- By Dr. R.S. Bhogal, Jt Dir. Research, Scientific Research Dept., Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla
Classical Yoga, as enjoined in ancient literature along with its proven scientific validation evident in recent times, is now being accepted as the only comprehensive solution to all known existential maladies of the modern man, in general, and for psychic and psychosomatic disorders, in particular, With its psycho-physiological, psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinal and transcendental implications, as evident through researches in yoga, the healing power of yoga is recognized beyond any iota of doubt today.
The very roots of therapeutic yoga are available in Sanskrit yogic texts such as Hatha Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita. Because of its sound psychophysiological bases, as well as transcendental implications such as inward meaningfulness, absoluteJoy, selfless quest for common good and fulfillment within, yoga stands out amongst many a similar therapeutic intervention. Being an inherent part of yoga, the phenomenon of mindfulness also plays a stellar role in therapeutic processes for severe mental illnesses.
Mind-Body Relationship in Psycho-Neuro-Immunology
Our bodily functions are moderated by Pituitary, a tiny gland in our brain. The secretions of this gland are directly influenced by our response patterns. Thoughts and emotions of happiness, peace and harmony release neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Melatonin and Dopamine. Negative thoughts and emotions create disease-related neuro-peptides. Even accidents, due in part, are implicated with disturbed states of mind. As per Bhagwat Gita (II: 64, 65; VI: 21, 22) the Absolute Joy can be gained through yoga. It means, the constant release of good neurotransmitters can amply be evident through yoga and mindfulness.
Yogic Bases of Restoring Mental Health & Well-Being
As per Kathopanishad: Our body is akin to a chariot whereby its five horses are likened to five senses that are tied to the reign, i.e. the mind, which is controlled by the Buddhi (intellect), the operator of the chariot. Atman or the Self is the charioteer. The mind can be calmed down only when the Buddhi is stabilized through yoga practices. Yoga Vasishthasays,
“Manopashamanopayahyogoityabhidhiyate”i.e. “Means and ways to calming down the mind is verily yoga”.
If calmed down the mind becomes a great instrument to accomplish anything in the world, including transforming Ill-Health, both physical and mental, into a sound psycho-physiological health, in general, and Mental Health & Well-Being, in particular:
Anatomy of Mental illnesses, as per medical science:
Unfavorable happenings in our environment affect our mind, depending upon our hereditary response patterns and also our inherent value system. It leads to a reduced Comprehensive Awareness which, in turn, leads to a loss of Continual Growth, the very moving force of our existence. The resultant feeling of guilt further torments us resulting into a loss of self-confidence and an emergence of Learned Helplessness, Anxiety, Depression and other Emotional Disorders including severe mental illnesses. This culminates into a loss of Comprehensive freedom that feeds back into the loss of ComprehensiveAwareness. It should be noted, from the medical view point,that hereditary predisposition,when get precipitated by environmental factors, results in all mental illnesses both mild and severe. Interestingly, the medical etiology of mental illnesses find support in Patanjala Yoga Sutra, when Klesha, the inborn afflictions are held as predisposing factors which, when interact with one’s psycho-biological environment, produce mental modifications. Over the due course of time these mental modifications get transformed into psychic, psychosomatic, somatic and organic disorders.
Restoring Mental Health & Mental Well-Being through yoga and mindfulness
Mindfulness is an inherent part of yoga. As per yoga the calm mind and the stable intellect culminate into theAbsolute Joy, which, in turn, results into Comprehensive Awareness. It enhances sensory feedback and gives a sense of Continual Growth to an individual who starts doing justice to his values and ambitions and thus attains meaningfulness in life & living. Thus, he starts enjoying Creativity, Self Dependence and Self Confidence. A Comprehensive Freedom thus ensues, feeding back into Comprehensive Awareness. Thus, the practitioner of yoga and mindfulness acquires his/her a much needed sustaining spirit, through all vagaries of life. No wonder,the relapse rate of mental illnesses is seen significantly low in yoga therapeutic interventions.
Mechanism of Yogic Effects
Yoga practices, particularly breathing techniques, mantraand meditation, are performed in an effortless & passive mode with parallel vigilance experienced throughout the body. Sensory Feedback gets augmented towards maintaining the homeostasis. Yoga practices bring about a shift towards the parasympathetic dominance, resulting into a rejuvenation of nervous system, respiratory system, digestive system, spinal cord and endocrinal system. Inward awareness, thus accruing, results into a toned-up sensory feedback. Yoga Meditation reaches deeper, unconscious recesses of mind so as to identify, stimulate and remove unconscious impressions, complexes of which we are slave most of times. Thus-
Yoga Mental Calmness Mastering Attachments & Antipathy stability of Intellect leading to Absolute Joy, resulting from Comprehensive Awareness and Comprehensive Freedom, thus enhance sensory feedback resulting, in turn, into comprehensive healing on the psychophysiological level.Thus, theBhagwat Gita(II: 65)assertion, that Absolute Joy removes all existential maladies, is amply corroborated.
It has been hypothesized (Rajapurkar, 2003) that regular yoga & meditation may liberate in the cerebro-spinal fluid some ‘neurotransmitter’, and ‘endorphin’ or an ‘opoid’, which, if lighter than cerebro-spinal fluid, will travel upwards along the ‘central canal’ of the spinal cord and reach the ‘lateral ventricles’ of the brain. These chemicals on reaching the thalamus and hypothalamus may produce ‘extra sensory perception’ leading to Ananda or Bliss. (II:65), the Absolute Joy removes all kinds of miseries and may help us in treating severe illnesses and in endowing us with a stable Intellect and blissful co-existence as worthy children of the Mother Nature.
An appeal for mutual cooperation towards helping the troubled humanity today
At Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla (India), the oldest research laboratory, engaged in scientific and literary researches in yoga, severe mental illnesses such as clinical Anxiety, Depression and other emotional disorders are treated with a high success rate through classical yoga. Kriya Yoga technique, using Pranayama,mantra recitation and meditative practices, administered under the supervision of medical experts, have been found to be effective antidotes to these psychotic disorders. We follow scripture based yoga instruction, supported by clinical and fundamental research findings, in dealing with severe mental illnesses, in our humble ways and limited resources. We hope health care providers in the field of severe mental illnesses, world-wide, join hands with us to realize the dream of Swami Kuvalayananda in reaching yoga benefits to the entire humanity irrespective of all man made limitations such as cast, creed, religious allegiances and nationalities.