an aspect of being healthy as is any other pillar defined by the W.H.O. In my opinion it is a pity that the modern science has failed to help one connect to the spiritual side – one of the most important aspects of well-being, and it is in this cause that the field of Complementary and Alternative Medicines [C.A.M] has proven to be much more effective than modern sciences and bring about complete state of health in parallel to the modern scientific treatments. Yoga and Ayurveda are the most popular, well researched and most recommended forms of C.A.M and have proven to be extremely effective in treating many ailments and particularly lifestyle related disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity etc., and chronic diseases including cardiovascular and orthopedic diseases to name a few.

So for all those, who are looking to “be healthy” in all aspects (physical, mental, social and spiritual by my definition), please consider C.A.M seriously. In case you are suffering from serious conditions, kindly consult your doctor before starting any alternative treatments to eliminate any risk of cross nullification of treatments.

Case Study: Yoga Therapy to address acute Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) – A Rheumatology case

Introduction

Acute Ankylosing Spondylitis or AS is a Rheumatology case which falls under the category of Seronegative Spondylo Arthritis (SSA). It is a condition where the genetic factor called HLA-B-27 is positive and the patient suffers from multiple joint pain including in the lower back region. When in advanced stages, this condition has the potential to attack the whole spinal column which may end up in a condition called “Bamboo Spine” – where the spinal column is stiff and straight. The medical treatment approach to this condition is aggressive wherein the pain and disability induced by the condition hampers the patient’s will power and increases the stress multi-fold. This cascading effect on patient’s health is vicious and may lead to further complications.

Case in discussion

The patient whose case is being discussed here was suffering from acute pain in right ankle joint which in turn altered his gait. The patient was unable to climb stairs without support and the pain was so severe that he was dependent on pain-killers round-the-clock At this time, the patient consulted an Orthopedician who recommended steroid-shots once a month, which is the standard protocol prescribed by the modern allopathic medicine for this condition at this stage. However, the patient was reluctant to opt for steroids, which as we all know comes with its own set of drawbacks and side-effects.

Not comfortable with the steroids therapy plan, the patient was on the look-out for alternate therapies / medicines. After detailed discussion with patient about the condition and going through his medical reports thoroughly, we observed that the patient’s CRP (C-Reactive Protein, which is an inflammatory marker) levels were well above the acceptable range and that the condition disease was fully active.

Therapy & Counseling

After the initial analysis, it was evident that this condition could be treated very effectively through CAM – especially by harnessing Yoga’s innate ability to reduce stress levels and create a positive environment in the mindset of the patient. The three month comprehensive Yoga therapy program was delivered in the following manner:

Counseling:

When dealing with such cases, counseling is often the most difficult part of the job. A lot of people have apprehensions about believing that the alternative therapies such as Yoga & Ayurveda can actually be used in conjunction or even independently to treat a particular disease.  The following steps helped in changing this perspective in this particular patient:

  • Educating the patient about the disease itself & the current stage of the disease and also consequences if it is left untreated for more time.
  • Educating the patient about the available therapy options.
  • Suggested a few lifestyle correction techniques.
  • Recommended a Diet & Nutrition plan.

A progressive and comprehensive 3 months therapy plan (5 days a week basis) of classical Yoga practices was drafted and prescribed to the patient.

Month-1:

After the patient was comfortable with the overall therapy plan & approach to therapy, a few classical Yoga practices were introduced which included physical, breathing as well as mind related practices. During the initial stages, the therapy had to be carefully delivered due the limitations on the range of the patient’s motion due to the condition. The progress was tracked and following improvements were noted in the patient’s health after the first month of therapy:

  • There was a gradient improvement in the intensity of the practices with time, which was a clear indication of improvement of the range of motion as well as the reduced pain.
  • The gait was normalized.
  • The patient was now able to climb stairs without any support.
  • The frequency of intake of the pain killers was reduced to just one per day after one month of therapy.

Month-2

The therapy was continued and with the newfound encouragement from the results observed after the first month of therapy, the patient was extremely enthusiastic about practicing Yoga even for 7 days a week. In order to harness this positive outlook from the patient, the therapy was upgraded to 7 days a week for the 2nd month during which more intensive practices were introduced. Some of the observations after the 2nd month of therapy are as below:

  • The patient noticed minimum or no pain at all times during the day on consistent basis.
  • The patient was elated to be in “free-of-medicines” state.
  • There was remarkable impact on the positive outlook in the patient’s psyche.
  • The patient was evidently enjoying each and every therapy session.

Month-3

Encouraged by the positive results from the 2 months of the therapy plan, it was found apt to reduce the dependency of the patient on the instructions led therapy sessions to just 3 days a week, and encourage more self-practice. This was done in order to eventually make the Yoga practice a part of the patient’s lifestyle, which evidently was working wonders in his favor.

Post Therapy Observations

When contacted six months after the end of the 3 months therapy program, the patient reported to be still in “free-of-medicines” state and was still found to be  practicing Yoga on a regular basis. The CRP levels were consistently found to be under control.  However he shared an observation that mild pain resurfaces if he did not practice for more than 3 days consecutively.  He was then advised to continue to practice on more regular basis in order to achieve the disease-free state.

A Note from the Doctor

Yes! I agree the baseline treatment for AS includes physical mobility, by which pain can be reduced to levels manageable without the high dosage of pain killers and joint stiffness can be prevented. But in this particular case, it was much more than just managing pain. If you observe the changes in the CRP levels, it clearly indicates the recession of the disease itself. The overall wellbeing and the quality of life were promoted to the best possible levels and being able to achieve a “free-of-medicines” state in itself is the biggest relief to a patient suffering from any disease.

