Patanjali talking about health and wellness in his Yoga Sutras about 2000 years ago. Surprising?
Last week I hosted on my blog a guestpost by Sunil Sharma* – my yoga philosophy, pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation teacher at Tattvaa Yogashala in Rishikesh (India) – on ‘Yoga Philosophy, the Law of Karma and Wellness‘. That was the first extract of his talk at the National Seminar on Fitness and Wellness at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education in Gwalior (India) on the topic of ‘Wellness and its view in Yoga Philosophy’. Hereafter the second one which focus on the principles of health and wellness in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Again, for not Indian people, I believe some of the concepts can appear quite ‘strong‘ – at least they still are for me – notwithstanding Western science is validating more and more this ancient yoga teachings.
A careful observation of the Yoga Sutras will reveal to us various methods presented to purify one’s karma at a very subtle level and open the doors of heightened awareness, health and well-being. They are:
Abhyasa and Vairagya (PYS 1/12-16) –> Continuous practice and non-attachment
Ishvara pranidhana (PYS 1/23) –> Surrendering to the Divine
Omkara (PYS 1/27-30) –> Chanting of the syllable OM
Chitta prasadhana (PYS 1/33-39) –> Different methods to purify the mind
Kriya Yoga (PYS 2/1-2) –> Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (self-study) and again Ishvara pranidhana
Ashtanga Yoga (PYS 2/28) –> in Patanjali’s meaning, that is all 8 limbs of Yoga
The above-mentioned practices are supposed to bring mindfulness in action so that the chain of karma can be stopped and exhausted.
Modern mind/body medicine has come to the conclusion that all diseases are born out of faulty thinking processes and without altering the thought processes one cannot gain holistic health. Famous author and healer Louise L. Hay claims that all the chronic diseases can be cured by positive affirmations and forgiving and letting go hatred, resentment and stubborn attachments. She herself has cured her cancer by changing her faulty mental processes.
Plan and presentation of the Yoga Sutras is highly effective in the direction of correcting the psychological attitudes towards various life experiences. For example, if I’m involved in thoughts of anger and hatred, my body react simultaneously and my endocrinal secretions alter my body conditions. Hence, no matter how much physical exercise I perform, if I am not able to find out the root cause of anger and forgive, then I cannot reach to highest level of fitness and wellness. That’s why the Yoga Sutras emphasize the importance of Yamas and Niyamas before Asana and Pranayama practices. If my asana and pramayama practice is not supported by correct mental processes then the effects of my physical practice will not last for a long period of time. But If I bring non-violence and forgiveness in my life then I will definitely first help myself by correcting the endocrinal secretions.
If mind is flooded by negative thoughts then the Yoga Sutras offer a beautiful practice to counteract it, that is Pratipaksha bhavanam(PYS 2/33). Whenever a negative thought appears immediately offset it with a positive one so that the negative thought will not be able to get hold of body and mind.
Every moment in our life we encounter various stimulants which disturb the equilibrium at physical, mental and emotional level and in our daily life we have very limited opportunities to nullify the effect of those stimulants. Maharshi Patanjali claims in the Yoga Sutras that if one recites Om with feeling, it will result into turning of awareness inwards and various obstacles on the path of yoga – including psycho-somatic diseases – can be avoided.
Negative beliefs system and thought patterns are deeply sitting in our unconscious and just merely reading and understanding at intellectual level about philosophical aspects won’t result into correction of faulty thought patterns. Hence, only a persistent practice of above-mentioned practices combined with an attitude of dispassion can correct psychosomatic disorders and allow us to enjoy holistic health.
*Sunil Sharma trained in Traditional and Scientific Yoga from Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla (India). He is Post Graduate in Psychology and has International Diploma in Guidance and Counseling from National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi. He has been teaching yoga at various levels in India and abroad since 2001. His areas of specialization are Asana, Pranayama, Yoga Philosophy, Meditation and Yogic Counseling.