What can yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and relaxation do to help us heal? This is a vast topic that we will explore from multiple perspectives as we progress through this series Yoga as Healing Art. Yoga philosophy and practice both emphasize healing. Even though we may not realize it, we all desire healing. Many of us also want to heal on a spiritual level.
As we embark on our journey for healing and health, I invite you to ask the following question: What brought me to yoga? What keeps me interested in learning, seeking out, and practicing my practice? It could be a physical condition such as arthritis, stiff lower back, or other issues. Our muscles may be tightened by stress or a sedentary lifestyle. We want to improve our mobility and flexibility. It could also be pain from a deeper source, such as chronic stress, past traumas, or the realization that we are getting older. One seminar participant, a middle-aged man, told me that he went to his first yoga class because his wife “dragged” him by his ears. He continued to go to the class because it felt good. It feels good on many levels. Yoga is not just for pain relief. Many people come to yoga to find peace and relaxation.
Let’s look at the Bhagavadgita to gain more information about yoga as a path for healing. This text was written around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. It has been preserved for so long because of its beauty, universal wisdom, and profundity. The Bhagavadgita reveals that Krishna, the divine teacher, lists four reasons why people come to him (that’s, to yoga), with healing being the first. Krishna said: “Of four types of good people, they offer their love to my soul.” It is interesting that he begins by saying “good people”, as it is understood that all these seekers are good people. Consider which of these four reasons people choose to practice yoga according to the Bhagavadgita.
This will be the focus of our discussion. We will continue to return to this topic and expand on it. Keep in mind that all kinds of pain (physical, emotional, and mental) lead us to yoga. Individuals who seek healing through yoga are seeking the transcendence of pain and its limitations. They believe they can find it in yoga.
Although it may seem odd to talk about personal gain within the context of yoga, there are many things in life that bring us joy and pleasure and are worth striving for. Although a promotion at work might not seem like something that is spiritual, if it brings happiness to our family and makes us more involved in society, it is an essential element of our spiritual life. Joyful living is about achieving the things that make our lives more prosperous, more meaningful, and fuller. Yoga has a way of extending beyond the mat or cushion. Yoga is unlimited.
Many people come to yoga for the wisdom and guidance that it offers on the path of self-unfoldment. We are curious about the higher calling of our soul and what it means to live a purposeful life. It is possible that we have come to realize (or at least feel) that there is more to life than just satisfying our basic needs, making money, or acquiring material goods. When we review our priorities, we can begin to see how our lives are developing in light of our higher purpose. You may have heard that yoga can give us wisdom and light that will guide us on the right path. This is how we become seekers of proper knowledge.
The Bhagavad Gita speaks about a fourth goal in yoga: the domain of seekers who have reached the highest level of understanding and are now getting the highest level. We need something that lasts. Yoga certainly provides that. This is the kind of seeker that is truly extraordinary. It is rare to find someone who has overcome pain and is content with what they have, doesn’t want more, and lives in light of actual knowledge. The majority of us fall within the first three categories. Yoga is a way to heal and overcome suffering.
The beauty of yoga is that we can see the next step as possible once we have made some progress. We can transcend the obstacles that have held us back. The next installment of this Series will explore how healing and enlightenment can be combined.