Along with my previous experience, my confidence in the therapy plan was boosted due to the fact that there was already a number of research papers published about the effectiveness of well-planned Yoga programs on the Musculo-Skeletal disorders and Rheumatology disorders in particular, along with immunity related issues. The relation of stress with inflammation and low immunity are well established. It is evident through this case study that a comprehensive Yoga program helps relieve mental & physical stress in the body and in this particular case it helped the patient to achieve a disease-free & medicines-free state.

Therefore, it can then be stated that the combination of knowledge about the disease and a comprehensive personal analysis of the participant a suitable set of Yoga practices can be prescribed to the patient, which can work wonders to treat the disorder.

 

Yoga for weight loss

The world is going gaga over the effectiveness of Yoga as a tool for weight loss. But one needs to consider the big picture about the weight gain / loss process before concluding Yoga to be the best way to lose weight in particular. It’d be a complete lie to declare every individual would be able to get the same results as advertised. A lot of important aspects such as lifestyle, genetic factors, eating habits, psychological condition etc must be factored in before starting any weight management program – whether it is meant for weight loss or weight gain.

Nevertheless, there is no hesitation in any sense to say that Yoga does work for you – at many levels. The physical benefits are just symbolic means for your mind to believe in what you are practicing. Yoga by no means is simply a physical workout routine. In fact it is a lifestyle, which when adapted by us brings about a sense of holistic wellbeing. Some of the most important physical benefits you can expect out of a regular Yoga routine are:

  • Relaxes the muscles that are tightened due to various reasons such as inactivity, stress etc.
  • Improves the range of motions of the joints. This helps in improving your flexibility and also to correct the improper body postures resulted due to weight gain.
  • Regularizes our breathing, metabolism, menstrual cycle in women and lot more essential physical processes that are otherwise impacted due to lifestyle issues or ignorance in general.

To fight weight gain or obesity is just like a war! Before getting into a war, we need to prepare for the war first by understanding our enemy first, building a strategy around the weakness of the enemy and also around our strengths. Or else, your chances of victory are quite diminished from the start. Similarly, to fight your weight gain issues, we must treat it like an enemy; understand why it has surfaced in the first place by doing a careful study of our choices. Just about everything we do in our day-to-day life like our physical activity levels, eating habits, sleeping habits, work schedule, personal decisions, compromises and trauma and even breathing – has direct impact on our body. So, in a comprehensive weight management program both aspects – physical as well as psychological are equally considered, and that is where Yoga has proved its effectiveness and thereby gaining popularity around the world by the day. Research shows that stress & weight issues go hand-in-hand.  Research has also shown that weight gain in particular brings about a great deal of negative self-judgment and that regular practice of Yoga helps overcome this negative frame of mind as well and quite effectively too. Majority of people when under stress are shown to alter their eating habits & physical activities to pacify their minds assuming it’d counterattack their stress. In fact they are only adding more fuel to their stress by doing so. As Yoga believes in the balance between mind & body, through regular practice of Yoga, the sense of psychological well-being is developed which helps us to effectively manage our stress levels as well by creating a positive environment and to start accepting the challenges of health. The best means to combat weight gain & obesity is to come out of our lethargic lives and just start fighting it – there is no other way around it! Whether you choose to workout at the gym, go for a run every morning or do Yoga or any other practices, you must commit to yourself and work hard towards your goal and more importantly stay committed throughout!

After all, if you talk in pure medical terms, weight loss or gain is as simple a process as either managing the calorie intake or burning the calories. Roughly 3,500 calories is considered effectively as one pound of weight. However for a holistic science that Yoga is, it is a complex process. Any type of Yoga practice – Power Yoga, Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga, helps us to tone, strengthen & lengthen our muscles to sculpt our bodies. In pure clinical terms, this means that Yoga may not always necessarily help in weight loss, since muscle is dense & heavy as compared to an equivalent volume of fat. But it will most likely help you to tone your body, get a lean look, and achieve better flexibility while creating a psychological balance between positivity & inner – peace. However, there are sets of dynamic yoga practices which do help in burning extra fat – particularly in obese people. Most of them are calorie burning routines & not muscle workout. Once the normal BMI is achieved, it is then individual choice whether you would like to explore more health benefits of Yoga or to go for a more chiseled muscular body work out through weight training or both. The biggest factors in our opinion for Yoga to have become a successful weight management tool are:

  • Its ability to improve metabolism through physical activity & regularized breathing – which in turn helps avoid constipation, water retention & bloating etc.
  • Its effectiveness in improving blood circulation throughout the body in particular to the brain as well as to the endocrine glands like thyroid glands & pancreas which control your sleeping pattern, mood swings, appetite etc.

The essence of this article / blog is to provide you an unbiased opinion about how effective Yoga can be to your cause and not to undermine any other science or ancient wisdom. As practitioners of Yoga as a life science, we have tried our best to present the case from an expert’s point of view based on our study, research and experiences in the field thus far. We appreciate your judgment about whether to choose Yoga or not based on the facts & theories presented in this article.

*The author of this article is Dr. Gopinath K, currently working with Tusita as the Medical Director. His educational background is BAMS & MD in Yoga & Rehabilitation. If you have any questions, please feel free to post your comments & we’ll try to address them ASAP. Or, you may write to us directly with your question on drgopinathk@tusita.in.